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Subject: [WIP] The Agency - A Social Deception Game rss

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Justin Valiente
United States
New Jersey
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Hey guys, long time lurker, first time poster.

For roughly two years now, I've slowly been working on a deception card game. I've gone through several ideas for the game, but this is the most recent incarnation and it's the one I'm most proud of. I'd love to receive some input on the rule book I've created, including any questions regarding wording, conflicting rules, and anything else that would confuse a player. My hope is that once this rule book is fully fleshed out, I can work on getting a playable prototype available for everybody here on BGG (I'm looking at you Play testers forum).

That being said, below will be the entire rule book.

_______________________________________________________________________

The Agency
The Agency is a 3-5 player deception card game. Players take on the roles of spies fighting to become the leader of The Agency, a clandestine corporation for espionage. In order to do this, players must climb the ranks, deceiving and sabotaging others along the way.
Included:
- 28 action cards
- 11 Clearance Level cards
o 4 “Level One Clearance” cards
o 3 “Level Two Clearance” cards
o 2 “Level Three Clearance” cards
o 1 “Level Four Clearance” card
o 1 “Level Five Clearance” card
- 5 reference cards
Setup:

Shuffle the action cards thoroughly. Deal three cards to each player. Next, take the top card off of the deck and place it aside without looking at it. Place the remaining cards faced-down on the table in reach of all players. This will form the draw pile.

Separate the “Clearance Cards” by their rank, and set them beside the draw pile. Players start without any clearance level, and fight over these cards throughout the game.

Hand out a reference card to each player. These reference cards are important, as they are the only cards which describe the uses of each action card, as well as how many of each card are in the game.

The first player is decided by the players, and play continues to the left.

How to Play:

- On your turn, you must play 0, 1, or 2 cards. After deciding which cards you are playing, you must declare your turn. To declare your turn, place your decided cards faced-down in front of you, then performing both the following:
1. Declare the number of cards you are going to play
 This declaration must be the truth
2. Declare the name(s) of the card(s) you are playing
 The cards do not need to be declared in the order they are played
 This declaration may be a lie

- The other players now have the option to challenge your statement. If at least one player challenges your statement, you must now reveal the faced-down cards. Depending on the situation, one of the following occurs:
1. If your statement did not match the cards on the table, the cards are discarded without being played. As punishment, your clearance level is reduced by one.
2. If your statement does match the cards on the table, the cards are played. As punishment, the player who challenged your statement has their clearance level reduced by one.

- If no player challenges your statement, resolve the cards in the order you choose without flipping the cards over, including any clearance changes (See Clearance Level Movement). Discard the cards played into the discard pile, and draw back up to three cards. Your turn is now over.

- Any cards discarded are placed faced down in the discard pile. Unless otherwise stated by a card, no player may look at this discard pile.

- Play continues to the left until a winner is declared (See Winning the Game”).

Clearance Level Movement:

Your goal throughout the game is to increase your clearance level. There are two ways to increase your clearance level:

1. In one turn, a player must play “point” cards whose total is greater than or equal to the number on the clearance level they are attempting to reach.

2. A player may increase their clearance level by using specific Action Cards.

Players can only hold one Clearance Level card at a time. If advancing, first return your Clearance Level to its respective pile before drawing the card which displays your new clearance.

If none of the corresponding Clearance Level cards remain, you must choose another player (of the level you are advancing to) and switch Clearance Level cards with them.

Winning the Game:

Play continues until a winner has been declared. There are two ways of declaring a winner:

1. You win the game if you obtain the “Level Five Clearance” card.

2. If the action deck becomes exhausted, the player with the highest clearance level wins the game.
- In the event of a tie, the player that has held their clearance level longer is the victor.

