The Midnight Queen has passed, by her dying breath she invokes the rule of midnight. Now it's you against up to five other princesses battling it out in this deck builder battle royale to see who can become the Queen By Midnight.
What is Queen By Midnight?
Queen By Midnight is the new battle royale deck-builder designed by Kyle Shire from Darrington Press, the publishing arm of Critical Role. It's designed for 3-6 players and the game is meant to take 60-90 minutes to play. There are a lot of cards to read and understand so it's likely you'll be hitting the top of that estimate more often than not.
In this game, each player will be working to protect themselves and send attacks their opponent's way to try to be the last princess standing when the game concludes. If multiple princesses are still alive at that time then it comes down to who has earned the most points.
Setting up the game was equal parts fascinating and magical, while also being a little bit daunting. The magical aspect of this experience was building the centerpiece of the game, a large functional clocktower that doubles as a dice tower.
Building the Clocktower
Instructions were provided in the form of images and numbered panels. These weren't the easiest to follow, but with relatively few pieces it was also possible to eyeball the picture on the box and get an idea of where the pieces were meant to go. Unsnapping some of the snap-lock pieces was a bit tense, for fear of breaking them, but once everything came together it was a very rewarding sight.
During play, the clocktower sits in the middle of all of the players with a tray to catch your dice. Not only is the clocktower useful for tracking how many turns remain in the game and who the active player is, but it also houses a deck of cards that any player can purchase from during their turn.
Setting up Queen by Midnight for the first time was a bit of a confusing experience. You've got each Princess's specific deck consisting of starting cards, ultimate cards, and armory cards to upgrade to.
On top of that, you've got three different Bazaar decks that live next to the clocktower. Finally, you have the player boards and health/clout trackers that try to organize what might otherwise be a chaotic scene.
With so many different decks of cards and so much pretty art across them it took a while to realize what I was looking at. This was especially so for the Princess-specific decks as aside from small themed artwork and symbols on the left and right it's hard to initially tell whose deck belongs to who.
After my first playthrough, and changing up the way I grouped all of the cards in the box. It made sequential setup far easier.
When all is set up and cards are placed neatly around the character boards don't be too surprised when the scene takes up a LOT of space. This is going to be a dining room table game, and even then you'll likely have to make some compromises for space.
Cards fit for a princess
On each player's turn they can perform a number of actions in any order. They can play cards from their hands, purchase new cards, refresh their player-specific card store as well as the communal card store, and play face-down reaction cards.
Playing a card can have a variety of effects including attacking, defending, and healing. An important aspect of the cards you play will also be ones that allow you to gain Clout. Clout is the currency that you'll be using not only to purchase cards, but once they're purchased you'll need to spend Clout to activate them.
Each of the cards you play has incredibly clear instructions for how they perform so even at a glance Queen By Midnight is going to be a quick game to pick up.
As the game goes on and the clocktower increments there are a number of events that take place. The Bazaar deck may be swapped out with a more powerful offering of cards for players, hand sizes can increase leading to more complicated turns, War Chest cards are purchasable that lead to powerful attacks, and players secretly pledge their fealty to another Princess.
It's true that you can win the game by being the last Princess standing, or having the most victory points at the end - your remaining HP added to your current clout - but when you die you reveal which princess you swore allegiance to. If you become their supporter you'll have new actions you can perform on your turn and if that princess wins, then so do you.
This hidden fealty vote adds a further level of tactical playing to Queen by Midnight. You might want to avoid attacking the princess that you have sworn yourself to so that if you die you've still got a chance to win. However, help them out too much and you may perish. There's no guarantee if they die they'd be sworn to you anyway.
Queen by Midnight is a board game with an excellent level of production value and it's not shy about it. From the massive clocktower that acts as a dice tower, to the spinning bazaar, to the beautifully produced cards this game looks great and it knows it.
The character art on the player card is gorgeous to view and compliments each of their full background narratives so well. That being said the game takes up a fair bit of table space and slightly smaller artwork could have gone a long way to help those with smaller playspaces not get as bogged down.
For as many different cards, towers, and rotating clock platforms as there are though the inside of the box is incredibly efficient. Setting up the game and packing it away is a breeze. There's also a specific place for the clocktower so once it's assembled you never need to disassemble it.
Queen by Midnight Review | Final Thoughts
Initially opening the box and finding a clocktower to assemble and finding a few hundred cards of varying sizes and designs I was more than a little confused.
It was amazing to me how after a single round of playing everything immediately made sense and people who had never played the game before but had experience with other deckbuilding games or even video games like Slay The Spire caught on with ease.
The game is a lot of fun to play, and with new bazaar cards and increased hand sizes altering the game as it goes on the scaling is also a lot of fun.
Should you buy Queen By Midnight?
Queen By Midnight is going to be a game for those who enjoy the idea of a deck-based combat game like a traditional TCG but want an experience with an easier buy-in.
Unlike other deck-building games I've played the inclusion of the Bazaar in the center added a level of unpredictability to the game that meant even when playing the same princess multiple times the deck I'd end up with was wildly different.
If you're not someone who likes actively antagonistic games it's likely you'll want to steer clear of Queen By Midnight. The tides can quickly turn, especially if competitive players smell blood in the water...
The copy of Queen By Midnight used to produce this review was provided by Darrington Press. All pictures included were taken by the reviewer.