Henry VIII

A free family boardgame about Tudor England and Henry VIII

For five or more players. As recommended by America's PBS network.

by Garry Stevens PhD

Back to Garry's Games.

Download Henry VIII: Intrigue in the Tudor Court for free!

What the game is about

Duke of Norfolk Katherine Parr Court card Another Court card
Cards used in the game.

The year is 1525

Henry VIII, King of England, is troubled. After many years of marriage to Catherine of Aragon, he still has no son. The Tudor dynasty is young. The bloody family squabbles of the House of Plantagenet (that we know as the Wars of the Roses) were ended by his father. But still they haunt the memories of men. And the remnants of the House of York yearn to rule once again over this upstart Lancastrian.

Only the King's daughter, Mary, stands between Henry and the extinction of his line. But can she be Queen? The question is fraught. Only once before, many hundreds of years ago, did England have a Queen; the Empress Maud of infamous memory, who pitched the land into ruinous civil war. And whom would Mary take as husband, to rule with her?

The succession must be assured. Henry must have a son. Will the King will make his bastard, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, his heir? Perhaps he can persuade his infertile wife to divorce him.

Scheme and connive

In this rambunctious but historically accurate game you scheme and connive to win influence with the King, so that your faction will control his chosen heir and rule all England when the King dies.

The game contains all the important characters of the time, rated for religion, ability and guile. You play Court cards to improve your own standing and confound your enemies. Can you marry a woman of your faction to the King? Perhaps your Ladies of the Bedchamber can persuade Henry of her charms. Your future seems assured if she gives Henry a son. But woe betide you should the King tire of her.

Rich rewards are yours if you can convince the King to give you high office. But how long can you stay in power? You may be placed under secret investigation at any time, only awaiting a dreaded Warrant of Arrest from the Lord President of the Council to send you to the Tower. If the Principal Secretary sends you to the rack, your entire faction could be implicated. Of course, you can avoid the plots that surround Henry by traveling to Europe, but if you are there when the King dies, all your influence is to no avail.

And where do you stand if the King demands a divorce?

Designer's notes

I designed Henry VIII to be playable in three or four hours— there are at most five turns. I also wanted players to be active all the time. Unlike many other multiplayer games, you don't sit around waiting for your turn. You can affect game play at any time. In fact, we find you can do more things out of your turn than in it!

I also wanted a game that could be played by a lot of players. I really think that five is the minimum, but you could try it with four. The game can take up to eight players: the more the more murderous!

The game started off as an offshoot of Avalon-Hill's old Down With the King . It has evolved quite a bit, and is vastly simpler, cleaner and quicker. I've tried to make the game mechanisms as simple as possible and easy to learn.

I also tried to make the game as 'historical' as possible. I did quite a bit of research into each character. But this is not a game about the Henrician Reformation: it's about intrigue in Henry's court. Nothing about the dissolution of the monasteries, but everything about struggling for power and glory.

I hope you enjoy it.

Request for information

As you can see, the game uses many portraits of the people of the time. If anyone has portraits of the following people, I would be grateful if you could make them available to me. You will be acknowledged in the next edition of the rules:

Henry Clifford, Henry Courtenay, William FitzAlan, Francis Hastings, Edmund Howard, George Hastings, Ralph Neville, Henry Percy, Geoffrey Pole, Henry Pole, Francis Talbot, Ralph Sadlier, and Nicholas Shaxton.