Magistrate’s Agents Finally Clicking into Place

Magistrate, Final Scoring on a 4-player Test Game, Nov. 2013

I’ve been working on Magistrate, in its various incarnations for over 4 years now. Yeah, I know.

During that time, the design has ebbed and flowed, but the core concepts have stayed pretty stable at the high-level … of course, the detail level has been all over the place. The piece that has really never worked or felt right has been the 1/3 of the game dedicated to the “Agents.”  I’ve even considered removing them a number of times … but I always came back to feeling like there needed to be a third thing in the game to pay attention to that would have a subtle-but-direct impact on the other two areas.  And, thematically, it kept seeming like it should be Agents that worked for each Provincial Governor.

But, I think I’ve finally worked around to a solution that I like! 🙂  Here’s how it came about …

Magistrate, Central Board, Updated July 2013

A Failed Solution for the Agents on the Main Map

Even as recent as a couple of months ago, I thought I had found a new solution that would work … but it didn’t.  It just did the same thing I had been trying on previous attempts in a slight different way.  So, I started over with the core ideas of what Agents would be about:

  • They would be a full 1/3 of the game, with their own resources (“orange cubes”), pieces, card-play, and scoring … essentially equal to the other two parts of the game (People and Military).
  • They would have a way to give the player some special powers that impact the other two areas of the game.
  • They could also be used to stop the other players from using their Agents to gain the special powers.

An early test of the latest new "Agent Operations" board in Magistrate, Nov. 2013A big breakthrough came along in the way I approached things when I decided to take the Agents off of the main map altogether … and just give them their own separate board to operate on.  This allowed the gameplay to focus on the Agents interacting with each other, and somehow result in a player *sometimes* getting a special power to use elsewhere in the game.

After a handful of unsuccessful takes on this direction, I think I’ve finally gotten it to work the way I want it.  I’ve had to mess with both the player round/phase/turn structure again AND how the Ops Code from the cards are used … but all of this has really tied the game even tighter together.  A nice side-benefit like that can’t be ignored.

Now the total component count has been reduced, the what-to-think-about-now has been clarified for the players, the Agents feel close to being right, and all 3 parts of the game now seem to be both interlinked and self-controlled in the way I had hoped for it to be … I’m really, really liking this now and can’t wait to get it in front of different gamers for testing.

As part of the process, my main board has gotten beat up and marked up over the past 18 months of testing and it’s time to get a nice, new clean one. Might as well order a nicely made 10×10 mat for the Agent Operations board now too.  So, here is how those are going to look at this point (click to see bigger versions):

 Magistrate, Updated Main Board, November 2013 Magistrate, Agent Operations Mat, November 2013

More to come on this one. 🙂

About MattWorden

My name is Matt Worden, and this is my website ... I live in Minnetrista, MN, with my wife and our 2 awesome kids.
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One Response to Magistrate’s Agents Finally Clicking into Place

  1. Paul Owen says:

    I love that point when a game seems to come together and you feel you’re closer to a having a solution than having a problem to solve.

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