Action Cards:

- False-Intelligence (3): This card can only be played when another player is resolving their turn. Nullify the effect of one of their cards.
- Pulling Strings (2): Choose an opponent and look at their hand. You may then exchange one card from your hand with one card in their hand.
- Assassination (2): Choose an opponent and reduce their clearance level by 1.
- Destroy the Evidence (2): An opponent of your choice discard their hand and draws three new cards.
- Reload (2): This card can be played before declaring your turn. Discard Reload, then shuffle your cards back into the draw deck. Draw three new cards.
- Old-School Tactics (3): Look through the discard pile, choose one card, and add it to your hand.
- Combing the Archives (2): Look through the discard pile. Choose an opponent. The chosen opponent then does the same.
- Sabotage (1): Reduce your clearance level by 1. You must play this card as soon as it is drawn.
- Clearance Swap (1): Swap the clearance levels of two players in the game.
- Medal of Honor (1): Increase your clearance level by 1. You must play this card as soon as it is drawn.

- “One Point” cards (4): Add one point to your total score.
- “Two Points” cards (3): Add two points to your total score.
- “Three Points” cards (2): Add three points to your total score.


Two-Player Variant

If playing with two players, make the following changes to the deck before setting up for the game:

- Remove the Sabotage and Medal of Honor cards from the deck.
- Your opponent does not look through the discard pile when playing a Combing the Archives card
- Remove the “Clearance Level Five” card. The goal is to be the first to obtain the “Clearance Level Four” card.

_________________________________________________________________
QUICK REFERENCE

SETUP

- Shuffle the 28 Action cards, deal three cards to each player, and discard the top card of the deck and remove it from the game. Sort Clearance Level cards by rank and place them into separate piles face-up next to the draw deck. Give each player a reference card. Decide the starting player.

PLAY

On your turn, you must make a decleration. To do so, decide how many cards you want to play (0, 1, 2) this turn, place them face-down and declare:
-
1. How many cards you played (you must declare truthfully).
2. The name of the cards you played (you may lie).

If no one challenges you, proceed to resolve the cards in any order you choose.

If a player challenges you, reveal your cards:
-
1. If you lied, reduce your clearance level by 1.
2. If you were telling the truth, the challenging players reduce their clearance level by 1.

Draw back up to 3 cards.

- The player on the left goes next.

- Play proceeds until one of two conditions occur:

- 1. If a player reaches Clearance Level 5, he wins the game.
- 2. If the draw deck is exhausted, the player with the highest Clearance Level wins.

EDIT: Updated rule book based on feedback as of 3/24/17
Thank you guys so much for the support, if you guys find anything else that confuses you, please let me know!
 
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Gin Yu
United States
Chicago
IL
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Re: [WIP] The Agency
Hi Justin,

I read your rules thoroughly. My roommate and I can't wait to have the chance to playtest this when you have a prototype.

Some of the changes I made were to make the writing order more consistent. Others were to simplify the instructions (less is more). And the last type of change was because what I read was too vague, so I tried rewriting with what I think you meant to say, but it could be that I misunderstood your meaning.

I have a Word file with markups and comments on your original rules, but that cannot be pasted into this forum so... you'll have to just compare them side by side and see if the changes I am suggesting make sense or if I did not understand your intentions and I completely misunderstood what you were going for. Either way, let me know.

I do have a few questions:

1. Do you want to include in the rules which player gets to go first?
2. Do players start out with no clearance whatsoever?
3. Can you gain more than one clearance level per turn? Say you are level two but you play 2x "Three Points" cards for a total of 6 points on your turn. What happens in this scenario?
4. What if a player simply tells the truth every time? Am I missing something?

And one suggestion I have is to include a quick reference at the end of the rulebook, so people can have sort of a cheat sheet in front of them summarizing the rules. I put an example at the end so you can see what I am talking about.



==============

The Agency

The Agency is a 2-4 player deception card game. Players take on the roles of spies fighting to become the leader of The Agency, a clandestine corporation for espionage. In order to do this, players must climb the ranks by deceiving and sabotaging others along the way.

