This is what I'm looking for in a board game: high stakes victory, brutal betrayal, a smattering of historical trivia, and rude sniggering. So, it came to me that I wanted to make a game about royal favorites. Those people who for various reasons (cleverness, faithfulness, sexy ankles) became beloved to the ruler of their day and enjoyed enormous success and inspired seething jealousy. I give you, SYCOPHANT!
The idea for this board game struck me as I listened to an excellent two-part episode of the podcast Stuff You Missed in History Class focusing on the life of Léonard Autié, hairdresser and favorite of Marie-Antoinette in the same week that the movie Victoria and Abdul was released in the US. I haven't seen the movie but I did watch a delightful documentary on Abdul Karim by Rob Coldstream called Queen Victoria's Last Love about the relationship between Queen Victoria and her favorite Karim, an Indian man who served as her attendant.
The game dynamics are still in flux and I am happy to take suggestions and send copies to anyone who wants to try a beta version. I am mindful that game design is a job and am not requesting free work, but anyone who wants to chat about this for funsies is welcome.
For my history buffs, if there are any historical sycophants that you would like to play feel free to leave them in the comments below. Here are some potential character stats for the two cards in my preview image:
Humble beginnings: Son of domestic servants. Tons of ambition.
Caught the eye of the crown: Creative hair (that contributed to the moral and fiscal downfall of France)
Official Title: Coiffeur de la Reine (Hairdresser to the Queen)
Actual Job: Cover the queen's bald spot. In bad times sell the Queen's jewels on the sly so she doesn't get her head chopped off.
Passion project: Owning a theater (and driving it to ruin)
Personal Wealth: Franchised wildly popular hairdressing brand. His brother impersonated him to service more gullible rich clientele. Lots of jewels, tons of cash,
Dependents: One wife Marie Louise Adélaïde (divorced), four children (two survived Autié)
Biggest goof: Yelling on the street "2.2 MILLION LIVRE!" while secretly selling the diamonds of the King's mistress to finance the royal family's escape from France. Oopsie!
Biggest foil: The Minister of the Interior (refused a petition to open another theater)
Job after fall from favor: Funeral director
Haters: His debtors including his maid and landlord. He was sued by for 500,000 francs Mademoiselle Montansier, director of the Théâtre de Versailles.
Faked Death: Guillotined? Nope, that was his brother mistaken for Autié.
Actual Death: Paris at age 73 (small funeral)
Cash left after death: 716 francs and an assortment of small jewels (all of which went to pay his debts).
Humble beginnings: Born in India as Hafiz Mohammed Abdul Karim, the second son of a hospital assistant for the Central India Horse Cavalry Regiment.
Caught the eye of the crown: Great waiter, excellent curry recipe, willingness to teach Hindustani, possibly that face...
Official Title: Personal Clerk to the Queen
Actual Job: Teaching the Queen to read and write Urdu, engaging in wide-ranging philosophical, political and fun conversation, giving the Queen a feeling of access to Indian cultures. Possibly that face...
Passion project: Elected seats for British Muslims (above Hindu citizens), being impressive beyond all other servants, sweet parcels of land, The title of "Sir Abdul Karim", cash money
Personal Wealth: Famous portrait, Land grant in Agra with 600 rupees annually,
Dependents: Two wives, no kids. Nephews and Grandnephews inherited his wealth.
Biggest goof: Being Indian, snobbery to the palace staff
Biggest foil: Racism
Job after fall from favor: Living quietly as a moderately wealthy man
Haters: The Royal Household, other Indian servants, Lord Melborne, Frederick Ponsonby
Death: At home on his estate in Agra 1909
Cash left after death: Nothing in England. An estate in Agra until Indian independence, medium wealth.
Memoirs: Yup . Although most of their correspondence was hunted down and burned, Karim's family took some of his letters to Pakistan and published a book.
Alternate game names: ADULATOR, TOADY, YES QUEEN!
Vote for your favorite in the comments below! I am open to any and all suggestions. We will reward the best idea with a small castle previously owned by a third cousin who displeased our majesty.