Recommend
10 
 Thumb up
 Hide
5 Posts

The Agents» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A GFBR Review: Solid, Tactical Gameplay rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
GeekInsight
United States
Whittier
California
flag msg tools
Giant Fire Breathing Robot
badge
gfbrobot.com
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
In The Agents, players control various factions of disavowed spies and attempt to gain intelligence. Various spies, of course, have various specialties, but making use of those services is liable to give valuable intel to your opponents. The Agents creates significant choices, encourages interactivity, and generally results in an enjoyable time.

The Basics. Between each two players is a safe house. That safe house designates a “faction” that exists between the two players. Generally, each player can add to or modify his two factions but has far less influence on factions to which he is not a party. Each turn, a player may take two actions. Options include playing an agent, using an agent, buying new agents or missions, or exchanging missions.

When a player plays an agent, he must play it to one of his two factions. When he does so, he decides which way to orient the agent – either towards himself or towards his opponent. Whoever the agent is oriented towards may then use the agent’s ability immediately. So, why would you want to orient it toward your opponent and give them an advantage? Because the other side of the card has a white or black “data token.” If you match two data tokens together, you will get an income of one point per turn for a mismatched one, or two points per turn if it is all white or all black. So, playing an agent means that you are either getting points or an ability, and your opponent is getting the opposite.

While most agents will be played to a faction, some are “free agents.” Instead of going to a specific faction, they are played once and discarded. They tend to have powerful abilities – and ones that can often impact non-adjacent factions – but also quick infusions of points. So when a free agent is played, the player can either take the points or the ability, and the other goes to an opponent of his choice.

Players can also play up to two missions per faction. A mission gives the agents guidance. When the mission condition is fulfilled, the player will receive the mission points as income. So one mission might give a point per dead agent in the faction while another might give two points if the faction is shorter than the other adjacent faction.

Though players start with three agents and one mission, there is no automatic draw. Instead, a player must use an action to buy an agent for one point, or a mission for three points. Agents and missions must be purchased individually, so if you buy two agents, you’ve used both actions for the turn.

The game ends when one player gets to forty points. They declare game end and then play continues until all players have had an equal number of turns. The one with the most points wins.

The Feel. Although the basic actions are fairly simple to grasp, The Agents is great because it creates interesting decisions nearly every round. Even playing a single agent can be a tough call. It may have an action that you want to use, but is it worth the points that would be given to your opponent? And, depending on their score in relation to your own, it may or may not be worth it.

The interactivity in the game hits all the right notes. Agents in neighboring factions are susceptible to being killed, moved, turned, or otherwise disrupted. So, if a player is getting a ton of points from one faction, a killed agent, or a turned one might ensure that he doesn’t receive many more. All the while, that opponent will be looking to turn them back, revive the dead agent, extract them, or otherwise recover and get those points back – all while managing his other faction. Having two factions to manage ensures that there are always choices.

The other great thing about The Agents is the multitude of options for clever play. So you killed my agent that was helping me with points? Maybe I’ll extract him back to my hand and then re-deploy him for even greater effect! Or, maybe I’ll extract the agent helping you and then turn him against you! Some agents allow you to turn others and use their abilities, or otherwise manipulate the play field. There are many turns which, while still occurring rapidly, feel like they create big swings.

Missions are also a great addition to the game. Getting those not only can be the biggest point generators, but they also provide direction and guidance to a game that would otherwise be relatively formulaic. Missions create diversity, have players fighting over different things, and can sometimes lead to uneasy – and easily broken – truces. It’s also great that drawing cards requires the expenditure of points. Intel is difficult to manage, so when do you continue drawing to improve your engine, and when do you simply run it in a race for the magic forty points? Finding that tipping point can mean victory or defeat.

Still, while The Agents is a solid game, it has a few items that keep it from being a great one. For example, buying a single agent takes up your whole action for the turn. If you have to buy two agents, then suddenly you have to use your whole turn. You don’t get to do anything cool, instead you simply draw for your turn. Boring.

Similarly, the early game can feel a little lackluster. With only three agents to start, getting points is important. Points are needed to draw more agents, and if you don’t get at least a few early points, you can be in deep trouble. Many agents are played facing the opponent because early abilities (like, “Kill an agent in this faction”) aren’t useful if there are no other agents to target. So the one who played it can get the points, while the one who it faces gets nothing – at least not right away. Later those abilities can be very useful. But requiring early points means that the game plays similarly for all players at the start.

