King Nepomuk II has decided your humble valley will be home to a new castle, a retreat for his Queen Margaret, who has taken ill with a mysterious malady. But who will earn the greatest fame, honor, and glory from the King? What trials must you face as you build your borough?
The answers await in The Rise of Queensdale!
What Is The Rise of Queensdale?
The Rise of Queensdale is a competitive legacy Euro, or, as the rulebook calls it, an evolutionary game that relies heavily on dice-based worker placement. Players will alter the board, add rules and carry progress from one game to the next in this game from Alea and Ravensburger. The Rise of Queensdale is for gamers aged 12 and up, plays 2 to 4 and each game should play in an hour or less.
Note: Because The Rise of Queensdale is a legacy-style game, there are lots of secrets — rules and components that are introduced based on decisions that players make. We want to respect those secrets and all of the work put into this game. Consequently, this will be a spoiler-free review. As such, we’ll just hint at large portions of the game and talk about it generally. We’ll sketch out the components and rules that you will have on your very first turn of the game and keep the rest under covers. Hopefully, providing you with enough information to make your own decision about The Rise of Queensdale.
The Rise of Queensdale Components
For your first game, you will see:
- A game board in four parts
- An overview board, which tracks goals and progress
- An action board, where you will place workers
- 3 punch-out boards with new buildings
- An initial, game one, sticker sheet
- 4 character boards, double-sided with female/male sides
- 4 family histories
- 5 dice per player (four different colors)
- 4 scouts, which serve as player tokens (one in each of four different colors)
- 4 epoch counters
- 4 fame counters
- 4 morale counters
- 36 resources (12 timber, 12 clay, 12 stone)
- 12 3x resources (4 ea, per above resources, to be used when running out of above resources)
- 1 cloth bag
- 18 figures in three colors (8 brown, 8 pink, 2 white)
- 12 X counters
- 4 courier tokens
- 1 starting player token
- 15 bread tokens
- 20 seals
- 22 guilders
- 14 herb huts
- 48 herb tokens
- 1 royal plunger (!! a lovely pink suction cup on a stick !!)
- 21 epoch cards
- 12 epoch end cards
- 4 cover and bottom cards
- 10 yellow story cards
- 6 brown story cards
- 4 gray story cards
- 48 numbered cards
- 7 clairvoyant cards
- 14 courier cards
- 1 manual
It’s essentially a mountain of wood, cardboard, and stickers. I haven’t sat down to add it all up, but there are literally hundreds of components, all stickers and bits counted, probably more than a thousand. Go look at the box at your game store — it is heavy. I put it on a scale and, unopened, it’s more than seven-and-a-half pounds of gaming goodness.
There is plenty in the box but you won’t get to all of it, as some of it will purposely be ignored as you choose one path instead of another. That said, what remains in the box after setting up your first game is still a lot of extra components, all just waiting to be discovered. Don’t worry though — when opening the box for the first time, the things you’ll want to hide from your eyes from are tucked away … for now!
The cardboard is all good quality and accounts for most of the game. The dice, scouts, epoch and fame counters, resources, figurines, and herb huts are all wood and nice stuff — no chips and fully painted. Your choice of color stays with you for the game and your dice, scouts, and counters are of your chosen color: red, yellow, green, or blue. (For those who have trouble distinguishing color, I do not readily see any other differentiation beyond the color of the components.)
Before the first game, plan on spending a bit of time putting the dice faces on all 20 dice. This should be done carefully because the configuration of each die is important. Each die gets a face of clay, stone, and timber, as well as a guilder face and two action faces.
I’ll touch on the components more in the setup and gameplay sections, but there are four main elements I want to explore here because they are the most important in gameplay. The first is the game board itself. The board fits together like a puzzle, one corner or borough of the valley for each player, with a tower for each player, meeting near the center of the combined board. Each borough is divided by a river with a total of four bridges providing crossings between boroughs. Each borough begins with one farm, four building spaces, and 27 green tiles. A dozen of the green tiles have an icon to indicate herb tiles should be placed on them.
Additionally, each borough has a resource (timber, clay, stone, guilder) assigned to be stored there — but you needn’t visit the borough to gain that resource. At the near, outside corner, there is a place for each player to name their boroughs and a starting camp, to place their scouts.
The character boards are the same in terms of icons and usage across color and male and female sides, although the artwork for the characters is different. They each have a space to name your character and cutouts for placing a coat of arms token and your family symbol, which is tied to the family history card. There is also a cutout for placing the token with your current epoch (or current game) goals. There are a few other mysterious tracks and places for tokens or stickers, which you may (or may not) learn about later.
The action and overview boards are where a bulk of gameplay takes place. They’re both big, 10″ x 14″, and one sits tall while the other is wide — a design choice that doesn’t optimize space, I think. The action board has two sides, one for a two player game, the other for three or four. You have nine actions to begin with, some that can be taken more than once, some not, some depending on your number of players. There are a half dozen other spaces that may get actions in the future. The overview board is where progress is tracked. Around the outside is the epoch track, counting the progress toward the nine epochs (you will, no doubt, play a lot more than nine games to reach the end).
