Do you even “For The Queen”?

Gather around…

Alright kids, come sit around the campfire, because it’s time for me to tell you the story of what I believe to be the best RPG of the year. And that’s saying a lot, because there are currently so many fantastic games coming out.

For the Queen is a story game by Alex Roberts that involves the following premise:

The land you live in has been at war for as long as any of you have been alive. The Queen has decided to set off on a long and perilous journey to forge an alliance with a distant power. She has chosen you, and only you, to serve as her retinue, and accompany her on this journey. She chose you because she knows that you love her.

The game is entirely based around us taking turns answering very simple questions, which generally focus around our relationship with this queen (or occasionally on other aspects of the journey, the land, the war, and so on).

The game is meant to be played with a relatively small table (3-6 players), is GM-less, and takes approximately 1-2 hours to play, but can be shorter than that, depending on how much bullshitery the players perform.

I first played back at CONlorado in March. But over recent months I begged for a copy, and convinced Alex and Sean (since it’s being produced by Evil Hat) to give me the wordings. I basically produced a copy of the game by printing these out on index cards, and have been playing it like crazy ever since. Seriously. I have a huge set of friends who just joke about it, when they aren’t seriously telling me to STFU about the game, already.

But there’s a reason: This game is just that good. Everyone who plays keeps asking me the same thing: How can I get it now?

 The Queen herself, Alex Roberts, holding a design that my partner J made a few months prior. J was so impressed with the game that she wanted to gift this notebook to her in thanks.

The Queen herself, Alex Roberts, holding a design that my partner J made a few months prior. J was so impressed with the game that she wanted to gift this notebook to her in thanks.

 My hacked version of the game. The actual version will be much prettier, I assure you.

My hacked version of the game. The actual version will be much prettier, I assure you.

My thoughts on the game

Ok, so why is this game so insanely good? I have thoughts. Here are some:

  • The game involves us creating characters during play. This is not unique to this game, but does mean you can just dive right in without wasting a moment. This is also the lowest barrier to entry I’ve ever seen in an RPG, so you can play this with literally anyone, including those with no RPG experience at all. I’ve done exactly this to great effect.

  • The questions are framed around our characters and our relationship with the Queen, a character that no one is playing. This means that as we are developing our characters, we are also creating this other character in the space between us, and watching that Queen character manifest is a fantastic experience, as its developing piece by piece from everyone’s various narratives. The Queen is always relatively complex, and it’s just stunning to watch the game do this magic.

  • The game comes with safety mechanics built in. The instructions, which are read on these very same cards, in round robin fashion, include an X-card. Even then, the X-card itself is completely normalized, and can be used for problematic or triggering content just as easily and seamlessly as for tone or any other reason. It’s quite liberating.

  • In addition to having the active player answer the question on the card, the game also encourages the other players to ask clarifying questions. These may start innocently enough (“How does that make you feel?” “Why did that happen?”), but can also easily lead towards leading questions that can also establish wide-ranging fiction (“Do you have wings like the rest of us?”). And if you don’t want to go along with the leading question and have that establish fiction that is unrelated or not-in-tone? Simple… X-card.

  • The fact that you constantly have to actively listen, and you constantly are allowed to actively participate by asking clarifying questions, means that you are constantly engaged. This basically creates instant great table culture. I am totally convinced that this game is basically: Good RPG Culture Training, masquerading as a brilliant RPG.

  • I played this with my partner, who is not into RPGs, and she absolutely loved it. She even did that excited “Wow, we wrote such a cool story” ramble at the end of our session, which should be a familiar feeling to those of us addicted to these games.

FTQ - Party Game Edition

In addition to all this, I have learned that the game itself is extremely flexible. I have played it with over a dozen people as a party game, late at night in the Big Bad Con lobby. The first time was after my friend Kurt said “wouldn’t it be funny if the queen was a Queen Bee?” I called court, and we played with a dozen people of For The Queen Bee, and were bees escorting her to broker an alliance with the paper wasps. Needless to say it didn’t end well. The next night, after a dance party downstairs, many of us adjourned up to the lobby and played For The Dancing Queen with about 16 people. It still worked beautifully! In both cases, it was also easy to accommodate players entering and leaving the game at any time, as you’d like in a party game atmosphere.

FTQ - Sports Edition

Another version we ran was during the Big Bad Con 2018 Wolf Run, a 5K run on Sunday morning that is used to raise money for Doctors Without Borders. It’s hard getting up at that time after non-stop gaming, but some of us hardcore (stupid?) few were up to the task! And included in that was both myself and Sean Nittner, who have probably played this game more than anyone else on the planet, barring Alex. So… For The Running Queen. We would make up the questions from memory and played with out fellow joggers, and created a short but cute little narrative that included a competing running team, and ended with a sprint when our Queen was under attack near the finish line. Co-runner Ken says that the game really helped him forget about the pain during the run, and I found it able to do the same for myself!

FTQ - World Building Edition

I’ve played in this a few times where it was part of a two-shot where we played it in conjunction with another game, and let that game world influence our FTQ game. This happened once with a Mars colony in a game of Icarus and a Martian queen, and also after playing Zombie Cinema with a zombie queen. I can see using this game, especially since its short and sweet compared to many world-building games, to flavor stories in unrelated games and campaigns.

FTQ - In-Depth Edition

After the first online sessions I ran (video linked below), some of my friends stated that they wanted more interpersonal exploration, instead of just the “you and the queen” type questions. [Specifically Lauren: More self-indulgent fantasy bullshit (TM).] I created a separate set of cards that were all about our relationships, and framed as “we” questions. For example: “What secret have we kept from all the others, including the Queen?”. These questions could be used instead of the standard cards on your turn, and would be answered collaboratively by those players (which would be the active player who played the card, and the one other player they chose at the table). We tested this in a small group at Big Bad Con, and the result was a really in-depth game that was my favorite session of that convention (and that’s saying a lot, cause the games there are out of this world). Additionally, much like the party game version, we easily slotted in another player, my friend Tre, half-way through the game. It was a much longer session (~3 hours), and isn’t a replacement for the standard game, but did provide a different experience that could be desired after playing the base game many times. Additionally we found it added another level of players versus players conflict, and it helped establish cliques in the retinue.

 Ryan and Lauren ganging up on me with the custom cards. It’s fun to attack the blob!

Ryan and Lauren ganging up on me with the custom cards. It’s fun to attack the blob!

How do I get this thing?

Evil Hat recently created a page for the game here: https://www.evilhat.com/home/for-the-queen/. You can signup for further information and to be informed, here: http://eepurl.com/dzxosr.

Online Actual Plays

There are a few games up on the Actual Play Twitch channel, for example:

Here’s the first time I ran it online for some of my Gauntlet ASPAC mates, Lauren, Ryan and Lu. The feedback at the end of this one is where we got the idea to add those additional interpersonal “we” cards:

Here’s a second Gauntlet run of the game for Euro-timezone friends:

A larger form game of For The Queen where we played Space Bees for our Space Queen Bee during GauntletCon 2018, which is similar to the party game version I ran at Big Bad Con:

And finally, another For The Queen session during GauntletCon 2018 which resulted from a snafu for a scheduled game that was postponed, so I ran this in lieu of the rescheduled game: