Published on February 25th, 2015 | by Luke Turpeinen2
Backstabbing Hogwarts Water Cooler Politics
con-SORT-ee-uhm or con-SOR-shum?
Level99 Games hits another one right out of the ball park with their latest worker placement game- Argent: the Consortium. From Kickstarter to table top, the entire experience of following the making of Argent has been wonderful and Level99 games has earned themselves a lot of trust as a board game company as far as I am concerned.
For the level that we backed we received the base game, the expansion “Mancers of the University” and a mini-expansion called “Summer Break”. The Mancers expansion cost extra, but the Summer Break pack was the size of a booster pack and came included in all Kickstarter versions of the game. Neither expansion adds a new game mode or any large changes, but between the two of them have enough tokens to increase the number of players supported up to six.
During the Kickstarter Level99 also added in Scenario Packs which add an effect to each round of the game and they are themed to add extra flavor. As an added bonus, Level99 included a pack of cards representing characters in Argent, but for their other game Pixel Tactics. I haven’t played Pixel Tactics in a while, but now that I have a bunch of new characters to try out, that will have to change.
While I feel like the Mancers expansion was priced appropriately for what we received in terms of the game, I was disappointed in the box. Honestly, it was just way too large. For some reason the expansion box is as wide and tall as the main game box (but only half as deep), but when you open it up, two-thirds of it is empty! That wouldn’t be bad if there were enough room for me to just transfer the items in it to the base game box, but they don’t all fit.
As someone who lives in an urban environment and does a lot of walking to events, space is important to me. I want to bring all of my game pieces to the bar where I play, and I’d prefer to take them in the amazing art-covered box that I bought it in. With Argent though, if I want to include everything I own I need to either take two boxes (one of which is 66% empty) or transfer everything into a more economical package without the art on it.
“Argent: the Consortium is so customizable that setting it up actually reminds me of assembling a game of Dominion,”
Argent the Consortium is wonderfully complex for a worker placement game. For a long time, I had held Pret a Porter up as my favorite crunchy worker placement game, but Argent blows Pret a Porter right out of the water. Argent’s main claim to fame here is that it takes the fiddly thematic bits from American style board games and adds them onto what is a seemingly simple objective. It’s what I wanted Lords of Waterdeep to be- a game of fantasy political machinations using worker placement mechanics.
I never had much fun with Lords of Waterdeep personally because it just lacks so much flavor to its gameplay. As a game ostensibly about wizards and clerics fighting cultists and criminals in a city, the actions I perform in LoW don’t thematically reinforce that narrative. In Lords of Waterdeep you are a bureaucrat pretending to be an important mover and shaker as you push your accounting tokens around.
In Argent the Consortium, you force your grad students into mandatory overtime, use Planar Magic undergrads to steal reports, sneak into the Vault to access stored magical items. Each player represents a different faction at the university, usually a different school or department and each player has a different innate spell they can cast. As a department head, you have grad students you can boss around (your workers) and depending on their major they have special abilities you can exploit.
The point of the game is that you are trying to get a promotion right to the top- you want to be the next Dumbledore and you know the secret council that decides the next headmaster is meeting soon. You need to know what criteria the Consortium is considering to catch each individual member’s vote, the person with the most votes at the end wins.
Two of the twelve Consortium members are always visible and always the same, the others are placed face down, and especially with the expansions there is a lot of variance in the cards and what you’re expected to build. Argent is definitely not a game where you can just build up big in one direction and hope to come out on top. Knowing what is under those Consortium cards is essential to victory.
Some of the rooms used in the game are needed for each play through, but most of them are random. Each room has an A and a B side, which I thought was neat. Once when playing through we noticed that there was only one way to get a certain resource, so we checked the back side of a building and it fixed our problem. Argent: the Consortium is so customizable that setting it up actually reminds me of assembling a game of Dominion, where you choose which sets of abilities to add together to produce the more optimally fun experience.
One thing we did notice though is that some of the more fiddly rooms (like the golem shop) never really saw much use because it was kind of a pain to get up and read what it did, and there were other options that interested us. Sometimes the complexity is overwhelming and you just choose the option that is easiest to understand. What makes Argent stand out is that it is able to deliver complex and straight-forward strategies that are both balanced and interesting.
When it comes down to it, Argent is everything I ever wanted in a worker placement game. By combining a focus on Euro-style action economy and resource management with Ameri-game amounts of cards and sub-mechanics, Argent created a fiercely complex game that will keep you occupied and engaged. The magical university theme is prime material and the art is great. A new favorite for my shelf, for sure!