Designer: Mary Flanagan
Published: Resonym Games
Playtime: 30-50 Minutes
Play Type: Set Collection
You are an heir to a throne, and it has come time to prove your prowess as a leader. Your mother, The Queen, is seeking to appoint the best sibling to lead in her stead once she passes her crown to her heir. You will need to devise a plan to lead your country to greatness and wealth while avoiding famine and other threats. The best sibling will take the crown.
The goal of Monarch is to end the game with the most Crowns in your court. The game ends once one player gains seven Court Cards. The round then finishes, and players count their Crowns.
During set up, players will shuffle and place 9 of the 12 land tile out into a 3×3 grid at the center of the table. Above this, players will shuffle the market deck and place five cards face up. Once those cards are placed, the players will place the banner tiles above those cards. Then each player will get five food and five gold. Play begins with the youngest player.
Progression of game play is fairly simple. Players have the option to do any of the three actions, in any order they choose:
- Tax the Land or Harvest Food. When players Tax the Land, they must pay food to each village in the center land tiles. Then they receive the sum of the numbers in each of the villages gold coin, located in the center of the land tile. If the player chooses to Harvest food, they take the sum of the apples listed on the farm tiles. This has no further cost. This action may be taken once per turn.
- Purchase Cards. Players may spend gold to purchase any of the cards available in the market. Cards will then go to their appropriate place. Land cards will take the place of another on the Land Tiles. Court Cards go directly into that player’s court. Unwanted Guests are given to another player at the table. Then new cards are drawn to replace any that were purchased. This can be done as many times as the player can afford.
- Sweep the Market. Players may pay 3 gold to discard all cards in the market and draw five new cards. This can be done as many times as the player can afford.
All turns progress in this fashion until the first player has reached seven court cards. Once players have seven court cards, they may add no more cards to their court. They may however upgrade cards. When players draw new cards into the market, they have a chance to draw a Moon Card. These are cards that have a general effect that will either hurt or help some or all players.
Additionally players have the option to select ONE banner throughout the game. This is a card that will give a permanent benefit while playing, and will help players by giving additional points during the end of the game. In order to select a banner, players will have to meet the requirements on the card. Usually this entails having a certain number of one type of card, though one banner requires that players have a certain number of different types of cards. Players may only have one banner during game play.
The artwork in Monarch is somewhat captivating, and definitely unique. The game is illustrated using scratchboard and inks. This helps to give the game both a quaint and somewhat storybook feel. The artwork is consistently stunning and uses a color pallet that gives the theme life without being overbearing.
The components themselves are well made. The land tiles are made of thick cardboard, and are well illustrated. The symbols are consistent throughout the game and are easy to decipher. Additionally, all aspects of the game are color blind friendly. While many players may be able to decipher the different types of card by color alone, each of the cards is also labelled. In turn making the game more accessible.
The cards are easy to read, and are laid out in a way that is easy to follow. The cards are not too busy, including all necessary information, but doing so in a way that is still visually pleasing and logical.
- Easy to Teach
- Variety of Combinations
- Beautiful Artwork
- Positive Player Interaction
- Direct Player Interaction
- Some Areas Lack Clarity
- Only Up to 4 Players
- Plays Better at High Player Counts
While the beautiful cover was what drew me into Monarch, I was happy to find that the game also provided plenty of light strategy that encouraged player interaction. It is often times easy to get tunnel vision in set collection games and focus only on the sets you hope to collect. However, Monarch provides player interaction by having a main board shared by all players and by having those pesky Unwanted Guests that are hanging around.
I especially liked the concept of the center Land Tiles. Players really need to weigh whether their long term benefit will be worth giving the benefit more immediately to another player. It also can become heated as players compete to have certain factions of cards in the center as the game ends to score points. This creates a central focus that all players are equally invested in.
Additionally, I like that the set collection is not as simple as trying to collect all of one faction of cards. Different cards interact with one another differently. Some cards may want players to add multiple factions to their court. Others may discourage players from taking another specific card into their court by stating they will be worthless if paired with that card. Those choices force players to think more critically about the cards in their court and what their long term goal is.
My only card complaint that I have is some of the cards could use more clarity. Specifically, I am talking about the moon cards. Some cards require a losing player to gain some amount of resources. We find that frequently in our game there are ties when this card appears. There is no mention of what players should do in ties, and thus it must be interpreted with a house rule. While this is a small detail, it can effect game play significantly. Additionally, in the original rules, it is never detailed what constitutes as a Beast card or Garment card. While this information is provided in the FAQs, it can be frustrating to have to go through multiple documents to find this information.
I like that this game could easily be taught in about five minutes. It is simple enough that older children and non-gamers should be able to grasp it, but still provides light strategy that should keep seasoned gamers interested. I do wish it played up to five players, but that is because my consistent gaming group has five players making it difficult to get four player games to the table as often as I would like. While the game does provide a two player variant, I do think the game really shines at four players.
I would suggest Monarch to players who enjoy games on the lighter side. It would be especially pleasing to those who enjoy light set collection games. It reminds me heavily of Fantasy Realms, a personal favorite filler card game. The similar elements made the game very enjoyable to me, so if you enjoy Fantasty Realms I would also suggest taking a closer look at Monarch.