A new game that I was incredibly psyched to play was Mousquetaires du Roy.
In the Musketeer game (as I will refer to it, as I can type it much more easily and not have to constantly check my spelling), one player takes on the role of "Milady" and tries to disgrace the queen, siege the city, and destroy the musketeers. All of the other players take on the role of different musketeers (yes, from The Three Musketeers books) and try to restore the queen's name by completing several epic quests (to find the queen's diamonds and whatnot). To start the round, Milady will secretly select which location she will go to (she can try to hinder the musketeers directly at certain locations, and at other locations, she can get extra cards that will let her indirectly hinder them by doing things like dishonoring the queen and causing the turn track to move faster). After she selects a location, she is able to play a new Paris card (quest that seriously jacks with the musketeers), and finally she can either draw or play a treachery card (continuing with the theme, this also jacks with the musketeers). Next, each of the musketeers can take their turn (in any order). They each get a certain number of actions based on the number of players in the game. With these, they can move, draw cards, attempt challenges and duels (these are how they complete quests like the Paris cards and the epic quests that win them the game), buy upgrades, and exchange cards/equipment. The heart of the game is in the musketeers working together to thwart Milady's evil schemes. Finally, there is some round cleanup - the siege is adjusted, the time track advances, and the queen is possibly dishonored. If the musketeers can work their way through all 4 of their quest boards before Milady reaches any of her victory conditions, they win!
The first thing that I found interesting about the Musketeer game is that the Musketeers could take their turns in any order. I can't think of any other games with this mechanic, and I think that it really added to the gameplay. Since Milady was able to determine many different things (such as what was at various quests and how they were to be completed), it was really important not only to make the most of each Musketeer turn, but also to do them in the best possible order. There will be many situations in which one of the Musketeers will be the best at completing a challenge and so the other Musketeers will go before him to clear out any potential duels that he may encounter or to help equip him by drawing extra cards and giving them to him. I can't speak highly enough of this mechanic - it is a very small thing and easy to miss (in fact, I missed it until about halfway through the first game), but it is a nice addition.
The next thing that I must talk about is the role of Milady. First off, I really enjoy cooperative and semi-cooperative games. I have put in lots of time in Pandemic, Shadows Over Camelot, and Forbidden Island. The problem is, the board is not able think, but can only react. Because of this, it winds up being quite random. You can play one game of Pandemic in which you win without the game even being close, and the next game you get absolutely destroyed, and it is all dependent on which cards are drawn. The Musketeer game fixes that. In the Musketeer game, Milady is essentially the role of the board and, if you find a strategic gamer to fill this role, it can cause the game to be incredibly challenging every time. This is the second innovative element that I have seen in the Musketeer game, and so I appreciate this as well. However, if you noticed, I didn't directly call this a pro. Here's the reason - playing as Milady is wretchedly boring. Everyone may not share this opinion with me (I asked my wife, and she had no complaints about playing the role), but I definitely had that feeling. We played a couple games where I was a Musketeer but before writing the review I felt it was important to play both ways. When playing as Milady, I would spend about 1-3 minutes per round (if that) doing my turn and then about 5-15 minutes (or more) waiting on the Musketeers to take theirs (with very little that I could do to affect their turn, but still having to pay attention in case they went to my secret location). Now, I will admit that part of this may have been the people I was playing with not playing quickly, and part of it was definitely that we were still new enough at the game that we had to think through things, but I was still a much bigger fan of playing a Musketeer over playing Milady. Before wrapping up the discussion on this topic, there is one more thing to note - a rule variant is included that allows the players to play without Milady and for her turns to be executed randomly (returning the game to a more Pandemic-like state). If you run into an issue where nobody wants to play the role, this may be for you - hopefully, you will find at least one player in your group that enjoys the role (my wife) and you can allow them to play it in most games. (Hmmm... my wife likes playing the role of the evil character...... I guess I'll try not to read too much into that. Especially as she proof-reads this over my shoulder.)
The next pro is the balance of the game. This is a pro that I probably use too often, but this particular game's review would be completely lacking if I didn't cover this topic. The game in which I played Milady was just about the closest game of any kind that I have ever played. On the last round of the game, the Musketeers completed the final quest on the last Musketeer's turn (and by using the mechanic that allowed them to pick the order in which they went). If they had not been able to complete everything on that round, then I was going to successfully disgrace the queen to start the next round. Balance like this shows good playtesting, and I think that is one of the reasons that I bring is up so often. Kudos.
Now that I have covered the most important pros, the main con is the learning curve. The first time through the game, half of the time was spent trying to look up rules to see if we were doing things correctly. In fact, I would recommend that everyone playing read through the instructions before the first game. A single person teaching others how to play this game will most likely fail, but I do believe that a group of players introducing a single new player would be able to teach them sufficiently. I'm not really sure what it is about the game that made it so difficult to figure out at first, as the group we were playing with all consisted of seasoned gamers, but it was a definite issue that we experienced. (For full disclosure, I was the one who had read the rules and was teaching the group. Josh fail.)
One last thing to note: the game is easier for the Musketeers if there are more of them. Whereas there are elements in the game that attempt to balance that (such as them having extra actions and cards in smaller games), there are a couple ways that aren't really offset. First, if there are more Musketeers, the number of wounds that can be distributed among them before any of them if knocked out is higher, and second, having a Musketeer knocked out is less detrimental. Think about it for a second, if you are playing with 3 Musketeers with 4 actions, and one Musketeer is knocked out you lose 4 actions, whereas if you're playing with 4 Musketeers with 3 actions, you only lose 3 actions when one is knocked out. This doesn't really affect the gameplay either positively or negatively, but is something worth noting when you play the game.
Overall, I give Mousquetaires du Roy (the Musketeer game) an 8.0/10. I enjoyed the games that I have played, and I will keep it in my collection. I would recommend trying it at some point, and it would be on my "want list" (if I didn't already have it), it just wouldn't be at the top (because those are reserved for games that are closer to 10... but then again, as an educated reader, you should've been able to figure that out. And so maybe that entire last part was unnecessary. Oh well. You read it anyway.)
If Mousquetaires du Roy sounds interesting, you might also check out Mice and Mystics, Star Wars: The Card Game, and Talisman 4th Edition.
I would like to thank Rio Grande Games for providing me with a demo copy of Mousquetaires du Roy to review.