Also, while I love the interactivity between neighbors, it can be a little annoying that it is so hard to impact non-adjacent factions. So, the person across the table might be running away with the game, and I may be powerless to impact his factions or disrupt his missions simply because I didn’t sit next to him. That can be frustrating.

Still, The Agents is a solid game. I have enjoyed my plays and it reminds me a great deal of when I was first transitioning into the hobby. This is a delightful title with interesting decisions and a good bit of tension. Anyone who has played a few hobby games and is looking to expand may find some real entertainment with this title.

Components: 3 of 5. I’m not sure what the cards are made of. They have an interesting, rough, almost plastic-like texture. Each time I’ve played it, others have commented that they really like the feel of the cards because it is so different from the norm. I have to part company on that since I’m not a huge fan of it. Especially because they have a tendency to slide around rather than stay in place. Still, they don’t feel flimsy. I’m not worried that they would break or mar easily. The victory points are handled through cards as well, instead of tokens. It works fine, but it isn’t my preference.

Strategy/Luck Balance: 4 of 5. As a card game, luck will always be a factor. Sometimes you pay a point and draw the perfect agent – the one that does precisely what you want. Sometimes you pay that same point and draw a remarkably unhelpful agent. The same with missions. Still, most agents are quite useful and the tactically minded can put them to good use. There are few truly terrible draws.

Mechanics: 4.5 of 5
. I really like the way the game is put together. Every play is a decision about points vs. utility, and whichever one you don’t take, an opponent gets. The missions also work well to give structure to the game and define objectives that would otherwise be lacking.

Replayability: 3 of 5. The early game feels very similar from play to play. The first few turns are often focused on points. Those points then get turned into missions or agents. But, after that initial build up, things start to diversify in an exciting way. The final two thirds of every game will be quite different and feature novel and clever plays from game to game.

Spite: 2.5 of 5. To be clear, The Agents is full of attack cards. You will use powers to kill other players’ helpful agents, or to ensure that their missions are not complete. But it doesn’t feel spiteful. This is partly because players generally can only impact their neighboring opponents. So there is no “ganging up” on one player. Also, even if a player gets decimated one turn, it is very common for him to repair much of the damage on his own turn before points are scored.

Overall: 3.5 of 5. The Agents is a solid game, and one that I’ve come to enjoy. Tactical play, clever moves, and hard choices are characteristic of the game. It isn’t perfect, though. A similar early game and boring purchase turns do detract from otherwise excellent play. But, if you can get past that, there is a wonderful experience here. It is a fantastically interactive game that focuses just as much on disrupting opponents as it does on building yourself. The Agents is certainly worth checking out. Plus it’s quick enough to play and teach that it could easily become a staple in many gaming groups.

(A special thanks to creator Saar Shai for providing a review copy of The Agents)

(Originally posted, with pictures, at the Giant Fire Breathing Robot. Check out and subscribe to my Geeklist of reviews, updated weekly)
11 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
chris leko
United States
Brooksville
Florida
flag msg tools
badge
What's so great about it?
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Great review, I agree!

Oh, and the cards are made of plastic.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Adam Kazimierczak
United States
Falmouth
Maine
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Agree with your review on pretty much all points. Cards as victory points were a strange choice. Two extra points:

I also find that some missions are simply much better than others and they are difficult to counter.

Our games tend to end abruptly with a "whoops, I just won" moment.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
GeekInsight
United States
Whittier
California
flag msg tools
Giant Fire Breathing Robot
badge
gfbrobot.com
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
kaziam wrote:
Our games tend to end abruptly with a "whoops, I just won" moment.


That's been true in my experience. It feels like you are still in the thick of things and, blam, someone (maybe even yourself) unexpectedly has those crucial 40 points.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Saar Shai
United States
BRONX
New York
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks for the awesome review!

A couple of things to note about the Mark ll rules;

1. The new rules see gameplay end at 50 points, as I felt that it allowed for some more time just as gameplay gets going. I find it really allows for a better 'story arc' of each game.

2. In each action (2 per turn) you can now buy up to 2 Agents AND 2 Missions, which means that you can buy quite a few cards in action 1 and still have action 2 to deploy Agents or Missions. It opens up the possibilities for each turn more.

Let me know what you think of how those revisions improve gameplay!

Thanks again!
Saar
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.