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Subject: Impressions from My First Game rss

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Eddie Lovelace
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Virginia
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I was gleefully surprised to receive the kickstarter version of this game late last week. As is typical of Level99 games, the unboxing took a while because there is a LOT of stuff with this game. It came with all kinds of little extras which was a nice touch.

Components

The box is remarkably small for a game that covers so much real estate on the table, but everything fits after you've played as well as it does before.

The rule book is very well-written and also very gorgeous. I liked reading it just to experience the art and fancy paper.

The artwork is top-notch. It is fun to see the Battlecon characters show up again all over the place.

There are 2 challenges due to components:

The first is the sheer amount of table space required. It needs about the same space as Eldritch Horror or Mage Knight. We tried to use side tables for our own personal boards, but that ended up hiding information we all needed to see. I will try to find creative ways to display the various decks and tableau's using business card displays or something next time I play.

The second issue/challenge is the mages on the board. Each mage has a color and is placed on a base. To indicate player ownership, players place "loyalty banners" in a slot on the base. When a location's board starts to get crowded, it is very difficult to see those loyalty banners, which in a close game is some critical information. Most of us were okay with that issue, but one player in the game was highly annoyed.

Game Play

The table space requirements makes sense because the game content itself is huge. It is a lot to take in all at once. You could read every location and every supporter and spell before you play (and there are so many of them), or you can come across them for the first time in a real game and learn as you go. Either way will take time, because this game has a LOT of everything, which seems to be the Level99 way. I was not as overwhelmed by this game as I was by Battlecon: Devastation (another awesome game that drowns you in its content), but the depth of the content and theme of Argent seems to come with the expectation that you are going to live that game for a while.

The mechanics of the game are well thought out and well connected to the theme. Elements that are important to winning make sense to be important given the theme: you want to be the next head honcho, so it is important to have influence and an army of supporters. If you listen to the names of things and think to yourself "what would I really have to do to be elected to office" then the game makes very good sense. Nothing is arbitrary. I think it is, actually, quite brilliant.

There are a lot of rock, paper, scissors mechanics that go on during a round. There are counters to counters to counters. One time a guy cast some mega-spell that cleared a room and locked it. He did this to hold his lead in influence. A guy in the room had another spell, though, that allowed him to simply change his location in a room instead of being removed. The result was that he relocated himself to a better space in the now locked room (the room could not change), which was NOT the result the original spell-caster was going for. It was pretty exciting.

Game play in a round can be quick if everyone cooperates and plans their own moves during other players' turns. There is a limit to the length of a game based on a max number of rounds. This means that you have to decide what your plan is and get busy without wasting a lot of turns. I believe that the game experience would be very different for a veteran who can figure out a plan early on than it was for us. It would be a different kind of fun than what our experience was when every supporter, magic item, and spell was new to us.

To Buy or Not To Buy

To me, this game is a cross between Power Struggle and Cutthroat Caverns. It will take a committed game group to fully enjoy it, but newcomers will get a laugh out of it, too. I can't wait to play it again.

If you and your group are casual gamers, this may be a bit much to take in. If you only want to blow things up, this isn't for you, either. There is a lot here, though, and though it may take some time to see how it all comes together, the journey seems worth it to me.
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JR Honeycutt
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Great write-up! I shared this on the Level 99 Games tumblr account
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Eddie Lovelace
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We have played four more games, so I wanted to provide an update.

The magic of this game is what you discover AFTER you've played the first game setup and start randomizing each game. As soon as we shuffled the university locations and dealt them, the real game showed up.

The rooms and room order really affect the strategy, and your top secret analysis of the new university's machine is a big part of the game fun because THIS CHANGES FOR EVERY GAME. What worked last time won't work this time because the location that was key to your success last game isn't there anymore or has been relocated between other rooms in a way that changes how it helps you. You have to devise a plan for each play-through that is unique to that play-through. Absolutely awesome!

For example, the fist game setup has money awarded before the student store, but what if the student store is dealt before any money-making location? Suddenly buys are useless to you unless you've made money in previous rounds.

This change in the machine makes every game's strategy different, and gets you, the player, out of "button mashing mode" in terms of mage placement. When you understand the new "machine" of the university you are playing "this time", you are suddenly planning mage placement rounds in advance, and then you get to see if your analysis of the new machine was correct.

Two of us that were playing our third game had this revelation at the same time. Both of our eyes went wide when we realized that we were almost playing a new game this time. We had to study the location placement and deviously figure out how to make it work for us, hoping that other players didn't see the connections that we did, but watching other players to see if they had seen something we didn't.

My first impression was only a statement on game mechanics. Now I'm impressed with the real depth of this game.


HOWEVER!!!!!

The mage figures..... angryangryangry

The mage figurines, those banners, and those bases are regretfully annoying. We have to lift and look at mages often in order to see the banners, and almost every time we do the mage comes off of the base. It is disruptive to the game play because it breaks concentration. Everybody was laughing when it happened at first, but in the final rounds of a game when the assumed score is close and everybody is very focused the laughing stops.

We are either going to glue the mages to bases or paint the bases. We have to do one or the other or someone may get hurt. angry
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Trey Chambers
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After playing this game for over 3 years, I still discover new combos and strategies. The depth really is impressive.

Sorry to hear about your mage difficulties, I definitely recommend either painting or gluing.
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Eddie Lovelace
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Trey,

Your game is a real masterpiece. I have bought many enjoyable games over the last couple of years, but I would look forward to putting them all away and playing yours twice a day for a month. Congrats on seeing your vision become something awesome.
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