The Royal Limited (Saturday Review)


Release Date: 2023Players: 1 (only)
Designer: Scott AlmesLength: 15-30 minutes
Artist: Taylor StoneAge: 10+
Publisher: Button ShyComplexity: 1.5 / 5
Plastic (by weight): 25%Air (by volume): <1%

The 60s in England were a time of new music trends and dramatic changes in fashion and art. Celebrities from around the world would flock to the country’s capital London to immerse themselves in this wave of cultural changes. From there, these superstars would travel the width and breadth of the country using a train line catering to the well-off. While the luxurious railway carriages were reserved only for the VIPs, the less fortunate had to jostle for space in cattle class and hope they would get a glimpse of their idols. These were the days of The Royal Limited by Scott Almes from Button Shy.

Wow! What an introduction! The pressure is on you to ensure these trains have the right combination of carriages to allow passengers from high society to travel in the luxury and peace they are accustomed to, while giving the hoi polloi the space they need to feel that they can mingle with the stars that they adore. All this is compressed into a mere 18 cards and only four rounds.

Royal Cards Limited

As you might know, I’ve never been much of a player of solo games, but this year, I started to get more into this interesting genre. I love small box games and Button Shy‘s wallet games are one of the smallest types of games available. So when I had the chance to review this game, I jumped at it – and without taking away this article’s punchline too much, I thoroughly enjoyed playing this 18-card solo game.

It’s all pretty simple. There are 12 train carriage cards, which form your deck that you play and assemble your train with. There is also the conductor card, which allows you to track your progress through the four rounds of the game. Finally, there are five double-sided VIP cards, from which you select two, with either side facing up, which represent the goals you’re trying to achieve. After all, VIPs are often divas who have very specific and often complicated requirements that you need to meet perfectly.

Each of the four rounds is a matter of using your hand of five train cards and either adding them to your train as a carriage or sliding them sideways underneath an existing carriage as a passenger. Carriages have a number between 0 and 3 as well as one of the four possible colours. If you want to add the card as a carriage, you have to discard a number of cards from your hand equal to the number on the carriage you’re placing. Passengers, on the other hand, don’t cost anything to play, but their number or colour has to match that of the carriage you’re adding them to.

Finally, you can also play one of the VIPs and add them as a passenger, as long as you meet their requirements, of course.

a close-up of train carriage cards with VIPs and passenger cards slid underneath
fill your train with VIPs and passengers

The Royal Conundrum

As with many of these types of solo games, in The Royal Limited, every card you play has to be carefully considered. You might have a number 3 carriage that would be the perfect match for a number 3 passenger, but of course, it means having to discard 3 cards as well. The more cards you discard, the less you have to play and the quicker the round ends.

Oh, yes. I didn’t mention that yet. Once your hand of five cards is empty, you rotate the conductor by 90 degrees to indicate the start of the next round. At the end of the fourth round, the game ends. If you have been able to use up all cards, meaning you have no cards in your discard pile, as well as created a train where every carriage is full and with all VIPs on board, you’ll be a Royal Conductor. The more cards you have in your discard pile and/or the more carriages are unoccupied, the worse you have done.

Getting the perfect result feels like an impossible conundrum, but it is possible to finish The Royal Limited with a perfect score of 0. I’ve not done it yet, but I’m improving. The more I play this rather addictive little card game, the better my results. And yes, it’s definitely addictive. It’s so quick to set up and play, that you just want one more go. It also doesn’t take up a huge amount of table space, making it perfect for a small table while you travel. A quick reset of the conductor to the starting position and a blow of the whistle and you’re off again.

Limited Cards

It does always surprise me how much gameplay you can get out of only 18 cards. The Royal Limited proves it yet again. You’d think the game would get boring after a few goes, and even though I probably wouldn’t play it for hours on end, I do enjoy playing it every time I get a chance. It’s the perfect time filler.

Every time you shuffle the 12 train carriage cards and randomly choose your VIPs, the excitement rises. Then you draw your first hand of 5 carriage cards and hope you’ve got something great to work with. Some of these cards give you bonus actions, which can be really helpful. Making sure you play the right card at the right time is crucial if you want to get the top score.

A bit of prior planning is going to be important. Check what your VIPs need. Getting the perfect train is hard, but it’s not too hard. I think The Royal Limited has just the right difficulty level. It’s not so easy that you will win immediately, but it’s also not so hard that you think you’ll never have a chance. That’s quite a tough balance to get right.

So I urge you to don your conductor’s hat, blow the whistle and call: “All aboard The Royal Limited!”

Useful Links

Transparency Facts

I feel that this review reflects my own, independent and honest opinion, but the facts below allow you to decide whether you think that I was influenced in any way.

  • I was sent a free review copy of this game by the publisher.
  • At the time of writing, neither the designers, nor the publisher, nor anyone linked to the game supported me financially or by payment in kind.

Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (https://www.youtube.com/audiolibrary/)

Sound Effects: bbc.co.uk – © copyright 2023 BBC

Music: Train Station by Michal Mojzykiewicz
Free download: https://filmmusic.io/song/10058-train-station
Licensed under CC BY 4.0: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Playlist

These are the songs I listened to while I was writing this review:

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