#1: The RISE of QUEENS DALE
published by Ravensburger
Updated 13th December (add-on at end)
A 2-4 player legacy-style game from Inka & Markus Brand
This game goes against every fibre of my gaming mind as do all Legacy and Legacy-Style games (in the case of Queens Dale it has been given the name of 'evolutionary'). It is totally against my nature and upbringing to destroy anything, particularly board game parts, and yet here I am writing about a game that does the very thing that makes my skin tighten. The main board is a four piece jigsaw with each quarter separated by the four-way river that flows through the centre of the assembled board; these quarters each also hold the warehouse for one of the major resources and the starting areas for each of the players noted by a few light brown hexes against the grassy green of the majority of spaces. Depending on the number of players - you really do need to play this game with the same people and same number each time - there maybe several adjustments required to the board during setup.
Stickered Dice faces showing the options for the First game, and Rules Booklet Pages requiring Stickers with new rules
At first, putting sets of stickers onto the sets of coloured dice was not a problem, I have done that many times. But cutting up and/or separating game sheets and then using some of the stickers on them to add rules to the game as you go just didn't feel right, nor did covering up the 4th player spaces on the board with other stickers because we had started a 3-player game and once the game/campaign has begun it is increasingly difficult to add the 4th player or drop down to just 2 players should you wish to - unsticking stuck stickers isn't at all easy (found this out the hard way). I have to say though that putting stickers in the rules booklet reminded me of collecting football stickers when I was younger and trying to complete a full set to show off to my friends.
Another thing to note about the main board is that the overlay of hexes is actually an overlay of hexes on top of an overlay of hexes. Each full hex of the board can be picked up by using the plunger supplied and then replaced by buildings bought for resources when the Building Action is chosen. There is a second and third interaction board that sit close to the main board. These show the Actions that can be taken - generally there aren't enough spaces for each player to be able to do each Action in a Turn (a Turn being the playing out of the player's 5 dice one at a time) but this depends on the results shown on the dice; players can only do what the dice allow them to do (or pass), thus if no 'A' (for Action) results are showing on the dice of a player's roll then the player cannot do any actions this turn ...... unless! This is where the game gets smart. Actions are often essential and not rolling any As can be a severe penalty for a player (although sometimes not rolling As can be a great boon). Players can spend a resource they already own (even one received in the same Turn) to turn a die showing the same resource over to an A so they have an Action for the Turn.
When setting up the board the Herb Tokens are shuffled face down (Herb side up) and placed one per hex space. Each player begins with one Herb Hut that they place in their area on the Herb print of their choosing. This means they can gather Herb Tokens showing their chosen Herb - the flip side of each Herb Token has a reward printed on it that the player who takes the Token gets. If players build another (or more than one other) Herb Hut they place them on different Herbs in their start area and are allowed to collect Herb Tokens they can reach that match those holding their Herb Huts. Players have a Meeple [Scout] they use to collect Herbs but to do so they have to use an 'A' action to be able to move them. There are three movement actions available, a 4 move, a 3 move and a 2 move. Players can select whichever they like and move their Scout up to the number chosen - obviously even if you only want to move one space it is better to take the 4 move so that it limits the movement your opponents can make. I also like that you can move across the hex fields/Herb Tokens and collecdt all that you move onto (as long as you have the correct Herb Hut) in one move, thus making it possible to collect four Herb Tokens in one movement, if you are lucky.
There are two smaller boards that sit next to the main board. One of these is the Action board which is double-sided (one side for 2-player games) that offers the available Actions for each Turn. To use this the players take one of their Dice that shows the A and places it in one of the spots in the Action Box they wish to use. There usually aren't enough spots for all players to select every Action which means when it is your turn you have to weigh up the possibility of an opponent taking the last spot if you do something else instead. I should explain that each player has 5 dice and uses the result of each one at a time in turn order clockwise (thus Player A uses a die then Player B uses a die etc).
The game has been cleverly worked out so that there are always (well, nearly always) more than one good option on each player's turn. For example; you might want to use an 'A' result to perform one of the actions, sometimes having to spend resources or coins to get the advantage offered; or you might want to take advantage of a Resource result (except coins) to get two of that resource by placing your die on the doubler-spot (there is only one 'doubler' for each resource). All players resources and dice are on display all the time so you can do a little bit of mental work to see what the other players have the possibility to do and thus who might be able to prevent you from taking one option if you take another first, but you have to remember that any resource die can be flipped to an A result by spending the visible (die face) resource. This is one of the truly well thought out rules which we like and appreciate a lot. You cannot just change any die face to any other die face, that would be too easy and take away some of the necessary planning and thinking, but to be able to have an Action, especially if you never rolled any is a great help to levelling the playing field when going last in a round. Lots of options, lots to remember.
