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Subject: Quick Q thoughts of Agora - The Box Art Never Lies! rss

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Quentin Quek
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Just had a 3-player session of Agora last night. Here are my thoughts...

Theme and Artwork
Not the most 'family-friendly' or attractive theme, except for ancient Greek history buffs, perhaps - Ancient Greek Politics. The Box-art was done artistically IMO, but just doesn't seem to capture attention well at all. This game totally flew under almost everyone's radar. The designer, Mr Herald Lieske is more known as a Boardgame artist than a designer. He is the artist behind popular games like, Castles of Burgundy, Dominion, Amerigo and many Alea games. IMO, its a mixed bag of wonderful game art I love (PowerGrid) to some that I absolutely dread (Castles of Burgundy). Agora somehow lies in between. While I appreciate its minimal color palette that helps the theme, I don't find it attractive at all.

Gameplay
For a Spielworxx game, it has surprisingly simple and straight forward rules. It's essentially a simple worker placement game where players control 5 members to gather (limited) resources from market dealers, improve their member's rhetoric skills, go to the court to prosecute dealers (to get VPs/+resources) and use resources to build monuments (another VP source).
The main element in the game is the Courthouse where member/s with the best rhetoric abilities will first determine which dealer to prosecute. The second part involves the selection of the Jurors. The player whose total rhetoric skills of the randomly (Yes, randomly) selected 3 members will be the judge. The judge will determine if the prosecuted dealer is guilty or not, where 1 VP will be given for the successful prosecution to both (the judge will get an additional 2 resources from a new dealer, members there will lose 1 rhetoric skill) or deducted from the Prosecutor when the prosecution fails. The judge will get a resource from the 'innocent' dealer. The game ends when 6 dealers are 'jailed', one player has 2 members reaching the maximum rhetoric skills, or a player has reached the final spot on the monument track. That's about all that goes on in this game. The available spots on the board seems well-balanced even with turn-order on first impression as the first and final spots may provide extra resources but could be a riskier choice due to the availability of the limited resources. Now comes the negative part, the Courthouse mechanic feels awkward at best. In our play, all of the players questions why would any Judge want the dealers to be deemed 'innocent' as it deprives them from 1VP + 2 resources of their choice, in return of just one measly resource. The first 5 rounds of the game simply moves really quickly with all the 5 'judges' calling dealers 'guilty as charged"! However, in the final round, the 'judge' player knew he wasn't leading and choose to sacrifice his VP + 2 resources to deduct one point off the leading player and also extending the game by one round in hope that he will be able to catch up. The following round ended quickly as the leading player was the judge.
The entire 3-player game duration took no more than 45 minutes.

Thoughts
The designer has excellently streamlined the game to the bare minimum in my opinion. The worker placement choices were rather tight and well balanced for most parts of the game (except the last round) I was kind of waiting for the game to climax with tension in the last rounds but it never really happened... Its all rather plain worker placement affair except for the Courthouse which got all 3 players scratching their head trying to understand the balance, but ultimately fell flat to us. Perhaps, we were all expecting a game with progressive tension and tough decisions. Yes, you can 'block' a player by placing a member in the spot without taking the action. But even in my mostly cut-throat playing group, we find that hardly useful or detrimental. All three of us felt Agora would perhaps be more appreciated by lighter gamers, but with such a 'serious' theme and Box-art, we seriously don't think anyone from light gaming groups will be attracted to. We just felt there could be more. For once, I have to agree with one of our regular gaming buddy (who usually suggest amusing ideas to complicate game mechanics), that this game needs something MORE.

To sum up, this game is kind of as plain (or exciting) as the box-art suggests...

*I will try again this weekend for a 2-player game in hope that my opinion/s may change...
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Thomas Leitner
United States
Madison
Wisconsin
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I tried the game once as a four player. I thought the theme was interesting, and I like Spielworxx games.

Unfortunately, my experience was similar to yours. It was a very bland game with little to no tension. I doubt I'd try it again, but you never know.
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Kai Teo
United States
Brooklyn
New York
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same for us. We talked about it in our latest podcast and we were actively trying to end the game. It just seemed as if that 1 element that should grab you in the game was missing. Kinda odd game from Spielworxx.
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C. Rexford
United States
Bremerton
Washington
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Thufferin Thuccotash!! It'th Cold out Here!
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I must agree with the sentiments thus far in this forum for Agora. It simply looks better than it delivers. Beyond 'streamlined' I find it more 'bare-boned' for mechanisms in play. It felt more like a tease really...as if I should be expecting more from it but never getting more.

 
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Roberto Rizzo
Italy
Taranto
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chunb wrote:
In our play, all of the players questions why would any Judge want the dealers to be deemed 'innocent' as it deprives them from 1VP + 2 resources of their choice, in return of just one measly resource.


Because if the prosecutor is the leader you have to stop him from gain 1 vp and if you think you need another turn.
The score is reduced and 1vp grants Victory.
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