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The Magnates: A Game of Power» Forums » Sessions

Subject: More thoughts after second play rss

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Edward B.
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Played my second game of The Magnates recently. This was a five player game with myself being the only person who had played previously.

Unlike my last game, where we all loss due to the third partition, this game went the full four rounds with no partitions at the end of the game.

The only stumbling block during the teaching of the game was some of the terms. Several players needed reminders of what the Interregnum phase was, for example, and the difference between privilege and senate cards.

The blue player started with an early lead, although yellow eventually became a contender. Myself (white) and the red player had a tough time establishing a significant presence on the board. I did try to throw some weak cards into battles during the last two rounds, but it didn't make much difference.

Blue took the win with around 30 points, yellow was only five or six points behind with black making a good showing a few more points behind that. I took fourth but was really close to red.

After two plays I'd rank this game around a 7. Just a few compliments and criticisms.


Very easy to play

Essentially, you are just going through three hands of blind bidding every round. Everyone has the same card values and there's no special powers on the cards. Ladies count as a 10, but a 2 in combat. That's as complicated as it gets. The actual playing is very simple.

The game also clocks in at around and hour and a half with new groups, which is a plus. I can see this playing in an hour with people who have played before.

Interesting decisions on when to play your cards

The fact that you really only have one decision (what card to play) at any given time, it's a good thing that the decision is interesting. You will use all your cards each round, but how? Are you going to throw all your high cards out in the office phase? Senate? Warfare? In my experience, the first two are generally more important, but if no one saves some high cards for the warfare phase then you run the risk of seeing your estates burn and possibly the whole commonwealth!

It's also important to look at what other players are doing. If you know one player has the Primate card (allowing them to break ties) and is really going to be wanting a particular senate card, then it probably doesn't make much sense for you to try to compete on that card.


Personally, I really like that the game uses historical paintings/images for the art. It makes it feel like a period game and you also learn a little bit through th e text on the cards.


The map and estates

I like the art and the overall look of the game, but I have issues with the map and estates. The map is really too big. On the plus side there is room for everything on the board. On the negative side, Lithuania is huge. You have a giant blob of blue on the map, way bigger than any of the other provinces. I understand going for historical accuracy but you really could have made a more stylized map taking some liberties in size so that one area didn't appear so much more important than others.

This is exacerbated by the use of cardboard chits for estates in the new edition. I haven't played the earlier editions using wooden blocks but one of my concerns with the chits before I even played was that they were so small on the map.

This really came to light in the second game I played. People would throw out their estates in provinces and, especially in Lithuania, they would be hard to keep track of when counting for turn order every round. So, you end up piling each faction's estates together and having a huge swath of unused board.

At first glance, it is also difficult to determine which fiefs are associated with which provinces. A more distinguished border connecting them may have been useful.

Turn order

I don't hate it, but it's clunky. First, you have to count everyone's estates and then order the turn markers from highest to lowest. Then whenever turn order is important (such as playing of cards in the conflict phase) you have to go around in order.

In the game I played, someone always forgot what order they were in, or we got caught up in the game and whenever a card was played and someone else wanted to play a card we had to go back to the turn order markers to determine who got to play what first.

Again, not a huge issue, but it just always interrupted the flow of the game.

Not sure how I feel about the end

I've only played two games, but it seems like once you reach the midway point you have a pretty good idea of who's in the lead. If you are way behind your main strategy at this point seems to be to try to throw low cards at the conflicts and hope to hurt this person while helping yourself in the earlier two phases.

But losing a conflict could also hurt you. And, from my earlier game, I have to say that losing doesn't feel satisfactory for anyone. Maybe if you're very spiteful.

I think it'll take more plays to get a handle on that, though.
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