Every player has a character board that has several pieces of information that come into play at various times in the game. There are also two punch-out spaces, one of which allows you to choose which of the three shields in your colour you want as your own, the other space is for a Seal counter, which also comes into play later in the game. Come to think of it, there are many pieces and stickers etc that come into play later in the game, right up until the end game when they all come together.
There are only a few rules to learn for your first game, including the fact that each game ends at a certain point (marked) on the Fame (Crown) track and that each game begins with your markers at the zero spot on this track, thus games progress in length but not as much longer (timewise) as you might originally think. Players start each game similar but not exactly the same as the previous game. To be able to hold onto resources etc you need to own certain buildings, in this case those that are Blue (Storage). The other buildings are Pink (Manufacturers), Orange (Specialists), Yellow (Refineries), Gray (various Gray Buildings) and Brown (Gardens) - many of which come into play (you guessed it) later in the game. When you purchase a Building you use the plunger (aka the 'Royal' Plunger) to remove the hex from the board where you are going to position the Building hex (orientation of the hex tile makes no difference), once positioned buildings remain on the board, the spaces are designed just right so that the hexes placed in them don't fall out when the board is stored back in the box.
Buying Buildings costs a number of Resources and may also cost cost a number of coins. Two of the three punch-out boards with the Blue (1 board) and Pink (2 boards). Player's Scouts can travel across the board in any direction including crossing into other player's territories. They have to cross by a Bridge (there is one Bridge across each river tributary) and they can collect Herbs from within opponent's Boroughs. They may not, at least they may not as far as we have played so far (who knows what is coming in the next set of Rule changes?) construct buildings in opponent's Boroughs.
There is a drawstring bag in which a specific number and variety of coloured Meeples are placed and shook around - not until they are dizzy as was suggested by one of our players (okay it wasn't one of the players it was me) - so that they can be drawn out and used as special actions during players turns, the colour of each figurine (meeple) determining the job it can be used for; once used these workers are placed in the centre of the board not back in the bag.
Just in the first, introductory game, there are so many options and possibilities and these just get more adventurous, enjoyable and quite exciting game by by game. Although this is a campaign game there is a winner after each target epoch on the Fame track is reached - the first of these being 10 spots along the track. These points are not so hard to get to begin with so the first game (with three players) takes somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour (not including the reading of the rules and the game setup). Player's character sheets show their current epoch goal (Fame points required to reach the next epoch). Fame points are gained for different actions; such as buildings, herb huts and reaching certain spaces on the Morale track of the Overview Board.
There are two double-sided glossy reference sheets. The smaller one has the Game Overview, in 17 points, on one side and where to find the necessary Rules Stickers, what number and which sheet to discover them on. The larger sheet shows the list of Game Materials for the First Game, and there are a lot of them - too many to sensibly list. There are also definitions of the Boroughs (specific tiles on the Main board), the Character's boards, the Action board and the Overview board. Flip the Overboard board over and you will find the Set Up for the first game, including how to get the dice and other stickers ready before beginning to play.
Amongst these components are several decks of cards, colour and icon coded. Some of these need to be shuffled, others are specifically NOT shuffled and two sets (Brown backed - Story) and (Grey backed - Story) are shuffled and returned to the game box. Throughout the playing there are a lot of specific instructions that need to be strictly adhered to as they keep the fun and mystery of the game alive and the players on edge awaiting the next surprise.
On the front page of the Rules Booklet there is a short paragraph on the Game Concept where it says "Players keep the progress they made in a finished game and carry it over to the next [game]". This is exactly true. Some progress, such as buildings may be there at the start of the next game, but a lot of things, Workers, Coins, Resources are not all kept even though you may think of having gained them as progress. The campaign is a tale of the King, Nepomuk II, who wants to build a new castle for his sick Queen, Margaret. Every player has been given the job of doing their part to help by completing the quarter/borough assigned to them (chosen at the start of the game).
We have not completed the game yet as we only meet once a week and it is going to take a good few weeks, possibly one session per epoch, before we reach the game end. Every epoch ends with a 'winner' but no one actually feels like they have won because there is more of the campaign story to continue. Thus instead of 'winning' the end of each epoch is just like when you hit [save] in a computer video game after completing a Chapter, you've reached a certain point in the play but you haven't truly won because a new Chapter is ready to begin as soon as you press [continue]; this is the same in The Rise of Queens Dale.
