English language edition of Palais Royal
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The nobles stroll through the castle park. These nobles are important in the game, for the players who enlist them will receive special privileges during the game, points for the game end scoring, or both.
In the 9 areas of the castle the players can get everything they need for the recruitment of nobles. It is in the use of the castle spaces that skill and tactics will lead to victory.
Royal Palace was first released at Essen 2008, and is an early game design by Xavier Georges, well known for Carson City (2009) and Troyes (2010). If Royal Palace was a piece of music, it would be something classical. Maybe Mozart. Maybe Baroque. Certainly it's all about elegance, and it's all about being classical euro. The artwork features baroque style portraits of dignified nobles in opulent settings. The meeples even look like Mozart himself. Royal Palace is never going to be the Elvis or the Britney Spears of boardgames, but if you're looking for something classical, in the line of St Petersburg or Notre Dame, this might just do the trick, because Royal Palace is a Mozart among euro games.
Each player begins the game with 18 servants, some of which of which ten will be placed in areas of the castle at the start of the game, and the other eight in his play area. The remaining seven servants can be added to a player's play area through the enlisting of nobles with special abilities that grant extra servants. The heart of the game is in the Castle spaces, of which there are nine, with one large tile for each area of the castle. Much like many worker placement games, players get to activate the special privileges of a certain area of the castle if they have a servant in that area. So much of the game is about deciding where to have your servants. Servants enter the castle at the castle gate, and then can be moved to other areas where they are needed. When they are used to get privilege cards (Back Door), or enlist nobles (Office) and pay their cost with seals (King's Chamber, Madame de Pompadour) they are removed from the castle and returned to the player's area. Players also have opportunity to place Noble Tiles in the park (which give benefits and earn points), as well as use Privilege Cards (for extra points, gold, seals, or majorities).
Royal Palace succeeds well in combining aspects of worker placement and area majority control. It's a typical euro, which has a good theme and great components. Although the mechanics of the game are not always integrated with the theme, certainly the game evokes a good sense of the setting. Particularly the artwork contributes to this. But more importantly, there are interesting decisions to be made on your turn, in trying to manage your resources in the quest for points. The random placement of the nobles and the possibility of arranging the areas of the palace randomly also enhance replayability. There are some interesting ideas and mechanics, and a two player game can easily be finished in 60-90 minutes. Our scores in most games have been very close, even with different strategies, so the game seems to be quite well balanced and well play-tested. There can be potential for some analysis paralysis towards the end of the game, if you are trying to calculate the single most optimal move for the most points, but for the most part this is not a problem and gameplay is quite smooth, although the game is probably best with 2-3 players for this reason.
Royal Palace is particularly satisfying as a two player game. Certainly there are many other contenders for classic euros in the light-middle weight class, but what Royal Palace offers is different enough to make it fresh and appealing to people who enjoy games like St Petersburg and Notre Dame. What we have here is classic style of euro done quite well. Bring on the classical music, listen to some Mozart, and play!