Advice for Players

At the beginning of the game, each player has a King and Queen, and a child. The King and Queen are 'normal' in every respect, which means that each player is in charge of a country with eight provinces ruled over by Kings and Queens of identical age and characteristics. At this stage, the only differences between the countries will be the sexes and characteristics of the children. These children could range from the strong and healthy to the weak and sickly!

Later in the game, you will want to arrange marriages in order to establish firm treaties with other players, hopefully negotiated to your advantage. But, at this stage, you cannot seal these arrangements, because no child is yet old enough (and new players to the game would be at the mercy of older hands in these negotiations!).

You can then carry out your first action in the Dynastic Sequence, finding out if your King and Queen produced any children in 1325. As you will see from the rules, you can make three die rolls (and, if successful, produce three children), but there is the greater danger of the Queen dying if you roll more than once. If children are born, Character Sheets are made out for them.

You then have to make a Survival Roll for all adult characters. In effect, this means only your King and Queen in the first turn. To survive, your King will have to roll 4 or more on two dice (his Constitution being normal). Your Queen will also have to roll 4 or more, although this might be 1 or 2 higher if you have tried more than once to obtain a child. Should the Queen die, you will have to wait until a bride is available when one of the children in the game reaches 15. If your King dies, one of your child characters becomes ruler and a Regent is invented.

You then receive your Taxes of 5 Crowns per province, optionally boosting this to 7 Crowns a Province if you are prepared to run the greater risk of Rebellion. Unless you intend to be aggressive, or fear that another player might be, you would be well advised not to tax high in the first turn, as you run a very real risk of Rebellion. Once you have a Monarch with high Charisma, this risk is reduced.

You then buy your armies and fleets. The maximum you will be able to afford if you taxed normally is 8. In the rest of the game, Army counters are always brought on in the capital, but for the first turn they can be placed anywhere in the kingdom - players should place their Army counters on the map in order. You might consider it wise to protect all your borders, as they are all vulnerable at this stage, and opponents need only send a single army into a vacant province to capture it. There is no secrecy. Also remember - once bought you cannot return them, nor can you buy more once players have started placing Army counters on the map.

Keep in mind that Blood Royale is not a wargame. If players continuously indulge in conflict, the winner will almost always be the player that stayed relatively peaceful. One has only to consider the economics to realise this. Each owned province brings in an income of 5 (or 7) Crowns per five years. Every Army counter raised to achieve this costs 5 Crowns, plus 2 Crowns for each turn's maintenance. Three (or four) Army counters garrisoning a captured Province against counterattack cost more than can be raised in Tax. And each Army counter lost while capturing a province means an extra outlay of 3 Crowns (5 to raise troops rather than 2 to maintain) to replace when the time comes, not to mention the potential problems of having them out of the game for a whole turn.

But conflict will occur. A cheap victory may only have a marginal positive effect on your own economy, but it will have a much greater negative effect on your opponent's. Most conflict, however, will almost certainly be connected with securing trade. Each 5 year turn sees the introduction of up to 250 Crowns worth of Trade Items - 50 per player. If you lose out on trade, your chances of winning are slim. Even so, you should try to tie trade up with marriage contracts rather than combat.

Rebellion is a facet of the game that should never be underestimated. As was typical of the period, armies abroad tended to lose everything they had gained by having to be brought home in order to put down unrest. Sending the Monarch abroad is always a danger, unless he or she is very high in Charisma.

So, what must you look for in a marriage contract? For certain countries - especially Lencia - a non-aggression treaty with Kaldera is of considerable use. Armies are limited and expensive, so a secure border is of major advantage.

At the same time, it is in other players' interests to prevent Lencia from getting this security - and they might even consider having a contract with Kaldera that prevents Lencia getting such an alliance.

Mercanty can also be troublesome, unless other players can persuade Espada, for example, to provide a permanent threat to Mercanty's east. And Mercanty is bound to be Vadorlund's first target, given that Anona and Veleto are so close. The mere existence of such a threat forces Mercanty to keep troops at home.

These are just a few examples of the need to secure borders and to give other players something to think about so that they leave you alone.

It will be seen that no single country in the game commands all of the three Basic Resources Items. They must trade. Furthermore, there are not enough Resource Items to go round. So, these deals should rate very highly on the list of priorities. Securing trade also means ensuring that you can get the goods to your capital. A player who regrets the terms of a Marriage Contract he agreed with you might minimise the effect by making it difficult for you to get the Resource Items home.

Do not underestimate in any way the power of such things as marriageable children with +2 Strength/Guile or daughters with +2 Constitution. These place you in a strong bargaining position. Similarly, you are in a strong position if you are seeking a bride for your heir to the throne. Sometimes it is worth hanging on to these children rather than marrying them off early.

