April 26, 2011

Mousquetaires du Roy - One for All, All for More!


Mousquetaires du Roy (King's Muskateers) is a board game interpretation of the famous Alexander Dumas novel The Three Musketeers. Designed by François Combe and Gilles Lehmann, Mousquetaires was released at Essen 2010 by Ystari Games and brought to the states by Rio Grande Games shortly after. Meant for 1-5 players ages 12+, a play typically lasts around 90 minutes. Critical Gamers would like to extend a special thanks to Rio Grande Games for providing the review copy.

The Game
It's 1625, tensions between England backed Protestant rebels of La Rochelle and the forces of King Louis XIII are at a high. The King has gifted a necklace of diamonds to his queen, who in a moment of impulse has given them to her lover, the Duke of Buckingham. The prime minister to the king, Cardinal Richelieu, will stop at nothing to strengthen his power in the country by discrediting the queen and has arranged a grand ball where the queen is supposed to wear the necklace. The Musketeers agree to retrieve the necklace before it's too late. Milady de Winter, an agent for Cardinal Richelieu, has been tasked with interrupting the Musketeers. Can the Musketeers retrieve the diamonds before Milady stops them?

Game Pieces
Illustrated by Arnaud Demaegd (backgrounds) and Neriac (characters), the artwork of Mousquetaires du Roy is exceptional, however some of the community at boardgamegeek.com does not agree with me on this topic. I find the artwork to be superb, especially the backgrounds on the game board and the detail on the miniatures (see picture below). One of the complaints from the BGG community is the simplicity of the tokens and while I find that statement to be true, I don't feel it is a negative. I actually feel the simplicity of the tokens works in the games' favor as there isn't much question about what the tokens represent which lends itself to function over form. The rulebook is also laid out nicely, with straight forward rules and good examples if there are any confusing areas, such as dueling. Also the game comes with a handy setup reference and some advice about playing the different roles, which I found insightful.

There are a few issues with the game pieces. First is that the game board is very busy. There is a lot going on and not much wasted space. One thing that could have been done was to add the time/money tracker and the upgrade panel on their own smaller secondary board. This would open up some space on the board to spread things out a bit. Another small issue that I have is that the background and character art; while great in their own respects, they do not mash well. They have different styles with the background art going for a more realistic look and the characters a more cartoon and vibrant look. They aren't bad together, but are lacking cohesiveness.

Editor's Note - The figurines do not come painted

Game Play
Mousquetaires is a "one versus many" game with one player taking control of Milady as she attempts to thwart the actions of the Musketeers who are controlled by up to 4 other players (5 with the Tréville figurine available from the Ystari Shop) through one of four different methods: defeat Constance in Paris, discredit the Queen, win the Battle of La Rochelle, or distract the Musketeers enough for the Musketeers to run out of time. There is a variation that turns Milady into an automatic role which does not require a player. This variation can be run by any number of Musketeer players making it possible to play Mousquetaires as a solitaire game. The Musketeer players have one goal: advance through the four quest cards and recover the queen's jewelry. However, that goal does not come easily as Milady has various methods of distraction and this is where the game really shines.

Milady and the Musketeers end up playing a cat and mouse game where a few lucky dice rolls can end a game if the Musketeers do not act quickly. In one of the games that I played, Milady was able to win in two turns after playing a Paris card in which Constance can be killed. I thought I would have another turn or two to defeat the card, but in a game like this, assumptions can apparently cause you to lose. This, to me, is a sign of a fun and suspenseful game.

There is so much going on in so many different places, from the Paris cards, the battle for La Rochelle, and Milady's treachery cards, that the game can take you on an emotional roller coaster ride. If Milady plays her cards correctly and can increase the Queen token in La Louvre, then an additional reason for tension exists and can really make for a spectacular game experience.

The game is not all amazing however, as there are certain areas that could have been better. First is that the game most definitely favors Milady; the Paris cards in particular as they are absolutely mean. Second is that Milady can remove the Musketeers combat cards from the La Rochelle and there is nothing the Musketeers can do to stop it. There is one adventure card that can be placed that Milady cannot remove, but she is able to keep the Musketeers at one dice roll for the battle. Musketeers that are in La Rochelle are able to sacrifice one health to counter one success from Milady, but this seems trivial compared to Milady being able to remove dice from the Musketeers pool.


And speaking of dice, this is the issue that stands out to me the most. Milady's dice have three swords and three shields on them, where the Musketeers dice have two swords, two shields, and two fleur-de-lis. This gives the Musketeers a 33% chance to roll a side that is ineffective in combat, and the La Rochelle battle, by itself. While the secret maneuver techniques are great once you achieve them, I personally would rather have all swords or shields on my dice.

Also with the secret maneuvers, a Musketeer can purchase an "improved secret maneuver", however all it does is change one required icon to another and since all of the icons appear in the exact same amount, there is no increased chance of rolling the maneuver. I would have changed the dice to have two swords, three shields, and one fleur-de-lis which would decrease the probability of rolling a basic secret maneuver (three fleur-de-lis). Then when the Musketeer purchase an improved secret maneuver that changes one of the fleur-de-lis to a shield, it actually is improved as the user has a higher chance of rolling a shield. And changing one fleur to a shield will help balance the combat without removing the secret maneuver techniques from the game.

Final Thoughts
Mousquetaires du Roy, while a pain to pronounce, is a great game. It is full of suspense as the flow of the game and momentum can turn on a dime. There are a lot of things going on all over the board and being able to contain and control them as the Musketeers poises a formidable challenge, while Milady does everything in her power to interrupt their plans and bring about their demise. The game is fun to play on both sides for different reasons. There are just a few nagging balance issues that stood out and prevented the game from being that super stellar stand out hit that it could be. However, Mousquetaires surprised me and will continue to see regular plays during gaming sessions as I try to get everyone to play this game. I give Mousquetaires du Roy an 4 out of 5.

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Posted by Critical Gamers Staff at April 26, 2011 5:19 PM

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