“Try Majesty out! Hurry, you must try it, it’s the new Splendor killer” – this is basically what I’ve been getting in my earhole lately from everyone. Now firstly, this has been tried before with Century Spice Road and I found that average at best – it’s fine, but drags on a bit for a filler and was very dependent on what cards came out early in the game. Even then it’s nothing like Splendor, just the same gateway level. Secondly Majesty is designed by Marc Andre, the same man who gave us Splendor – why would you design a game designed to kill off your old one? And thirdly, why does everyone want to kill off a cool entry-level game that’s been a staple in bringing in new players for the last few years? Even my parents like it, that’s a feat in itself!
So I’m going into this not expecting it to be anything like Splendor other than its ease of play. But what appeals to me is certainly not the generic theme Majesty is based on, but more that it’s portrayed as a gateway game from the same designer and has had some pretty good reviews lately. I have a segment on Throat Punch Lunch called “The Starting Tile” for a reason – I like good gateway level games, they’re a perfect blend of fun, short time length and ease of teaching for new gamers. And in this case, being a fan of Splendor, the designer has a good starting pedigree for this type of game. So can lighting strike twice?
Designer: Marc Andre
Publisher: Z-MAN GAMES
Time: 30-45 minutes
Majesty borrows a selection mechanic from Small World where each player will select one of six character cards that are laid on the table. Selecting the first character in line costs nothing. Selecting any other character requires the payment of a meeple onto every character that is being skipped. Century Spice Road also did this with the cubes if that’s more recent for some people. If the character has meeples on it, then you can collect those up, otherwise, you’re going to need to acquire more by other means.
The selected character is immediately placed in its specific location within the player’s tableau and an action is resolved. Each character directly provides victory points based what is present in your realm at the time. Some characters will offer an extra ability on top as well. In summary these provide:
Miller: Two points for each miller you possess.
Brewer: Two points and one meeple for each brewer you possess. Any player with at least one miller earns two points.
Witch: Two points for each miller, brewer, and witch you possess. Heal the top character in the infirmary by returning it to its location.
Guard: Two points for each guard, soldier, and innkeeper you possess. Each guard negates the existence of one attacking soldier from an opponent (see below).
Soldier: Three points for each soldier you possess. Any opponent with fewer guards than you have soldiers must place their leftmost character facedown into the infirmary.
Innkeeper: Four points for each innkeeper you possess. Any player with at least one brewer earns three points.
Princess: Five points and one meeple for each princess you possess.
Infirmary: At the end of the game, each character here (injured by the Knights) counts as a negative point.
When each player has 12 characters in their realm, the game ends – this is a fixed timer and includes injured characters. As well as all the points scored during the game, there are bonuses for diversity and majority among the locations after which point you’ll know who the winner is!
HOW’S YOUR MENTAL ARITHMETIC?
Splendor already looked the part with all the poker chips and colourful artwork even if the theme was non-existant. Here it’s pretty much the same deal, except now the poker chips are thinner and represent the points. Thin is not a bad thing though as they’re still really good quality and nice to handle. . . which you’ll be doing A LOT – there’s a ton of changing up of point tokens required so I hope your mental arithmetic is good.
All the cards are decent quality meaning I don’t believe there’ll be a need to sleeve these. I would fear the small deck for the characters would be a little unwieldly otherwise. It would have been nice maybe for the character cards to be a little bigger, but in all fairness, that’s a nitpick. Artwork is bright, colourful and solid though, reminds me of 3D Civilization games of the past. Even the insert works nicely to store individual player locations and chips, though you can make that argument that it could have been in an even smaller box. . . though I think it’s still smaller than Splendor’s. All in all, for what is a simple gateway card game, it’s an excellent production.
BALANCING OFFENSE AND DEFENCE
When you think about it, Majesty is just simply a card drafting/tableau building game – nothing new or innovative in that, but that doesn’t make it boring. If you like building up combos, much like other games like Deus for example then you’ll likely fall in love with this. That first noble gets you a fair amount of points, but then you grab a second one……..maybe even a third…….and the points just come rolling in. Sounds like a great plan right, well yes and no. You’ll earn a lot of points during the game and probably get the majority bonus for that location, but then you probably didn’t diversify across the realm and will lose out there. Having multiple ways of scoring that contradict each other allows for different paths to victory and a tense balancing act throughout.
