Reviewed by Greg J. Schloesser
TUMULT ROYALE (Kosmos, 2 to 4 players, ages 10 and up, 45-60 minutes; $39.95)
You are nobility, darn it! You deserve the best in life, and you deserve to be widely recognized for your greatness. Of course, this costs money, and there is no sense draining your personal coffers. No, those fickle, ungrateful peasants need to open their pocketbooks and help pay for the many monuments to your greatness that you plan to erect across the countryside. After all, you have to outdo those other troublesome nobles who are also vying to grab the throne for themselves. Of course, you do need to exercise some modicum of caution when imposing those necessary taxes lest those greedy peasants rise in revolt. That would be messy.
Such is the setting for Tumult Royale, the latest creation by legendary designer Klaus Teuber and his son Benjamin. The game involves resource collection, proper planning, and a dreaded “real time” mechanism that I tend to abhor. Fortunately, the mechanism works well here and doesn’t overly reward those players with quicker reaction time.
Depending upon the number of players, the central board is comprised of four-to-eight square tiles, each divided into a 3×3 grid depicting various types of terrain, villages and/or palaces. Each of these squares will have space for 1 – 3 monuments, with the prestigious palaces being able to accommodate the most. Half of these tiles begin the game face-down, to be revealed as the game progresses. The board also depicts the “Royal Chronicle”, which provides space for the current turn’s king to place additional monuments to his magnificence.
The supply of resources tiles is mixed face-down so that it is within easy reach of all players. Each tile depicts one of the three resources required to construct monuments—bread, marble and tools. Each tile will depict 1 – 3 of one of these resources.
Each player receives a castle-like player board that provides space for their 25 monuments and also depicts the cost for erecting these monuments based upon the type of terrain. A handy sequence of play description is also provided. Players begin with 20 supporters and one Mercy card, which begins on the “People Show No Mercy” side. Ungrateful peasants!
Players begin the game with one monument on a pasture field on the board. The current king (determined randomly on the first turn) spins the “Tumult” spinner, which will determine the peasants’ resource demand for the turn. This can vary from 2 – 5, with a lower number being more favorable to the players. A high value means the players must leave behind more resources for the peasants, thereby reducing their personal take.
Once this is determined, each player removes three resource tiles from the supply without looking at them. Thus, which resources have been removed is a mystery to all. Before grabbing tiles, players should survey the map and determine the fields in which they hope to construct monuments, thereby determining the resources they will need to accomplish this. Once this is determined the king inverts the 20-second timer, and all players begin searching the stack for needed tiles. There are detailed rules regulating how this must be done. Basically, players may only use one hand and can only flip one tile at a time. If they want to keep the tile, they must place it on their player board. If they do not desire to keep a tile, they must replace it face-down back in the stack. Players can continue searching the mix for desired tiles until the timer expires. An electronic timer would have been better—albeit more expensive—as often players forget to watch the timer during the frantic search for resources.
Once the timer expires, the remaining tiles in the mix are revealed to see if the people are satisfied with the resources that have been left for their personal use. There must be at least as many of each resource as the number indicated on the spinner. For example, if a “4” was spun, there must be at least four of each type of resource remaining in order for the people to remain pacified. If the peasants or not satisfied, they revolt, directing their wrath towards the greediest player(s).
Each resource is examined to determine which player is the greediest for that particular resource. This is the player who grabbed the most of that resource. Any ties are broken to the disadvantage of the player holding the highest office. Thus, if the king and prince tie for the most tools taken, the king will incur the wrath of the peasants.
So just how upset are these peasants? The greediest player for each resource type loses three supporters and may only keep the lowest valued tile of that resource. This latter is the most painful part, as it usually severely impacts or nullifies the player’s construction plans. Losing supporters is also detrimental, as the player with the most supporters at the end of the round becomes king, which has its benefits. As Mel Brooks said, “It is good to be king”.
Once the greediest players have suffered the wrath of the angry peasants, each player may construct monuments, if able. Players usually may only construct into areas adjacent to where they already have monuments, but they may jump to any pasture or forest if they possess the correct resources. This jump, of course, costs more than constructing into an adjacent pasture or forest. For example, if a player wants to construct into an adjacent forest, he must expend 1 bread, 1 marble and 1 tool. Jumping to a distant forest, however, costs 2 of each resource, which is double the normal cost. Sometimes, however, this is necessary, particularly if all other expansion routes have been blocked.
When constructing, the player completely fills all slots in the area. Pastures, forests and mountains can hold one monument, towns two and palaces three. Since the ultimate goal is to place the most monuments, the race to reach the palace areas can be keen, making turn order important. The early bird gets the worm; or in this case, the palace!
If a player has grabbed the proper number and type of resources, he may construct into several different areas. This, of course, is highly beneficial, but grabbing that many resources puts the player at risk of incurring the wrath of the revolting peasants. If a player is unable to construct any monuments on a turn he is compensated with two sympathetic supporters.
After all monuments are constructed, ranks are redistributed based on supporters, with the highest rank (king) being awarded to the player with the most supporters. After the king is crowned, five supporters desert him, making it easier for an opponent to usurp the crown on future turns. The king not only outranks his opponents, but depending upon the turn, he gets to place one or two monuments on the Royal Chronicle. The king also gets to reveal new tiles on turns 3 and 5, providing more spaces on which to erect monuments.
Finally, the player who has constructed the least monuments receives the People’s Mercy, flipping his tile to the appropriate side. When determining the greediest player during a revolt, the People’s Mercy allows that player to deduct one from each of the resources he has collected, thereby making it more likely that he will not be the player targeted by the angry peasants. Handy.
The game continues in this fashion until at the end of the turn where the difference between the player who has placed the most monuments and the player who has placed the least exceeds the number printed on the Royal Chronicle track. These numbers begin at 7 on turn six and decrease to 0 by turn 10, at which point the game will end regardless. Alternatively, the game can end when a player places his 25th monument, thereby winning the game. In most cases, the game concludes in an hour or so, with the player placing the most monuments being victorious and winning the admiration…or consternation…of the peasantry.
Basically, Tumult Royale is a simple resource collection game, with the proper resources needed to construct monuments. What makes it special is the “real time” aspect, a feature that I normally disdain. However, as mentioned, it works well here. Each “grabbing resources” segment is only 20 seconds in duration, and there is no significant benefit to those who tend to be faster at such tasks. In most cases, all players can find the resources they require to construct in at least one area. Plus, the threat of inciting a revolt and being revealed as the greediest player is usually enough to keep most players conservative in their resource collection.
I do enjoy the tension present due to the possibility of inciting a revolt and, if it does occur, the uncertainty of who will be revealed as the greediest player(s). This is a fun aspect of the game that is certain to cause moans of despair or shouts of glee.
Proper positioning is critical, as players want to maintain access to the more lucrative locations. So, keeping one’s expansion options open is important. Turn order plays a key role, as players with the higher rankings will have the opportunity to construct monuments first. Rankings are based on supporters, so losing too many by being greedy can be costly.
Tumult Royale is certainly on the lighter side of the complexity scale and, indeed, makes for an excellent family-style game. Hardcore gamers may find it a bit light, but it has gone over well with the gamers to whom I have introduced it. It is a lighthearted affair, but not devoid of planning and strategy. While placing the most monuments may stroke one’s ego, one best beware of not upsetting the peasants too much, as they can be quite revolting! – – Greg J. Schloesser
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