What’s Included:

- 5 Reference cards
- 28 Action cards
- 11 Clearance Level cards:
o 4 “Level One Clearance” cards
o 3 “Level Two Clearance” cards
o 2 “Level Three Clearance” cards
o 1 “Level Four Clearance” card
o 1 “Level Five Clearance” card

Setup:

Shuffle the Action cards. Deal three cards to each player. Next, remove the top card of the deck from the game without looking at it. Place the remaining cards face-down on the table within reach of all players. This will form the draw deck.

Sort the Clearance Level cards by their rank into different piles and set them face-up next to the draw deck. The higher the clearance level, the closer a player is to winning the game.

Give each player a Reference card. These reference cards describe the uses and the quantity of each Action card in the game.

How to Play:

- On your turn, you must play 0, 1, or 2 cards. After deciding which cards you are playing, you must declare your turn. To declare your turn, place your cards face-down and:
1. Declare the number of cards you are going to play
 This must be the truth
2. Declare the name(s) of the card(s) you are playing
 This may be a lie
 They do not need to be declared in the order they will be played



- The other players now have the option to challenge your statement. If challenged, you must flip over your cards.
o If you are caught lying, the cards are discarded without being played. As punishment, reduce your clearance level by one.
o If you are telling the truth, the cards are played. As punishment, reduce the clearance level of the player who challenged your statement by one.

- If no player challenges you, resolve the cards in the order you choose, including any clearance level changes (See Clearance Level Increase), then draw back up to three cards. Your turn is now over.

- Any cards discarded are placed face-down in a single discard pile. Unless otherwise stated by a card, no player can look at this discard pile.

- The turn passes to the player on your left until a winner is declared.

Clearance Level Increase:

In order to increase their clearance level, a player must play “point” cards whose total is greater than or equal to the clearance level they are attempting to reach or increase their clearance level through the use of an Action card.

Players can only hold one Clearance Level card at a time, and if they increase a clearance level they must first return their current Clearance Level card to its respective pile.

If players are currently holding all the Clearance Level cards for a particular clearance level and a player is advancing to the same level, the player advancing must choose another player to switch clearance levels with.

Winning the Game:

In order to win, a player must either hold the “Level Five Clearance” card or be the highest-ranking player when there are no more cards left in the draw deck.

Action Cards:

- False-Intelligence (3): This card can be played at any time. Nullify the effect of any one card.
- Pulling Strings (2): Choose an opponent, look at their hand, and trade one card with them.
- Assassination (2): The player of your choice is reduced one clearance level.
- Destroy the Evidence (2): Choose a player. This player discards their entire hand and draws three new cards.
- Reload (2): This card can be played before declaring your turn. Discard this card, shuffle your cards back into the draw deck, and draw three new cards.
- Old-School Tactics (3): Look through the discard pile, choose one card, and add it to your hand.
- Combing the Archives (2): Look through the discard pile. Choose an opponent to do the same.
- Sabotage (1): Play this card immediately after it is drawn. You go down one clearance level.
- Clearance Swap (1): Switch the clearance levels of two players.
- Medal of Honor (1): Play this card immediately after it is drawn. The player that plays this card increases one clearance level.
- “One Point” cards (4): Add one point to your total score.
- “Two Points” cards (3): Add two points to your total score.
- “Three Points” cards (2): Add three points to your total score.


============================


QUICK REFERENCE

SETUP

Shuffle the 28 Action cards, deal three cards to each player, and discard the top card of the deck from the game. Sort Clearance Level cards by rank and place them into separate piles next to the draw deck. (Who Goes First?)

PLAY

-Decide how many cards you want to play (0, 1, 2) this turn, set them face-down and declare:
1. How many cards are you playing? (You must tell the truth)
2. The name of the cards you are playing. (You can lie or tell the truth)

-If no one challenges you, proceed to resolve the cards in any order you choose.

-If a player challenges you, flip the cards:
1. If you lied, you lose one clearance level.
2. If you were telling the truth, the challenging player loses a clearance level.

