Critical Role’s parent company, Darrington Press, wants to be more than just the steward of Dungeons & Dragon’s most successful actual play series. What ostensibly started with Uk’otoa in 2021 has exploded into a full line of upcoming tabletop RPGs and board games. Their latest release, Queen by Midnight, pits players against each other in a race for the crown, revolving around a multi-use centrepiece tower.
Queen by Midnight is the creation of Critical Role producer Kyle Shire, but it breaks from the fantasy universe of Exandria altogether and opts for a general theme more common in board games than its roleplay-heavy cousins. The Midnight Queen has died and has invoke the Rule By Midnight as her final act. Now, the princesses of Twelvefold will undergo 24 hours of court combat to earn the right to wear the crown.
Between three and six players choose amongst six princesses and engage in a design that a press release describes as “the ultimate battle royale deckbuilding game”. On their turn, princesses can purchase spell cards from a shared market to augment their deck - which also contains character-specific cards - lay traps for their royal opponents or take the fight to them directly in bloody melee. As the name implies, everyone has a set amount of turns before the clock strikes midnight and ends the game. The player with the most Clout and remaining health - or the only one left standing alive - wins everything.
Player boards, ability cards and other implements fill the table during play, but its the cardboard clock tower tha dominates every player’s view. Queen by Midnight has designed the building to serve several uses during play - it tracks turns on the clock’s face, spins to face the active player on their turn, offers new general cards to purchase from the Bazaar and acts as a tumble-down dice roller. It’s a clever design as far as unconventional boards go, especially when the title isn’t so much concerned with physical distance or representing a physical space.
“Three years ago, this game was nothing more than a bunch of spreadsheets, documents, and fairly crude prototype materials. It is wonderfully surreal to not only see this game on shelves, but for it to also be the best possible version of itself while it sits on those shelves,” Shire said in a press release. “Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine this. I am deeply honoured, and I hope it brings people a lot of joy.”
Every princess approaches the battle royale with her own unique set of capabilities and magic. One might specialise in body-mutating alchemy while another flexes her oneiromancer powers by controlling the realm of dreams and imagination. The other crowned contenders include a light-blessed paladin astride a pegasus, a battle-hardened soldier from the front lines of her army, a sadistic brute who can control the blood of her foes and a cunning manipulator with a fixation on mirrors. Princess decks contains 200 themed cards that can be augmented by 75 general Bazaar cards as players gradually construct their winning strategy.
Additional design came from Alex Uboldi, while Matt Paquette & Co. handled the graphic design. All of the art in Queen by Midnight was created by Ameera Sheikh, Michal Ivan and Mike Pape. The editors include Travis D. Hill, Donald Benhe, Darcy Ross and Kaitlyn Money, with Hank Finnin handling playtesting. Darrington press brought on Christine Sandquist and James Mendez Hodes as cultural consultants.
Queen by Midnight is already available to purchase from Darrington Press Guild physical locations and the online Critical Role shop. A wider release to local game stores is reportedly “coming shortly.” This is far from the only project Darrington Press has in the works. A second season of Candela Obscura is cooking away, and Alice is Missing designer Spenser Starke is developing a long campaign fantasy RPG called Daggerheart that he hopes to release sometime in 2024.