Monarch from Resonym pits players against one another to determine the greatest leader. The crown will soon pass on, but the Queen will name her successor based on who can best provide prosperity to one’s own land. Players will work to create the greatest boons for the realm, but there is still plenty of room for a little courtly sabotage.
Each game of Monarch begins with establishing a board for the land. Land tiles are shuffled and dealt out into a grid that gives nine spaces for actions. The table continues with a Market deck that offers special actions to allow players to expand their strategies while gaining Crown points. Above these, bonus Banner cards serve especially strategic players with pluses for collecting cards in particular suits or “paths,” representing qualities of culture, wisdom, might, and bounty.
On one’s turn, one may choose to Harvest or Tax. Harvesting provides Food tokens from the farmlands on the table, while Taxing provides gold from the towns, whose populations must be fed. Players will need to balance their actions, earning food to turn into gold while racing the others to get to the valuable cards in the Market.
The goal of Monarch is to hold the most Crown points when the game ends upon one player collecting a seventh Court card. Players will have to keep a close eye on the Market, seeing what cards best fit their strategies. Some cards will boost production with further food from the Golden Orchard or more gold from a Jewel Bazaar. Many cards give special abilities, like a Precious Comb discounting gold costs. The most valuable cards are the ones that increase their Crown value based on other collected cards, such as the Beastmaster gaining points for each animal controlled. Players will have to calculate their choices at maximizing the potential of each Market.
Two special kinds of Market cards change up the game. The Unwanted Guests serve as negative Crowns, a good way to slow down a player who’s in first place. The Moon cards, meanwhile, serve as environmental effects that come into play immediately upon drawing. Some offer free food or gold, some take gold and food away, and a few encourage cooperation. On the mystically named Diamond Moon and Hollow Moon, players will have to pool resources to gain bounties, or face penalties, adding a strategic complication regarding whether players will work together or not.
Monarch is a strategy board game for two to four players aged 12 and up. It is a moderate length game, lasting less than an hour, even half an hour for speedy players experienced with the game. The use of randomized tiles for the board and the shuffled Market deck boosts replayability, meaning players will have to determine their strategies with each new deal. Some games will be plentiful in food with struggles for gold, while others will have plenty of gold for when players are able to feed the burgeoning population. With strong gameplay and chivalric zeal in its aesthetic, Monarch is a clever strategy game players will visit again and again.