After some play tests at Protospiel-Milwaukee, I had given Magistrate a couple months of rest. But, it was time to get it back out on the table and start working on adjustments based on the feedback from back in March and testing some new ideas.
After taking a few solo runs and updating rules and player reference sheets, a real test was needed. So, on a gaming night hosted by my friend, Ben (and his wife, Holly, and their darling little Ava), it was taken for a spin by Ben and a handful of other workmates (thanks Peter, Jeremy and Dave!).
The game continues to be close, but not quite “there” yet. The feedback from Protospiel, combined with the guys at Ben’s house the other night has opened my eyes to some new things to try.
Here is what Magistrate will be: A heavier VP-scoring strategy game that plays in about 2 hours, with 3 separate-but-intertwined area control games going on at the same time. Scoring happens at semi-random, somewhat-predictable times that are influenced by the players. And, the cards play a role in just about everything that happens in the game.
It’s close to that, but one of the areas — the way “Agents” work — continues to not quite feel right … so that’s where the more dramatic changes are coming.
First, I’m tightening up a few things. Players turns are simplified a bit more — now, just “Produce Cubes/Draw Cards … Influence Judges … Take Actions.” Of course, the “Take Actions” step is where a lot of different things happen, and I’m continuing to tweak the reference mats to help players digest all of what’s possible. Scoring will remove any comparison between players — just straight VPs for performance — and will involve a little bit cleaner hidden component. Finally, the game end will be based on how many times the Judges arrive back home and cause scoring to take place instead of a race to certain number of VPs.
So, on to the big changes to Agents. The best vision-clearing feedback came from Dave H. after the game at Ben’s house, when he said “I think you should just get rid of the Networks.” The Networks were a way for Agents to establish operations within each Province … but they really weren’t used after getting built. And, the combination of Networks and Agents within the Provinces really cluttered up the board for the military aspects of the game. So, they are gone now.
In fact, Agents will no longer operate *within* the Provinces, but *between* them … and I really like this idea both mechanically and thematically — Agents operating along the borders between things. I’ve now added “Agent Posts” to the map at each intersection of borders between 3 Provinces. An Agent on a Post will be able to target each of the 3 Provinces for Operations.
Agent operation capabilities will also now be an upgrade-able thing, with each player starting out with only 2 types of operations available. Each upgrade level will add 2 new operations to the player’s capabilities, with each level providing more devastating things that the Agents can do. This capability level will be the main VP-scoring measurement for Agents, with successful missions adding-in some secondary scoring in the area.
I still need to work out all of the details on exactly what the operations will entail, and update the rules … that should take me a couple more days. But I’m really excited to try out this new way of doing things.