Mary Flanagan’s latest tabletop adventure, Monarch, pays homage to the queens of history in a pan-cultural mishmash featuring history’s leading ladies. Your mother is passing the crown down to you or one of your siblings, and it’s up to you to prove that you have what it takes to lead with compassion, bravery, and cleverness.
Monarch is all about collecting the most crowns (game currency) to prove you’re the best person to rule your mother’s domain. The board holds nine land cards, which make up your dominion with Village cards producing gold, and Farms yielding food. On your turn, you may gather food or tax gold from each farm or village. You can use both of these resources to buy the ever-important Court cards in the same turn.
These cards offer perks in your quest to assume your rightful place on the throne, and you can exchange them for a handsome gold prize when it’s time to tally up your earnings at the end of the game. The Court cards take the form of any number of important tools for a future queen—court animals, magic capes, centuries old regalia, and more. They’re then further sorted under five different banners—Might, Wisdom, Balance, Culture, and Bounty. Collect enough cards for one banner, and you can specialize in that field, again granting a bonus at the end of the game.
It’s a simple enough premise, so what makes Monarch special? It’s a great game for both the well-initiated and beginners to tabletop games. You can make the game as simple or as difficult as you want (leaving out the Banner Cards makes things a bit quicker and more simple), matching the game to the experience levels of your friends and family. It’s the perfect game if you’re looking to get your friends into the wondrous world of tabletop games.
Going hand-in-hand with accessibility, the game is super flexible in terms of strategy. You can follow a more straightforward path, or really scheme your way to victory. The wide range of interplay between the different cards makes it fun to think of different strategies each playthrough and the addition of the Banner Cards gives the game an extra spark, requiring the player to plan out their kingdom building strategy by choosing a specialization.
To top it all off, Monarch is gorgeous. Kate Adams’ hand-scratched artwork does an awesome job of capturing Monarch’s imaginative spirit. Adams mixes warm glowing light and eerie shadow to create memorable drawings. I never thought I’d want an art book for a board game. Not only that, the game’s materials themselves are well made. The board and cards have a very sturdy, almost luxurious feel.
Most notably, Monarch aims for a more peaceful approach. Rather than duke it out with your sisters in all out war for the throne, you are encouraged to set yourself above the rest by proving your skills as a matriarch. This is done by creating, rather than destroying— you will use your gold to purchase farming technology and urban resources for your subjects. You can send unwelcome guests to your sisters to sap their resources, but that’s about as cut-throat as Monarch gets. Monarch is a competition, but you can also work together with your siblings to earn joint rewards if you so choose.
Monarch combines addictive kingdom building strategy with hints of fantasy and folklore to create a memorable experience. If you’ve ever wanted to rule a matriarchal society donned in a mystical phoenix feather gown, this is the game for you.
How did you choose to lead? Tell us what you thought of Monarch in the comments below!
Image Credits: Kate Adams/Mary Flanagan LLC