This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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A New Medieval Fantasy Game
# of Players: 2-4
Time: 45-60 minutes
Game Type: Euro, Resource Management, Combo Driven
Gamer Type: Moderate to Advanced
Complexity: 6 (Advanced)
Empowering Female Gamers
First off, I want to commend Resonym games for building a female themed game in the medieval genre. We do not see enough games in this category for young female gamers. Further, Resonym did not take the “frilly little princess” route of the game as the hard and fast realities of court life come to life. While it is a fantasy game, it stays well within what we expect from the medieval game genre. This is amazing to do in a game empowering women, which does not become tacky. That being said, this is not a game just for women, but a deep strategy game that requires wit, forethought, and cunning to ensure you become queen. A game for both sexes, Monarch is one of the better Euro style games I have looked at in the last two years.
The story of this game is very interesting. You are a princess with between one and three sisters. The queen is dead, and you are trying to muster enough power in court to take the crown. Rather than being a battle-oriented game, Monarch bases elevation to the throne on intrigue. Each card is a member of court you are trying to use to sway the people into supporting your bid for the crown. When played with the banners adaptation, you also select a path which will lead you to the crown, which adds some depth to the story. Because of the empowering message, Monarch earns 8.5 out of 10 for its story.
One of the first things that I noticed when I opened Monarch was the quality of the cards. Resonym has a tendency to have high quality pieces, but these cards are some of the best quality that I have seen in a mass-produced game based on cardstock alone. Couple that with finely detailed cards with a medieval theme and this is a playable work of art. The cards match the theme of the game exactly. This allows the player to immerse herself into the world of Monarch and actually see her kingdom being built. This earns Monarch an 8 out of 10 for artwork.
Mechanics are the lifeblood of Eurogames. When the game is engine based, you need to have balance or you will have people break out of the game before the game even really gets going. When we first played through Monarch, we felt that Zerg Rush players, those players who just rush for the win, had the advantage.
By turn 4 of the first game I was sitting with 6 cards, only needing one more, while the other players only had 3. I thought I had won due to a broken mechanic. However, when I flopped my 7th card, the game really opened up. This really balanced out the game and I ended up being tied for 3rd place as other players jetted to the top. Additionally, the bifurcated resource system of food and gold provides a pacing mechanism that keeps players from “breaking the bank.” Overall, Monarch earns a strong 7 of 10 for mechanics.
Strategy was an area where I underestimated Monarch in the first playthrough. As I noted, Zerg Rush seemed like a good plan. It did not pan out. There are several paths to victory built into the game including wisdom, culture, might, critters. Players can also go with a Jack (or Jill in this case) of all trades approach. Doing so gives that player more leeway to build up the court. You also have negative cards which break down your score.
This was enough to swing me from third into second place, so be mindful of them. There are also game effects (moons) which can change the course of the game in novel ways. Some are good and some are bad, but you really have now way to prepare for them. This makes for nice natural disasters or boons. There are multiple ways to win this game, which earns Monarch a 6 out 10 for strategy.
As for novelty, there are very few women themed games that are fun for guys to play. I applauded Resonym for throwing off the overused genera of “The King is Dead, Long Live the King.” They put their own spin on the game. Some of the best gamers I know are women, and having one where they do not need to pretend to be a guy must be a relief. Guys, do not let the theme dissuade you. Try out this game and be the best little princess you can be! For novelty, this game earns a very good 8 out of 10.
Empowering A New Audience
Euro games with a medieval theme have been around for a long time. This game took an area of the genre and remolded it. This will expand the influence of the gaming community without alienating other members of the community. With that, this game really pushes the community forward. Resonym does this with Monarch.
This game empowers all gamers to enjoy a deep story without falling into tropes associated with the genre, and that makes this game very interesting to play. With a monster score of 39.5 out of 50, Monarch is an epic quest within a coming of age story. The way that Resonym captured this story within the game is wonderful. I give this game a strong recommendation for you collection, I know it has earned its place in mine.