Every player has the same target of Fame points at the beginning and as said the game stops/ends when at least one player reaches their target. When you begin the next game each player starts where they left off, so if a player hasn't reached their Fame total in the last game that is their aim in the second. Each player has the same number of turns to reach their target and those who do reach their target Fame points gain a reward (of sorts).
As stated we are playing with three players and it is working just fine though I think with two players it wouldn't be as enjoyable or have the interaction. Four players wouldn't, in our opinion, add anything to the game which means we like it a lot for three players and think it would be just as much entertainment and thoughtful with a full compliment of four players.
There is a feeling inside of me that I can't wait to finish this game because it is so darned good, but within me there is trepidation, another part of me that doesn't want the game to end, because once it does it is over and all that is left that is usable will be a collection of meeples, counters and resource shapes that may be useful as spare parts in other games or for anyone designing their own game and needing some 'prototype' pieces. It isn't a game you can pass on to friends or sell on a Charity Bring n Buy because unless you can unstick the stuck stickers, which you cannot easily if at all even though the rules pages are glossy.
In the before-time there is a lot of game to be played and a lot of fun to be had. There is no doubting that the majority of core board gamers who enjoy building and worker placement type games will like The RISE of QUEENS DALE and like it a lot. What they might not like is that it's a £60.00 (average price) game with a limited life, not much different to a computer/video game then where you have to put a code in to bind it to the device you install it on. If you think of it that way and note how many and varied the components are, then it is more than good quality value for money and well worth the price.
As it stands The RISE of QUEENS DALE is one heck of a beautiful game in quality, playability and all round goodness. Somehow even though each time you play you are going over some old ground it doesn't have the feeling of 'been there done it, let's move on' in fact every turn is a new challenge. Given that when the game ends (actually we are surmising/assuming here) all the stickers will be in place it looks like there will not be any expansion packs coming, but then thinking clearly it would be quite possible to produce an expansion with an additional rules booklet, more stickers and pieces and possibly the addition of 2 more players (though personally I think 5 or 6 players would be too many, this is definitely a 3-4 player game). Different epochs and epoch targets with new ways to reach them are not out of the realms of possibility and with the brain-game-power of Inka and Markus Brand nothing is out of reason.
Although this is called an 'evolutionary' game it is truly a part of the Legacy game genre, so if not an expansion perhaps a non-legacy version with all the rules already in place and thus no evolution part of the game would be the order of the day ?
Different sides of the Action board
You literally do hold Queens Dale in your hands.
UPDATE 13th December
Once at least one player reaches their goal then the game ends, remembering that the full campaign is played over many games. If one or more players do not make their personal goal on the score track then when you begin the next game they are given Seals (as long as they reached the red area next to their target number) whereas the person who 'won' the previous game gets no Seal but gets to go first; they also have to reach their next goal as shown on the new card for their character, while those who never made it to their target are still aimin for the same goal as in the previous game. All player markers begin at the start of the score track each game which means those who reach their targets have to go further than those who do not.
To help them do so their new card gives them more points for Building and other activities. Remember that when new targets are reached more rules are taken from the sticker-sheets and stuck into the rules book. These rules, along with the new buildings that also become available with each new target success, are for everyone, not for just those who reached the goal, meaning that the game's balance has been so well designed that winning a game can be good for the 'winner' but it is also good for all other players.
Seals are spent at the beginning of each new game, each buying something that generally will be unique to the character, whether it be an addition to your character sheet or your dice, generally only you will have that particular bonus.
Buildings have to be built on prepared ground (which costs 8 resources) that is cleverly designed as the underside of the regular game board hexes, just pop them out with the plunger and flip them over. Then when building pop them out again and replace them with the building, so simple but so effective. When purchasing a new building you have decisions to make. Some buildings give you resources when you move your mandolin up the track onto a space of the resource colour, some are useful when buying or building, generally making things cheaper but you have to be able to do the Action involved, and others allow you to keep some resources towards the next game (note 'keep' not 'gain'). As more buildings become available so more actions do to and thus the game continues to evolve each time you play it.
In one session we had to end before anyone had reached their target but all that meant was we started again from the beginning of the 'game' at the next session. We didn't have to fully reset back to our starting position from the previous game so there was no hassle getting ready - rather like a computer game where you stop playing (without dying), the game autosaves but on your return you are back at the last checkpoint, though with anything you have found up to when you stopped. The exception being you can only have the items that are legal to you according to your current status.
Over the coming weeks I will continue to update until we reach the final 70 point finale.