Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Saturday 25 November 2017

The Game Shelf Reviews:- By Order of The Queen

Game: By Order of The Queen

Publisher: Junk Spirit Games

Designer: David Gerrard

Year: 2017

The Kingdom of Tessandor has been in disarray since the King did not return from battle. You, as representatives of the guilds, have been called upon by the Queen to organise the heroes of the land to defend the borders of the city whilst also catering to the whims of the Queen which might distract you from you tasks. Hopefully you can do so in time before you lose all of the villagers in battles with monsters, or all of the regions of the land are overwhelmed.


By Order of the Queen is a cooperative game that consists of rounds each made up of four turns followed by some cleanup where the forces of evil gather. You can win the game by fulfilling three of the queens orders, however you lose the game if you run out of villagers, run out of heroes, or run out of regions. Each round 1 player performs an action, then play rotates to the next player. There are 4 actions that you can do in a turn; fight against the horde, fight against the nemesis, quest, or fulfil the queens orders. The simplest action is to fight the horde, monsters steadily appear throughout the game and if you don’t kill them then they start killing villagers. You send up to 4 hero cards (from your hand of 7) at a time to fight monsters, rolling a number of dice equal to the number of classes (healing, melee, ranged, shield) in the heroes you sent. You then assign these dice on the monster cards, and if all the dice printed on a monster card is covered the monster dies, however if at least 1 monster survives then one of your heroes dies too.

The game setup with two players

Fighting the nemesis is very similar to fighting the monsters, except it’s one big monster with lots of die spaces. Fortunately you don’t have to kill monsters in one go, you can wound them then finish them off later. Questing and fulfilling the queens orders are both performed in the same way. They will dictate one of 4 locations that you have to go to. Before revealing the location card you have to choose the 4 heroes to send, each location is printed with the 3 most common attributes required for the area. Once you flip the card over you will have to perform an attribute test, you get 1 dice per hero that matches the attribute required and must roll at least one 5+ to succeed. Succeed or fail you then proceed to perform a second test with a different attribute, this one is likely to not be one printed on the card, so good variety is needed. If you succeed this second test you are typically rewarded, but failure at any point is penalised.

Quests will typically require 2 or 3 location cards to be completed before they grant you a reward, theses tend to push back the enemy advancement on 1 of the three main trackers. Succeeding while doing the queens orders starts putting success tokens on her order. You need 8 to complete and order, and can get a maximum of 3 a round. Finally after 4 turns the enemies get a chance to attack. Based on the 3 trackers new monsters appear, existing monsters kill villagers, regions lose faith in you and heroes get slain defending the land.

Amy’s Final Thoughts
By Order of the Queen is an absolutely gorgeous game, Justin Hillgrove has done a fantastic job bringing the unique fantasy world to life. The world is incredibly inviting with fun unique races among your heroes such as sentient kiwis (the bird, not the fruit). The included colouring book with additional story on each hero is a welcome, if slightly odd, touch. There is also story on each location card to help bring you into the fantasy world, describing your heroic, or not so heroic, deeds. Despite its flaws, By Order of the Queen is quite fun to play, unfortunately the main flaw that drags it down is mathematical.

The most common action in the game is rolling dice to complete location cards. When you do this you have to select heroes based on the attributes on the back of the locations. Unfortunately, these cards lie to you a lot, while those attributes are the most common on the cards you will often find them asking for completely unrelated tests, or even combat to succeed. So you need to plan for everything, but if you do then you can’t be strong at anything. In the best case scenario you might have 3 dice to roll, you need a 5+ so with 3 dice you have a ~30% chance of failure, and that’s only if you got lucky with the matching symbols in the first place! Failures are penalised heavily, while success is only rewarded lightly. Since you take two tests per location even if you have 3 dice per test (highly unlikely) then you’d have a ~50% chance of failing at least one of them!

An example encounter that you might have on a quest or by order of the queen. 4 heroes have been selected to match the attributes on the reverse of the card, but the second check uses a completely different attribute.
So in practice By Order of the Queen, forces you to fail, and then penalises you for it. The game is simply too hard, not because of difficult strategy but because of cold, hard statistics. A very simple fix to this would be to make successes be on a 4+, I’d particularly recommend this if you are playing with younger players. Because there is far more luck than strategy, I can’t really recommend this game to most gamers. But if you enjoy rolling a lot of dice, or are willing to get drawn into the absolutely charming world of adventure then By Order of the Queen could be the game for you!

Fi’s Final Thoughts

I've quite enjoyed playing By Order of the Queen because it offers me a slightly different cooperative experience to any games in our collection. With two players, the card swapping at the end of each round, choosing who should take items, and determining who was best to focus on each task was an enjoyable way to cooperate. However, I would note that this would be diminished with more players because it will be harder to distribute the characters and you'll get fewer turns each in a single round.

As Amy has noted, luck is a definite issue in the game. I feel like it should either be dice luck or luck of the draw, not both. If the game was a competitive game I would immediately hate this luck aspect , but in a cooperative game you are in essence competing against luck as a team, so I can forgive the level of difficulty here, even if it can cause a few moments of frustration.

For me, it's the length of the game which is probably the biggest negative. When I first read the rulebook and found the win condition I read that it was to complete three orders for the queen and that seemed really reasonable. Then I realised that that involved 8 successes required on each order and then that you could only go to that location once in a round (4 turns). This is the mechanism which causes the game length and I wonder if maybe there could've been an option in the rulebook for a long game and a short game. Or even kill two birds with one stone and combine easy mode and short mode into a 'family' mode.

Once we introduced every rule for easy mode, I enjoyed our games of By Order of the Queen and found the difficulty level challenging but a win was achievable. The artwork on the box definitely speaks of a family game, but it's a completely different style to the artwork inside the box, which I find really fun. The theme is only lightly interwoven and we ignored the story on the encounter cards within minutes, just playing the game mechanically, however with children I imagine there is something to enjoy in the story elements and the characters in the game. With the easy rules and perhaps some additional house ruling thrown in, I think By Order of The Queen is a nice family weight cooperative game.

The Good
  • The game has a great artwork style and cute characters.
  • The game provides a good challenge.

The Bad
  • Co-operation is more about discussion than coming to each others aid.
  • The length of the game and difficulty level might be too long for the family audience that the artwork seems to appeal to.

The Verdict
       6/10 - An interesting cooperative experience, but definitely a game to try before you buy.

By Order of The Queen was a review copy provided to the Board Game Exposure reviewer collective.

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