In the center, there is a reminder of what each of the communal figurines does and along the right-hand side is the morale track. Here, too, are empty spaces for future additions. There is plenty more, of course, but these are the basics to know for your first game.
How to Play The Rise of Queensdale
Assemble the game board and place the resources near their respective spots on the game board. Place the overview and action boards (turned to the proper side, per the number of players) at one end of the game board and put the epoch building sheets at the other end. Gather the bread, seal, X, and courier tokens and put them within reach — right next to the royal plunger is a good place! Figurines should be placed in the cloth bag and given a mix before Shuffling the herb tokens (herb sides up) and placing one on each green tile showing a shrub on the board.
Players take their character, along with counters, epoch goal tile, dice and scouts of their color. (For later games, bags are provided for parceling away each individual’s progress.) Fame counters are placed at the lowest mark on the track and the epoch goal marker is placed on the first epoch goal. Morale counters are placed at the bottom of the morale bar. Each player places a scout in their camps and puts an herb hut on one herb type in your camp — this will allow you to investigate those herbs.
Lastly, set cards out in the proper piles, taking care not to shuffle. That’s it, you’re ready to enter Queensdale!
The Rise of Queensdale is played over a number of rounds as players work to earn points toward their epoch goals. At the beginning of each round, players roll their dice, which dictate what they will do that round. After rolling, players take turns playing their dice. Players will choose a die, do what its face says, before allowing the next player to place a die. Play continues until all dice are placed and players then collect their dice and a new round begins.
The resource faces of the dice are pretty straightforward. A player can place a resource die on one of the available and corresponding spaces on the playing board and then take that resource and place it in your playing area. Some spaces grant +1 resources, but most only provide a single unit of that resource.
In the beginning, there are also two faces on each die that feature a letter “A.” In this case, Mr. Hawthorne, the A stands for “action” and allows the die to be placed on the action board. At the start of the first game, when using an action die, players will be able to gather a loaf of bread or trade a bread to move a space up the morale track, a move known as “feeding the poor.” Bread may also be used with a single guilder to hire a workman from the supply.
Players draw blindly from the cloth bag and initially, there are craftsmen, gleemen, and couriers. These are placed in front of you in the same way as the resources you have banked for the game.
A workman will give you a two resource discount when using the build action (more on that in a moment) and each gleeman bumps your counter two spaces up the morale bar. Both of these figures can be saved for play in a later round, if desired. Couriers, on the other hand, trigger the immediate drawing of a courier card, which must be read aloud. Courier cards often have an effect that will stay active until another courier card is drawn. Once the card is read, the courier may be saved and played as any other figurine.
Other actions include paying two guilders to gain any two resources and the biggest part of the game, building. Players may build into any building space in their part of the valley and the resource cost of a building is spelled out on the epoch building sheets. After paying that cost, players use the royal plunger to remove the building tiles from their board and replace them with buildings they have paid for.
In the first game, only storage buildings and manufactories are available. Storage buildings are like the bank everyone starts with, they allow players to store resources from one game to the next. Building is also one of the ways to earn fame points — check your epoch goal tile to see how many points you earn for each building action you take.
The last two actions are tied to the scout. One action allows the scout to move across the land of Queensdale. As the scout moves, if it passes through or stops on a tile that shows the same herb as the one they have marked with an herb hut at their camp, they may take that token and reveal it to find out what kind of goodies they have acquired — they are mostly resources, but also include morale and fame advancement, along with a few other rewards. If you want to make your travels more productive, a player can use an action to convert three timber into another herb hut, allowing for the collection of more herbs. Adding herb huts is another way to increase your fame counter.
The last way to add to your fame points in the first round is to surpass the trumpets on the morale counter. Your epoch goal tile always tells you how many points you’ll win for doing these things. There are also pink boxes on the morale track and when you pass them, your pink buildings will produce goods in your manufactories. These produced goods go into your play area.
There are plenty of choices to make, but your dice will dictate a lot of what you can do. Unfortunately, there are a limited number of spaces at all of the places you can place your dice, so if there’s something you really want to do, try to figure out how to get there before your destination is taken away from you. If you are out of options, there are still a couple of things you can do. Spending any one of six resources allows you to re-roll a single die. Or, if you are a person of action, spending a resource die along with a physical resource that matches the one on the face you rolled, allows you to turn that face into an action die.
Play continues until a player has reached their epoch goal. The round is played out, allowing all players to place all of their dice. This means the player who crosses the goal first may not be the player who wins the game. Another player can come from behind and the highest on the fame track wins this game.