-Draw your hand back to 3. The player on the left goes next.

WIN
There are two ways to win the game: (whichever comes first)
- The first player to gain Clearance Level 5 wins.
- When the draw deck runs out, the player with the highest Clearance Level card wins.


 
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Justin Valiente
United States
New Jersey
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Re: [WIP] The Agency
gin_yu wrote:
Hi Justin,

I read your rules thoroughly. My roommate and I can't wait to have the chance to playtest this when you have a prototype.

I do have a few questions:

1. Do you want to include in the rules which player gets to go first?
2. Do players start out with no clearance whatsoever?
3. Can you gain more than one clearance level per turn? Say you are level two but you play 2x "Three Points" cards for a total of 6 points on your turn. What happens in this scenario?
4. What if a player simply tells the truth every time? Am I missing something?

============================

QUICK REFERENCE

SETUP

Shuffle the 28 Action cards, deal three cards to each player, and discard the top card of the deck from the game. Sort Clearance Level cards by rank and place them into separate piles next to the draw deck. (Who Goes First?)

PLAY

-Decide how many cards you want to play (0, 1, 2) this turn, set them face-down and declare:
1. How many cards are you playing? (You must tell the truth)
2. The name of the cards you are playing. (You can lie or tell the truth)

-If no one challenges you, proceed to resolve the cards in any order you choose.

-If a player challenges you, flip the cards:
1. If you lied, you lose one clearance level.
2. If you were telling the truth, the challenging player loses a clearance level.

-Draw your hand back to 3. The player on the left goes next.

WIN
There are two ways to win the game: (whichever comes first)
- The first player to gain Clearance Level 5 wins.
- When the draw deck runs out, the player with the highest Clearance Level card wins.




I believe I'll go through each of these in the order they were presented.

Firstly, the fact that you said you and your roommate are interested in playtesting a prototype honestly validates everything I've done thus far with the game. So thank you very much!

Next, to answer your questions:

1. The first player can be decided by players. After playtesting, I might set up a "the person who most recently..." type of deciding factor.

2. That is correct, players start with no clearance. This leaves the option for players to stretch the rules to 5 players (which I'll change in the rulebook) and allows for fighting between players right out of the gate.

3. That is actually something that I had in there which must have gotten lost during a re-write. You cannot move up more than one clearance level in one turn unless you play the "Medal of Honor" card. This prevents the scenario of drawing 2x "Three Points" cards and a "Medal of Honor" card out of the gate, and suddenly it's turn 1 and somebody is already at Clearance Level 4. And yes, that's super cool, but only for the person who it happens to. (This could change with playtesting)

4. That's the beauty of the game; each player could genuinely tell the truth throughout the game, but it's highly unlikely anybody would be able to win without lying. With such a little amount of cards in the game, the amount of each card explicitly stated, and the burned card at the start of the game, players can't likely be assured to tell the truth and win. Likewise, players can assess the odds of truths and lies, but never be 100% sure if somebody is lying. It's a risk-reward system with assessment-based assumption similar to games like Love Letter or Coup.

The quick reference guide you included is actually a great idea, and probably will go on the other side of the reference cards I already want to include in the game.

Thank you for all of the help with your assessment! If you have anymore questions or concerns, please let me know!

Justin
 
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Wes-Leigh Viljoen
South Africa
Springs
Guateng
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Re: [WIP] The Agency
Hi Justin,

Just by reading through the rules the game sounds very intriguing.

The card False-Intelligence, can this be played as a bluff face down to interrupt a card effect or must it be played face up. Also do you draw a new card to replace it after resolving it? And if played as a bluff do you loose a clearance level and if not a bluff does the opposing player loose a level?

The card Combing the Archives, is this viable card in a 2 player game?

Without play testing its just a thought, maybe allowing a player not to take a turn should have some consequence as to not encourage them not playing a card at clearance level 5 and wait for the draw pile to run out.

