Argent: The Consortium Review

Argent: The Consortium is the newest game from Level 99 Games. It was wildly successful on Kickstarter back in January, funding over 450%. In Argent, players use their wizards to earn enough votes from the consortium of a university in order to become the new chancellor.

Argent is primarily a worker placement game, but there are elements of card drafting, set collection, and special player powers also integrated as well. 

One of the best things about Argent is that there are 5 different kinds or workers (wizards) that each have a different ability either before or after they are placed. The red wizards, for instance, have the ability to knock other wizards off of placement spots, take the spot for themselves, and send the injured wizard to the infirmary.

Players' turns consist of taking a single action, which can consist of placing a wizard, playing a card, casting a spell, or passing. Worker spaces don't trigger until the end of the round. Once the round ends, the tiles that comprise the board trigger one after the other. All tiles have several spaces for wizards, and while the best ones are at the top of the tile and trigger first at the end of each round, these spots also require a badge - of which players only start with one.

There are three types of cards in the game. Spell cards, which players will acquire and then be able to activate once per round for a special ability, supporter cards, which will sometimes grant a special ability, and vault cards, which are a mix - treasures stay in play and can be activated once per round and consumables are played and discarded.

As I mentioned above, the goal of the game is to attract the most votes from the members of the consortium. The trick here is that the members of the consortium all start the game face down and secret. Players have to use their wizards to earn marks in order to gain information about what each voter is looking for - some will vote for the player with the most supporters from a certain school of magic or the player with the most money at the end of the game, etc.

The game ends after 5 rounds. End the end of the fifth round, the consortium cards are revealed, and rewarded to whoever meets the voters criteria. 

Argent: The Consortium does a lot of things differently from many worker placement games. First is the fact that players' turns do not always involve placing a worker. Adding card play into the mix changes the normal prioritization of worker placement games - not only do players need to decide which spots they need to take first, they also need to time snatching up those spots with resources or abilities they might need by taking an entire turn to play a card.

One thing that fell a little short for me is the hidden scoring conditions. Before my first couple plays, I was really excited about this concept. I really liked acquired marks so that I could get information about final scoring that my opponents didn't have and give me a direction to go in. The problem I have with this part of the game is two fold. First, there are 12 consortium votes available each round - but it was very rare in any of my playthroughs to see any players who had not placed out all or nearly all of their marks. The problem is that there are so many voters available that the variation of which voters are available each game is not very big. For the most part, players will want to try to get the most of everything, and need to find the consortium voters who are looking for specific color spells and supporters. I guess since my expectations for this mechanism were so high, I got to be a little let down after the fifth time I marked the "most gold" voter - not super exciting.

Another thing that I didn't love about Argent is the feeling that, even though the game adds a lot of really interesting twists to the worker placement genre, at its core, Argent's basic gameplay of "place a wizard, get resources," is still pretty stock worker placement. The different wizard's special powers didn't come into play nearly as often as I would have liked, and their abilities are not super exciting anyway.

Although those two factors didn't hit for me, I did have a great time playing Argent. The theme is great, and the twists the gameplay does offer are fun to play around with.

In addition, one of my favorite mechanical twists Argent throws in is the end of round trigger. In each game, there are a number of Bell Tower cards which grant a one-time bonus. Players can take one of these as their entire turn, but once the last card is taken, the round ends immediately. So players also share control over how long each round will last. Do you take the Bell Tower card with the resource you really need before the resolution phase? It's the second-to-last one there...will you have enough turns before the last one is taken to get everything done you need to get done?

Argent: The Consortium isn't going to set the worker placement genre on fire, but it is a very solid game, and one that I would recommend checking out! 7.5/10.

Jim would like to thank Level 99 Games for providing him with a review copy of Argent: The Consortium.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review. I'm excited to receive my own copy. A few questions:

    How heavy is the game, compared to say Agricola? How hard is it to teach to new players? One comment I've heard repeated is how much there is going on, but I don't know what reference point they're comparing to.

    Regarding "but it was very rare in any of my playthroughs to see any players who had not placed out all or nearly all of their marks", isn't there some opportunity cost associated with finding out the identity of a secret voter (or do you just get some number of marks per round regardless)? Why wouldn't you just focus on securing the voters you DO know about instead of trying to find all their identities? I might be misunderstanding something, not having played the game, but this could be a case of groupthink in your particular group.

    Finally, regarding your first complaint about voter diversity, I'm hoping this is something the expansions will help out with somewhat (in total, 4 new voters are added I think), although there's still >50% chance any one voter is present. Another option is to reduce the number of voters (say from 12 to 8), although this may affect game balance elsewhere.