Players then read the epoch end card, which may tell players to add rules or components and moves the story along. Any player that doesn’t reach the epoch goal is awarded seals, which can be traded in for new die faces. Players who did reach their epoch goals get a new epoch goal tile and are awarded a tile for their towers (each tower can hold three tiles). These tower tiles grant resources or benefits at the beginning of each new game. Next, players return all figurines and resources that they can’t store in their blue buildings (everyone has a farm to start out, which can store up to three guilders.)
That’s it! The beginning of each game may involve reading epoch (or other) cards, which introduce scenarios, challenges, and story elements that make The Rise of Queensdale feel like a living, breathing valley that you are actually a part of. Games are played until a player wins the ninth epoch.
Why You Should Play The Rise of Queensdale
After hours and hours of gameplay, we had reached what we assumed to be our final game. I was an epoch goal ahead of my opponent and the engine I’d built was humming along on all cylinders. The game board sat before us, dramatically different than when we played the first game — so much had changed and it truly felt like we had been on an epic journey. I asked if my opponent was ready to begin. We both picked up our dice and I said: “I don’t know how this game is going to turn out, but I just want to say that I have had an extraordinarily fun time playing this game with you.” He agreed, we rolled, and I steamrolled my way to victory.
It was an interesting conclusion because my opponent across all games of The Rise of Queensdale is a very capable gamer. In fact, I would reckon that he beats me more often than I win when we play. I think back on the journey we had through this game and I think I won the first game or two, but then his strategy kicked in. I assumed it was going to be an ugly, long drag to the end from there. He had figured out something before I had and had essentially cornered that strategy. I can remember telling my wife, about midway through the campaign, that I wasn’t sure I had any hope. I was having fun, but I was just getting drummed.
But then a funny thing happened. As we played on, the game introduced new opportunities. New strategies became available and what had been a strong position weakened. I was quick to jump on one of those new opportunities, my opponent was not, and I was able to close the gap. Then, in the last few games, I was able to pull away.
The game has a number of great ways for players to catch up and even when I was lagging behind, I was never that far behind. While a few games felt lopsided, overall the campaign felt very balanced.
Husband and wife designers, Markus and Inka Brand (Village, Exit: The Game (both Kennerspiel winners), Rajas of the Ganges, and many others) have created a game that is not only progressively challenging but also is able to surprise players with twists, even deep into the game.
During last summer’s Gen Con, it was promised that the game essentially plays the same, whether playing at 2, 3, or 4 players. We played at two and the experience was still rich and challenging. We felt as though there was enough to do that our placement of workers never felt like a last resort. However, there were certainly some actions that were sought after more often. The action board responds in kind, depending on the number of players, maintaining a consistent availability of actions.
In Queensdale, there were always challenges and, as might be expected with a game of this scope, there were certainly some with the game, as well. All setup, the game requires a lot of space. Altogether, the game board measures about 19″ x 27″, then there are the action and overview boards and all the resources and cardboard bits and available buildings and player boards and their bits and resources … and it all takes up quite a lot of space. We played on a three feet by five feet table and almost every square inch was covered. We tried several ways to consolidate and save space, but it’s difficult to get by with much less than what we had. We often had to stand to see across the table, to read icons or see what was available, and had to hand things to each other on practically every round.
Additionally, there was a rule or two that didn’t quite make sense. A trip to BoardGameGeek sorted most of those, but one seemed so punitive that it required asking our own question there. It took three months for anyone to respond and even then, it wasn’t definitive. We ended up home-ruling it. It would be nice if designers and publishers would do a better job of policing rules questions on BGG.
It is also worth mentioning here that the stickers, for both dice and when placing on the board, are very permanent. Think twice before applying each sticker because once it goes on, it’s not really coming off. That was a lesson learned the hard way, early on. I don’t think that’s an issue and I probably prefer it that way for a legacy game. It’s just something to be aware of.
Still, I absolutely loved The Rise of Queensdale.
I was a big fan of Charterstone (read our review), also a village-building legacy game, but I feel like Queensdale does the job better. The story flows better, it’s more involved, has more twists and turns and is better defined. (Charterstone still has one of my favorite components of all time though.) The narrative in Queensdale is strong and really feels like a fable brought to cardboard. It’s the best legacy game I’ve played. (I do not care for any variation of Pandemic, thank you.)
While The Rise of Queensdale could be a bit slow and repetitive at times, more often, hours would often disappear as we worked our way through epochs. It was a challenge to set up and put away, but every time my opponent texted me and asked if I had time to play a few games, I got a bit of a thrill in anticipation of what I might be able to accomplish, what diversions the story might spill, and what new mechanics the game might throw at us.
It was bittersweet when the game ended and I boxed it up for the last time. But I hold out hope for future Queensdale games because on the side of the box, just above the game’s title is a nice, big, bold number 1. And you don’t put a one on a box if there’s not going to be a second one, do you?
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Disclosure: This game came is part of my personal collection.