There is some take-that in Majesty, but not as punishing as you would fear. The Knights can be easily mitigated against if you’re willing to invest in Guards and even if you do lose the odd character, you can easily get them back with Witches. In fact, don’t have any Guards at all and focus on Witches instead, healing back everyone that kicks the bucket – I tried that once, granted I didn’t win the game but it was entertaining. Going on the offensive instead is another option. But either way, losing a character is not especially damaging unless you lose out on majority/diversification bonuses as a result and well, you set yourself up for that in the first place so who’s to blame?
On top of that you really need to pay attention to opponents, more so than even in Splendor. You can see their points, you can see their characters and combos forming, so when you look at that row selection you need to not only consider your gains, but what your opponent might gain next turn. After winning the first game I played of this it was revealed that my opponent had inadvertently stopped another player from pipping me at the post because he took the Noble he was after. Every choice feels important and makes a difference on the game and in many cases, point denial is as useful if not more essential than point gain. So be ready to hate-draft to do well, but again it doesn’t feel punishing or vindictive.
NOT A MINUTE WASTED!
I’m always sceptical when a game advertises such a short playtime, but I’m glad to say, Majesty achieves it, my god a publisher is telling the truth about the game length, it’s a miracle! It quotes 30-45 minutes and that is as long as Majesty should take even including explanation to all but the slowest of slow players. And yet throughout you are always engaged as you are considering new combos, checking that no-one is sniping your character in which case, you’re forming a Plan B and glancing at your opponents realms to see if they are ripe for a Knight invasion or whether you need to steal a character off them for the greater good.
And the rules are clear as day in the book and there’s barely any of them, all lavishly explained with a ton of pictorial diagrams and notes. You even get a summary sheet for A & B sides of locations if they weren’t already intuitive enough. It’s as close as you can possibly get to a “pick up and play” gateway game that I could literally put on the table for new players and leave them to it if necessary.
VERDICT ON MAJESTY: FOR THE REALM
Firstly, stop comparing this to Splendor, it’s different enough in its own regard even though it has the same gateway level of play and designer name attached. However if you put both in front of me and asked which I prefer, it would be Majesty hands down despite loving both. The rules in Majesty are just so streamlined and clear. No rule checking, no FAQ required, clear graphic design, it ticks everything. You can literally read the rules from scratch and teach the game within the space of 10 minutes it’s that simple. But there’s enough thought required to make the best combos and a healthy dose of player interaction with the attacks and hate drafting without feeling overly punishing.
And if the initial locations are too simple, just flip them over and you’ve added a bit of extra meat, but I would be happy just to mix and match as the variant rules suggest for added replay value. The art is gorgeous and colorful and production quality is high with all the mini poker chips littered about, even if you do have to continuously keep changing up throughout the game. Literally the only fault I can give is that the location abilities aren’t as interesting as they could be due to the generic theme attached, essentially giving points based on your realm/character selection – maybe in the future an expansion will bring us some more interesting and interactive versions.
There are more exciting games out there, this is after all a fairly dry tableau game, but when I need a filler or introduction for new players, Majesty is going to be one of the titles I add to my staple gateway selection for that purpose. It’s just a buttery smooth, enjoyable Euro.
PERSONAL RATING – 9
YOU WILL LIKE MAJESTY IF:
You want a filler that really can be played in 30 minutes yet isn’t a tiny micro card game.
You want to avoid a multiplayer soliataire experience – you have to pay attention to opponents.
The replay value is appealing with the use of mixing up the locations.
YOU WILL NOT LIKE MAJESTY IF:
You feel the locations aren’t exciting enough and just “gain points for this” affairs.
You don’t fancy the take-that aspect of the Knights, even though it’s recoverable.
You find the theme generic and unappealing.
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I'm known as The Broken Meeple, a blog, podcast and YouTube channel devoted to board and card games. I live in Portsmouth, UK, working as a Chartered Tax Advisor and I enjoy playing games of many genres and varieties with as many people as possible.