One of the 16 cards is removed at the beginning of the game and the others are shuffled. Every player gets 1 card and the remaining cards form a pile in the center of the table. Players take turns drawing one card (making two cards in hand) and discarding one card (going back to one card in hand).
When you discard a card, you apply its effect (see the following section). The round ends either when there are no cards left in the deck for a player to draw or when all but one player are knocked out. The player holding the card with the highest rank earns 1 token. If there is a tie, the tiebreaker will be the sum of the value of the cards each player discarded in the game. If the tie remains, nobody gets a token.
A player wins the game after winning a number of tokens, that number being based on the number of players:
- 2 Players: 7 tokens (not allowed on BGA so far)
- 3 Players: 5 tokens
- 4 players: 4 tokens
- 5-8 players: 4 tokens
- 8: Princess Annette – If you discard the Princess — no matter how or why — she has tossed your letter into the fire. You are knocked out of the round. (1 card)
- 7: Countess Wilhelmina – Unlike other cards which take effect when discarded, the text on the Countess applies while she is in your hand. In fact, she has no effect when you discard her. If you ever have the Countess and either the King or Prince in your hand, you must discard the Countess. You do not have to reveal the other card in your hand. Of course, you can also discard the Countess even if you do not have a royal family member in your hand. She likes to play mind games. (1 card)
- 6: King Arnaud IV – When you discard King Arnaud IV, trade the card in your hand with the card held by another player of your choice. You cannot trade with a player who is out of the round, nor with someone protected by the Handmaid. If all other players still in the round are protected by the Handmaid, this card does nothing. (1 card)
- 5: Prince Arnaud – When you discard Prince Arnaud, choose one player still in the round (including yourself). That player discards his or her hand (do not apply its effect, unless it's Princess Annette) and draws a new card. If the deck is empty, that player draws the card that was removed at the start of the round. If all other players are protected by the Handmaid, you must choose yourself. (2 cards)
- 4: Handmaid Susannah – When you discard the Handmaid, you are immune to the effects of other players’ cards until the start of your next turn. (2 cards)
- 3: Baron Talus – When discarded, choose one other player still in the round. You and that player secretly compare your hands. The player with the lower rank is knocked out of the round. In case of a tie, nothing happens. If all other players still in the round are protected by the Handmaid, this card does nothing. (2 cards)
- 2: Priest Tomas – When you discard the Priest, you can look at one other player’s hand. DO NOT reveal the hand to all players. (2 cards)
- 1: Guard Odette – When you discard the Guard, choose a player and name a card value (other than 1). If that player has a card with that value, that player is knocked out of the round. If all other players still in the round are protected by the Handmaid, this card does nothing. (5 cards)
5-8 players: all of the above, 3 additional guards (8 guards in total), plus extra cards:
- 9: Bishop Vinizio - a "super-guard" who makes you score 1 point when you guess the character of an opponent. If the guess is correct, the targeted player can choose whether to keep or discard the card. The bishop loses to the princess at the end of the round. (1 card)
- 7: Dowager Queen Tummia - acts as a Baron, but the highest card is eliminated instead of the lowest. (1 card)
- 6: Constable Viktor - If this card is in your discard pile then this gives you 1 point if you are knocked out of the round. (1 card)
- 5: Count Guntram - add +1 to your card value at the end of the round. (2 cards)
- 4: Sycophant Morris - lets you decide who will be the target of the next card played. (2 cards)
- 3: Baroness Fiona - allows you to see TWO hands. (2 cards)
- 2: Cardinal Vesper - exchanges the hands of 2 players. You may see one of the hands. (2 cards)
- 0: Jester Darius - allows you to guess who will win the round and score 1 point if this is the case. (1 card)
- 0: Assassin - kills your opponent if they use a guard against you. (1 card)
Some cards combination lead to odd situations and you should be aware of them:
- Princess + King = You will be forced to trade the Princess with somebody else.
- Princess + Prince (and everyone else is protected) = You will be forced to play the Prince on yourself and toss the Princess (therefore, lose).
- King + Opponent Guard = If you King to trade with someone, and that person draws a Guard, they will be able to instantly eliminate you!
- Try to play the constable and then discard the princess to kill yourself and win the game
Keep in mind how many Prince cards are left in the deck. When a player uses the Prince, one more card from the deck is used. So, keep that in mind to not be tricked in the deck count.
You should focus on eliminating the players with the most points first.