Although it is a temptation to have extra dice rolls for children, you must remember that - should the wife die - a most useful marriage contract will be terminated. Then again, maybe it gets you out of a bad one. There is one exception to this. The death of the original Queen does not terminate any contract and it is an advantage to have quite a large Royal Family early in the game.

ESPADA: You should be looking for Food and Luxury Items to win the game, which makes your normal focus of attention go towards Southron or a trade deal with Kaldera or Mercanty. If the military option is preferred, the classic strategy is to ally with Vadorlund and sieze Northward - cutting off Clency and facing Lencia with war on two fronts. Then take Southron, and stop there, before Vadorlund gets too close. The alternatives for adventurous players are sea invasions of Mercanty or Kaldera. The former isn't very attractive- Vadorlund will move on Veleto and Anona with the Trade Items you want, if it sees Mercanty crumble - but it might be easy territory to conquer. All that Food in Kaldera is an unbearable temptation, and you can certainly not afford Kaldera to just sit there and reap trading profits. But Espada does have a problem then if rebellions break out...

KALDERA: Kaldera is normally a sure bet for the militarily unadventurous, particularly since the Wayward Isles, the Iron Hills Dwarves and a few rebellions will normally make life very hazardous if troops are overseas. Without a long land frontier, it is a safe bet that invasion will be a rarity. Kaldera might therefore be the country to gamble on attacking its neighbouring neutral provinces (Upard and Seford), first, sheltering behind a strong fleet and an alliance with Lencia or Vadorlund. Kaldor is a problem. Either secure it by a Marriage Contract with Lencia, or forget it, unless your plan is to expand in Lencia. Keep Lencia and Vadorlund off your back or (better) at war with each other, and make a treaty with Espada or Vadorlund for those important cloth items (either would love your food surplus). If you must venture overseas, attack Leward while Lencia is at war with Vadorlund, or Vallse while Espada is occupied elsewhere.

LENCIA: Lencia needs allies, and your policy has to be to secure at least two of those borders against attack. Kaldera might be one to approach; after all, you aren't going to gain much from an early war, except Kaldor. Your second choice ought to be dictated by the defence of your Resource Areas. The Dauphine is very exposed - beware of a Mercanty - Espada alliance or (worse!) a Vadorlund - Espada marriage. Leward and Southron are very tempting for Espada also. Either make an alliance with Espada (you need Metals and Espada needs Food) and go east (if you intend to be aggressive at all), or find some way to fend off Kaldera, Mercanty and Vadorlund while you go all out for Espada, possibly with Mercanti help (you don't actually need that Semi-Luxury in Talona (Mercanty is not a natural trading ally since you are both looking for Metals, but the Mercanti need some guarantee against Vadorlund). The neutral provinces, Ardor and Glaive, might be best left as buffers for a while at the beginning; if you are going to be warlike, try and reduce the threat on one of those borders.

MERCANTY: Once the big problem of Vadorlund is solved, Mercanty can look forward to some opportunities. Those Luxuries from Veleto are going to be in big demand. An alliance with Espada to supply Luxuries for Semi-Luxuries and Metals might be a big money spinner, but virtually any country which quickly collects sets of four Trade Items will want to talk with you. Mercanty can easily get by without war, but must beware the threat of invasion. Be particularly aware of Vadorlunde - Espadan alliances. Lencia is not a natural trading ally, but a military alliance might be necessary, and you can always swap Luxuries for Semi-Luxuries. If you are going to be aggressive, you need to ally with one of your northern neighbors against the other, although it is possible to have some spectacular successes by a sudden attack on an otherwise occupied Espada. If things are quiet, snatch Arlento, which no one will mind. Only try for Pava if you are allied with Lencia or Vadorlund and they don't feel threatened.

VADORLUND: The big temptation is to go for that Luxury in Veleto. Even if you don't actually move troops after it, you can use your presence to bully Mercanty into an advantageous deal for Luxuries and Food in exchange for Metals. You only need Mercanty as an ally if you are going to invade Kaldera and don't want your back stabbed. On the other hand, a quickly weakened Mercanty, with Veleto and Anona in Vadorlunde hands, would leave you very strong for phase two. Alternatively, you can either attack your other natural enemy, Lencia, to make sure Mullefeld is secure and to steal Clency, or make the surprise move into Kaldera. Whichever, you must make sure Mercanty and Lencia are not allied, and you must use your surplus Metal to get Food, either from Mercanty or Lencia. Bottle up one, and deal with the other; that is the simple basis for Vadorlunde strategy. The neutrals should only be taken as part of that strategy; Hochwald is in the heart of the main trouble zone in the game, around Glaive and Pava.