Review – A Royal Will
Love Letter with bidding? Let's try it!
|MEGA MINT Games
A Royal Will advertises fun, simple, quick gameplay in the same vein as Love Letter with the twist of a bidding aspect. Let’s see how it plays!
In A Royal Will, players are heirs trying to take as much inheritance from the asset in question as possible, without overbidding. The first player to reach 10 inheritance wins. Scumbaggery and trickery abound!
Each round unfolds thusly: deal 2 cards to each player, restock the asset if necessary, place bids facedown, and play action cards faceup beginning with the player currently in the lead. Each card can be used 2 different ways: you can either use the number on the card as a bid, saying that you will take that many coins from the asset, or you can use the action on the card. Actions vary from betting on whether the asset will bust or be won to increasing or decreasing your bid number to swapping other players’ bid cards, etc.
Once all players have placed their bid and executed their action, players determine if the asset was busted or won. If players overbid, busting the asset, the player who asked for the most inheritance has to put 2 of their own inheritance into the asset, making for an even bigger, more tempting asset next round. For example, in a 7-coin asset, if player A wants to take 4, player B wants to take 2, and player C wants to take 3, the asset will bust, and player A will put 2 of his inheritance into the asset, making it a 9-coin asset for next round. If players bid the sum of what was in the asset or below, the asset is won, and players receive inheritance according to their bid card. Then, the asset is refilled up to the minimum number, and a new round begins.
Despite the fact that you have 2 cards in your hand that can be used 2 different ways, you still only have 2 options for your turn: bid card A and play card B or bid card B and play card A. Moreover, the cards you get each round are randomized, so it’s entirely up to Lady Luck on whether you get a good card pairing or a bad card pairing. However, in a light, 10-15 minute game, I’m all about removing even the possibility of analysis paralysis. A Royal Will isn’t trying to be strategic: it’s trying to be fun, and at that it succeeds. Pulling off a perfect card-swap, putting all your coins in on a big asset bid, and adding a -1 token to an opponent’s cards provide laugh-out-loud and in-your-face moments akin to those found in Love Letter.
The art is space opera quirky, and I like it. It’s weird, fun, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously, which fits the game’s vibe well. The card stock is good, and the cardboard chits are thick enough to last many plays. It’s a nice touch that the box doubles as the bank for the game, making the bank look like it’s some kind of infinite coin hoard. It’s expected in these sorts of games, but it’s still good to note that A Royal Will includes a reference card of abilities for every player.
A Royal Will scales surprisingly well. At 2-3 players, it’s a more strategic version of itself, although there are sometimes problems with runaway leaders. At 4-6 players, it’s utter chaos; someone who lost all their inheritance to start the game might end up winning because they went untargeted and unhindered as they racked up 10 coins over the last 3 rounds. Part of what makes A Royal Will so engaging is that it leaves the door wide open to comebacks, but the door to comebacks is perhaps cracked when it’s a 2-3 player game.
Something great about A Royal Will, no matter how many players you’re playing with, is that after 1 or 2 games, everyone will understand how the game works. This means that players can be instantly competitive, unlike in games like Scythe or Root, where the new player will have far less chance of winning. However, you probably won’t want to play A Royal Will more than 3 times in a row. It’s a filler game, and not one that a lot of people are going to want to play back-to-back too often.
Loot Letter, a Munchkin variation of Love Letter, is a game I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of, so I was excited about A Royal Will’s 2-card gameplay with the bidding twist. Happily, my excitement was not busted! There’s great fun to be had here, especially in the chaotic action phase where your perfect bid amount gets switched with someone else’s and you find out that, instead of receiving 3 inheritance, you will only receive 1. Or the time you bet that the asset busts while bidding a 3, ensuring that it probably will but also making sure you weren’t the over-greedy one.
A Royal Will is a fun, short game that will induce laughs and good-natured temper-tantrums when played with the right group. When compared to its cousins Love Letter and Coup, A Royal Will has a leg up in the player engagement category because no one is ever eliminated. It doesn’t have the same build-up as Loot Letter does because the cards are always shuffled after each round, nor does it have the same level of deception as Coup. There are certain broken card combinations that guarantee a player 2 inheritance while everyone else receives 0, but a Royal Will is still very good as a short, fun filler-game that anyone can be competitive at in 1 or 2 plays.
MEGA MINT Games kindly provided a review copy.
The Bottom Line
If you like Love Letter and/or Coup or want a short game with bidding, give A Royal Will a try.