News for August 2014
Playing the Courtiers
A Preview of the Characters in The Last Banquet
The Last Banquet | Published 04 August 2014

I’d like to make a toast. To all my loyal subjects in attendance tonight, from the castle servants, to the Trader, to my dear Baroness, whose attendance at this banquet is truly an honor. Thank you for your loyalty in this era of turmoil and civil strife. I am certain that none of you would ever betray me. 
   –The King

Enter a world of courtly posturing and deadly intrigue in The Last Banquet. In this large-group game for six to twenty-five players, you and your friends take on the roles of royalty, nobles, commoners, and even servants attending a magnificent banquet. Six different scenarios divide the characters into competing factions, which have a different objective in each scenario, from murdering the king or queen, to rescuing the princess from captivity or securing part of a luxurious estate. Will you curry royal favor, or commit treason to ascend to the throne?

Today’s preview introduces you to a few of the characters scheming to get ahead at court. You’ll learn some of the words and actions you can choose to play, and how status shapes the characters’ behaviors. But remember: a kindly demeanor and friendly words do not necessarily indicate good intentions, and servants can be just as crafty as courtiers. In this court, it’s best to be careful about who you trust and, above all, who you sit next to at dinner.

Suit the Action to the Word

Every character in The Last Banquet has a set of actions and dialogue that goes with them. The phrases at the top of the card may be used at the start of gameplay to introduce your character or whenever you perform your basic action. The baroness, for example, can make two players switch places with each other, saying, “A good arrangement benefits everyone.” Of course, she could mean that sincerely or ironically – it’s up to you.

Under the basic rules, you can perform only the basic action. If the more expansive full rules are being used, you have two actions to choose from and a favor action that can perform with the consent of whoever plays the patron. The baroness can either switch places with someone, saying, “I am here to maintain my courtly contacts,” or relocate a player belonging to her faction with the words, “You should listen to this person. His ideas could be of great use to us.” She can also ask the host to grant her a favor action, saying, “If it please the court, I will hold my tongue until a later hour.” If the host agrees, the baroness can then act again at the end of the turn.

You can convey a variety of intents through the given dialogue. The baroness might switch places with someone in order to avoid sitting next to the Princess, or because she wants to convey a secret message to the Baron. Her tone could be businesslike or cloyingly innocent, she could be revealing her true intentions or cleverly trying to mask them.

Status Games

Guests from all rungs of society are attending The Last Banquet, and of course, servants present to make the event run smoothly – though not necessarily smoothly for the royalty. Each character has a specific social status. The royalty are highest on the social ladder, then the nobility. Members of court, although obedient to the king and queen, still have higher status than those who are not part of the court. Lowest status are the independent characters, who tend to have little regard for social stratification and operate without adhering to its rules. But don’t be fooled: even characters who seem more occupied with profit or religion than with political drama have vested interests in who sits on the throne.

Your status at court doesn’t determine how much power you have. The queen may become the victim of the duchess’ gossip, and the king is at the mercy of whoever provides him food and drink. Status is, however, linked to initiative, which affects when a player speaks and whether they ever have to relinquish their seat. Some actions also affect only players of a specific status. The trader, for instance, can pull the royalty and nobility towards him to view his expensive wares. Many actions can’t affect royalty at all, so you must often manipulate others to get close to the king and queen. 

Power Players

At court every action is political and everyone has influence. The jester and the duchess may not be the king’s appointed advisors, but they are as capable of political manipulation as anyone else at court. They may even be better at these dangerous games than the king himself.

The jester uses laughter and folly to create chaos at the banquet table. With the words “all of life is folly” he can cause every member of a faction to close their eyes, spin around, then open their eyes and rush to the first unoccupied spot they can find. You could use this action to save the queens’s life, or cause the abbot to lose his share of an estate. The jester’s favor action is one of the most powerful in the whole game: choosing two players within the same faction and social status, the jester forces them to switch characters, perhaps transforming the juggler into a wizard, or the gamekeeper into a lady’s maid.

Her gossip-mongering may seem frivolous, but the duchess knows how to use words as weapons. If she says, “Tell me the latest gossip,” she can draw two players within her faction to her sides, perhaps placing an assassin in between her and the king. Or, she can cleverly ask someone within her faction, “Have you heard the latest rumors?” Then, the Duchess will move next to that player, placing herself in a better position to prevent a royal crisis – or create one.

Have Your Day in Court

All the courtiers and commoners present at The Last Banquet have secret motivations and clever tricks up their lavish sleeves. Whether plotting behind the king’s back or openly striving to get ahead, you and your friends will enjoy taking part in this sensational courtly drama. Our next preview will explore some of the scenarios that you can play in The Last Banquet. Prepare to take your place at the royal table!

Check The Last Banquet minisite for more details and pre-order your copy from your local retailer today!

Participate in palace intrigues and court royal favor in The Last BanquetIn this large-group game for six to twenty-five players, each player takes on the role of a member of the Royal Court and uses the actions and words allowed to try to accomplish their team’s agenda, which could mean saving a princess or killing a king.

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