Just a few thoughts. Let me know. If you need play testers I will be willing to assist.
 
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Jonathan Naylor
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Re: [WIP] The Agency
I read over the rules this morning and made many changes. Below are the updated rules.

Also, I sent you a Word Document with all the changes highlighted in red so you can easily go through and decide what you want to keep and what you want to change back.

--

The Agency

The Agency is a 2-4 player deception card game. Players take on the roles of spies struggling to become the leader of The Agency, a clandestine corporation excelling in the art of espionage. In order to do this, players must outwit their opponents by means of deception and sabotage in order to claim the title of leader of The Agency.

Compononents:

- 5 Reference cards
- 28 Action cards
- 11 Clearance Level cards, divided as follows:
o 4 “Level One Clearance” cards
o 3 “Level Two Clearance” cards
o 2 “Level Three Clearance” cards
o 1 “Level Four Clearance” card
o 1 “Level Five Clearance” card

Setup:

Shuffle the Action cards and deal three cards to each player. Remove the top card of the deck from the game without looking at it. Place the remaining cards face-down on the table within reach of all players to form the action deck.

Sort the Clearance Level cards by (removed their) rank, thus forming 5 separate piles. Set them face-up next to the draw deck. The higher the clearance level, the closer a player is to winning the game (unsure as to what you mean by this sentence).

Give each player a Reference card. These reference cards contain important information regarding the uses and quantity of each Action card in the game.

How to Play:

On your turn, you must play 0, 1, or 2 cards. After deciding which cards you are going to play, you must declare your turn to the other players. To declare your turn, place your cards face-down and (do you place only the cards you are playing this turn? Or all your 3 cards?):

1. Declare the number of cards you are going to play
♣ This declaration must be the truth
2. Declare the name(s) of the card(s) you are playing
♣ This declaration may be a lie
♣ The cards do not need to be declared in the order they will be played

The other players now have the option to challenge your statement.

If challenged by at least one player, you must flip over your cards. The following occurs depending on the situation:

o If you are caught lying (how do they know if you are lying? Do you need to reveal the cards then discard? Or do you discard the cards without showing them and only say you were lying?), the cards are discarded without being played. As punishment, reduce your clearance level by one.
o If you were telling the truth, the cards are played. As punishment, reduce the clearance level by one of all players who challenged your declaration.

If no player challenged you, resolve the cards in the order you choose, including any clearance level changes (See Clearance Level Increase). Once resolved, draw back up to three cards. Your turn is now over and the player to your left now takes his turn.

Play continues in this manner until a winner has been declared. There are two ways of winning:

1. You win the game if you obtain the “Level Five Clearance” card.

2. If the action deck becomes exhausted, the player with the highest clearance level wins the game. (In the case of a tie? If not tie-breaker, state it here as such: If there is a tie, the players share the victory. – However, with the theme of the game of wanting to become the leader of a corporation, I don’t think a shared victory would work).

Note: any cards discarded throughout the game are placed face-down in a single (I would use <the> instead of <a single> discard pile. Unless stated otherwise on a card, players cannot look through the discard pile.

Clearance Level Increase:

Your goal throughout the game is to increase your clearance level as much as possible (I think this is the goal of the game? If not, change this). You may increase your clearance level by one of two methods:

1. You must play “point” cards whose total is greater than or equal to the clearance level you are attempting to reach. (Do you need to play all these point cards in one turn, or do they stack up from turn to turn and once you have enough you can increase?)

2. You can increase your clearance level by using specific Action cards.

You can only hold one Clearance Level card at a time. If you increase your clearance level, first return your Clearance Level card to its respective pile and then grab the card showing your new clearance level.

If none of the corresponding Clearance Level cards remain, you must choose another player (of the level you are advancing to) and switch clearance levels with him.

