Magistrate – Introduction: Paranoia, Power, People, Armies and Agents

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Magistrate, Updated Main Board, November 2013I spent a little time looking back at all of the computer files — rules, graphics, spreadsheets, notes and change plans, etc. — that I’ve collected over the years for this game.

Magistrate started in 2005! It was initially called Uncivil back then, and the backstory was a bit different. The design bogged down and I put it on the shelf for a bit. It reappeared in 2009, as Show of Power, but then bogged down again and was sent back to its shelf. Then, in 2012, shortly before Con of the North was being held, I got the design back out, renamed it Magistrate, and have been working on it actively ever since.

In fact, I did a little collection of the various main game board designs it’s gone through over the years (click for bigger version):

A Graphic History of Magistrate's Main Game Board Designs, 2006-2013

But, I don’t want to spend any more of this post talking about the game’s development history. I want to just talk about what it is now …

It is a complex strategy board game for 2 to 4 players, ages 12+, that should play in 60-90 minutes.  The start of the rules gives the following story …

The King Has Asked Me to Speak With You, Lords and Ladies, and as the envoy of the King, I am going to speak frankly … both because I feel you deserve it, and because I feel it will bring the most efficient ends.

Simply put: The King is nervous! And it is you that is making him nervous. He has been noticing how strong and popular some of you Provincial Governors are becoming, and he is worried that you will – either singly or in concert – work toward his downfall and the end of his reign.

Therefore, the King has decreed that he will soon appoint a Royal Magistrate to take care of the day-to-day operations of the country. He will appoint whichever Governor shows to be the best leader. Three of the King’s most highly trusted judges will be making the rounds to measure how each of you are doing in the key areas of leadership.

So, enough talk: Let this contest begin!

Players take on the role of the Provincial Governors, competing to be named the King’s Magistrate. The King’s Judges will measure players in three different areas of leadership – leading the people, commanding the military, and coordinating the actions of personal agents. As the Judges make their way around the country and back home again, they report their findings to the King and award Victory Points (“VPs”) based on how well they measure each player as a leader. The objective is to have the most VPs at the end of the game.

It has the classic Euro-game combination of using resources (cards) to produce other resources (action cubes) that allow you to take actions in the game. Those actions are what put you in position to score VPs. However, there are some very non-traditional-Euro pieces to this game as well: direct conflict, weighted-but-random outcomes to battles, ability to tear down what another player has built, etc. The timing of the scoring rounds is also somewhat random, and can be directly messed-with by the players.

Components … The game comes with a main game board (shown in the upper-left at the top of this post), an agent operations board, pawns to represent the judges, a marker for the current player, a deck of cards, a lot of purple/green/orange cubes, and 4 sets of player components. Each player gets a flag pawn to mark their home province, a marker for tracking VPs, some rings that fit on the flag, some soldiers, agents, and forts.

At the start of the game, each player will have a single home province on the map, a few cubes to spend on actions, and a small handful of cards.

People/Military/Agents … As mentioned, the game is divided up into 3 interrelated areas: People (represented by the color purple) are your main source of men and materials, Military (green) control territory, and Agents (orange) allow you to mess in direct and surprising ways with the other two areas. I will have follow-on posts on the details for each of those areas, as well as how they are related to each other.

The Cards … It’s important to know that almost everything in the game is impacted by the cards. I’ve shared this image before, but I thought it would be useful here again:

Magistrate's Multi-Use Cards

The descriptions are a little bit out-of-date, but do give the gist of what’s intended by the 4 different sections on the cards. The cards start in a main draw deck, but are gained into players’ hands based on territory controlled, discarded to gain the materials shown, played to influence the judges or trigger agent operations, and flipped over from the deck to show results for battles and natural judge movements. (Get all of that?) 😉

Game Rounds … The game is played in rounds with phases for gaining new materials, spending those materials on actions, and possibly scoring things as they sit at the end of the round. The game ends after at least 7 scoring rounds have been completed. (For even more details on how the setup and game rounds take place, check out my post about the player reference cards.)

NEXT: 2. Influence and Scoring: Judges, Evidence and VPs

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