Magistrate – still tweaking (after all these years)

Magistrate Card BackOnce upon a time … maybe 4-or-so years ago … I had an idea for a game that was played out on a map and involved controlling provinces of a small country.  I first called it Uncivil, and shared it with a handful of other designer friends from the Board Game Designers Forum.

After a year of work on it, I changed its name to Show of Power, and was able to test it at the Protospiel event in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 2009.  (I even did a little post-spiel recap at BGDF.)

Since then, this game has switched between sitting on the shelf and getting my full attention … and it’s back to getting attention again.

First Magistrate Playtest at Con of the North 2012
Donovan taught me a few things in our playtest at CotN.

I need to thank Donovan Loucks again for the excellent 2-player test we got in during Con of the North.  While he can revel in the fact that he crushed me, I’m more interested in where I was able to see imbalances and gaps, and in what he and I were able to discuss about it over the weekend.

Now I’ve made some changes (which prompted a new full prototype from and I can’t wait to test it out again.  If any fellow designers are interested in taking a look at it, drop me a note and I’ll talk with you about it.

Magistrate Board (Feb. 2012)New Board: First, there is a new game board, with a few things better organized and some new content.  While the “Power Boxes” have been removed, the concept is still in the game.  However, I’ve changed to showing it by using colored rings on the players’ VP track pawns.  The biggest change is the shape of the map (still 12 provinces, but 4 inner and 8 outer, instead of 3 inner and 9 outer) and the addition of “production” and “specials” card tracking locations for the players along the outer edges.

Production: One of the rounds during my playtest with Donovan resulted in him having a large number of the “special” cards on his side, which generated a fair number of action cubes for him each turn before he even took any  actions.  I liked how this worked and have not included this concept of “production”, in which players build up their industries to generate cubes.  There’s also now a maintenance cost for the major things that are scored in each of the scoring areas.  This really adds-in an interesting economics piece to the game that wasn’t there before, and allows someone to build things up throughout the course of the game.  Will definitely need testing and tweaking for balance.

Magistrate Action Card BackAction Cards: The actions available for players to take were a little bit overwhelming.  I had tried to find ways to reduce the available actions or to make it easier to absorb … but really didn’t make much progress there (because I really liked the wide range of things you could do on a turn).  So, now I’ve changed things to use a deck of action cards.  Each turn, the basics (gaining cards, producing action cubes, influencing the scoring timer, etc.) take place and then the last player in the turn controls the action cards — he can play them in whatever order he wishes, with players taking those actions as they are revealed.  The action cards can be played-through multiple times and the cost to take the actions is equal to the number of times that action has been played.  It’s something that will need some refinement … but I’ve found it easier to remember all possible actions available when they are presented one at a time.

Specials & Wilds: I’ve removed all the Wild cards and pulled out the Special cards to be handled in a different manner.  So, now the main card deck just contains the 3 standard cards in each of the 3 suits.  The Specials are awarded after each scoring round … also something that will need some rounds.

So, the chipping and tweaking continues.

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