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Royal Realms

In Hobby Doctor's Royal Realms, 2-5 players are bidding to buy numbered gem cards from a market display that includes both face-up and face-down cards. The premise is that the gems are being sold by the King of England. We have it on good authority that King Charles is not in the process of selling off the Crown Jewels but the thematic premise does mean we'll refer to the currency in the Royal Realms as £GB thousand pounds. You're trying to acquire cards in the auction that will score you points at the end of the game for runs and multiples: a single card will just score its face value (2-7) but the card values are doubled for a same-suit run of 2-4 cards and tripled for a run of 5 or more. Similarly, multiples increase in value for the number of cards involved: from 10 points for just a pair up rising to 60 points for five of a kind!

There are four rounds of auction and Nass Lunat's game design incorporates some interesting devices that we haven't previously seen in auction games. For example, at the end of round 2, players count the number of cards they've won and the player with the fewest is, in effect, fined £10 per card they have that's fewer than the player with the most. This initially seemed counterintuitive to some of the members of the Board's Eye View team as it's the opposite of a catch-up mechanic but it works to incentivise players to spend early on to win bids rather than sit back and hold onto cash for later rounds. Players all start with a deck of 18 money cards of value 2-36 (each card is £2 more than the previous one). When you bid on face-down cards you can take 'change' when you increase the bid but that's not permitted when bidding on face-up cards. That means players have to take care not to burn through all their lower value cards too early in the game as that can deny them flexibility on bids in the later rounds.

The game incorporates other push-your-luck elements. There's an end-game bonus of 20 points for the player with the most money, and a penalty of 20 points for the player with the least money left. In rounds 3 and 4, players can put aside up to two face-down money cards, taking them out of the game and so decreasing the chance of winning the 20 points bonus and increasing the prospect of getting hit with the 20 point penalty. The gamble may be worth taking tho' as the player who puts aside the most money in this way gets awarded three wild cards; the player who put aside the least gets one wild card and all other player get two wild cards. The wild cards can prove especially valuable in creating your tableau of runs and multiples at the end of the game, so it may well be worth risking the penalty if it helps you to achieving a high-value run and multiple.

As with any auction game, you'll especially enjoy Royal Realms when players engage in bluff, bluster and banter. Tho' you can play it with two, the game is at its best with three or more players. And even with five players, you can expect to complete Royal Realms' four rounds in no more than 30 minutes. And the end-game set collection scoring for runs and multiples means that none of the players can be certain of victory until the very end... Our one gripe is our perennial moan about card games being packaged in tuck boxes. The tuck box for Royal Realms is an exceptionally tight fit, to the extent that we felt the need to decant the cards into a substitute storage solution in order to avoid damaging them! This is a good game and it deserves a proper box!

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