List of the Action Cards:

- False-Intelligence (3): This card can be played at any time to nullify the effect of any one (why do you say one? ≤any card> seems clear enough) card.
- Pulling Strings (2): Choose an opponent and look at their hand. Exchange one card from your hand with one card from their hand of your choice. (Are you obliged to trade, or can you simply look and not take any cards if you don’t like them? If so, I start the sentence <You may then exchange >
- Assassination (2): Choose an opponent and reduce his clearance level by 1.
- Destroy the Evidence (2): An opponent of your choice discards his hand and draws three new cards.
- Reload (2): This card can be played before declaring your turn (could you play it just after someone uses Pulling Strings before they look at your hand? If so, it should state (You may play this card at anytime). Also, I would place if as the second sentence and not the first. See below for my example.). Discard this card, shuffle your cards back into the draw deck, and draw three new cards.
- Reload (2): Discard Reload to shuffle your cards back into the draw deck and draw three new cards. This card may be played before declaring your hand.
- Old-School Tactics (3): Look through the discard pile, choose one card, and add it to your hand (is there a hand limit in this game?).
- Combing the Archives (2): You and an opponent of your choice may one after the other look through the discard pile.
- Sabotage (1): Reduce your clearance level by 1. You must play this card as soon as it is drawn.
- Clearance Swap (1): Swap the clearance levels of any two players (can you choose yourself?).
- Medal of Honor (1): Increase your clearance level by 1. You must play this card as soon as it is drawn.

- “One Point” cards (4): Add one point to your total score (you need to explain if there points carry over from turn to turn or if you must accumulate them all in a single declaration).
- “Two Points” cards (3): Add two points to your total score.
- “Three Points” cards (2): Add three points to your total score.


============================


QUICK REFERENCE

SETUP

- Shuffle the 28 Action cards, deal three cards to each player, and discard the top card of the deck and remove it from the game. Sort Clearance Level cards by rank and place them into separate piles face-up next to the draw deck. Give each player a reference card. Decide the starting player.

PLAY

On your turn, you must make a decleration. To do so, decide how many cards you want to play (0, 1, 2) this turn, place them face-down and declare:
-
1. How many cards you played (you must declare truthfully).
2. The name of the cards you played (you may lie).

If no one challenges you, proceed to resolve the cards in any order you choose.

If a player challenges you, reveal your cards:
-
1. If you lied, reduce your clearance level by 1.
2. If you were telling the truth, the challenging players reduce their clearance level by 1.

Draw back up to 3 cards.
-
- The player on the left goes next.
-
- Play proceeds until one of two conditions occur:
-
- 1. If a player reaches Clearance Level 5, he wins the game.
- 2. If the draw deck is exhausted, the player with the highest Clearance Level wins (in case of a tie?).

 
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Justin Valiente
United States
New Jersey
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Re: [WIP] The Agency
Xcursion wrote:
Hi Justin,

Just by reading through the rules the game sounds very intriguing.

The card False-Intelligence, can this be played as a bluff face down to interrupt a card effect or must it be played face up. Also do you draw a new card to replace it after resolving it? And if played as a bluff do you loose a clearance level and if not a bluff does the opposing player loose a level?

The card Combing the Archives, is this viable card in a 2 player game?

Without play testing its just a thought, maybe allowing a player not to take a turn should have some consequence as to not encourage them not playing a card at clearance level 5 and wait for the draw pile to run out.

Just a few thoughts. Let me know. If you need play testers I will be willing to assist.


Hi there,

I've addressed some of these issues with an edit to the rule book, but I'll address them here too. With regards to the False Intelligence card, I've changed the wording so that it is only playable on another players turn. Afterwards, they'll draw a card to replace it.

With regards to Combing the Archives, it'll be removed in a two-player variant (explained in the rules) along with a few other cards.

I've yet to test a situation with a player considerably further ahead of the others, but I've chosen specific effects that keep other players involved/allows players to replay used cards. Hopefully, that'll mitigate that, but I'll test it out.

I'll try to update the game as quickly as possible so that I can get blind playtests in, but thank you for addressing those issues!

Justin
 
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