In Argent: The Consortium, the headmaster of the Argent University of Magic just resigned. It’s a tough job to get but pays a cushy salary and lets you cosplay as Harry Potter without judgment. So of course, you need to apply.
If you want to win the position, you’ll need to uncover who’s on the secret panel of 12 judges. Find out what they want from a candidate, and then tailor your application to meet their needs. I hope I’m not the only one suffering PTSD from job hunting.
Meeting the needs of this panel requires you to send your students to different rooms within the university to gather spells, supporters, and supplies. This is done during the Errand phase, where you both place students in different rooms and play 4D-Tic-Tac-Toe.
You see each of your students has a different magical specialty, and this comes into play when placed. For example, the red mages throw fireballs at other students, knocking them off their spots into the infirmary. Meanwhile, the purple mages (known for their speed) can be placed alongside another mage on your turn.
Although, placing workers isn’t the only action you can take during this phase. If you have the mana, you can cast powerful spells. Or you can use one of your supporters or artefacts you’ve found. Otherwise, the final action you can take is to collect a Bell Tower Offering Card.
Once the final Bell Tower Offering card is taken, the Errands phase ends. Resolve all the rooms, with players gaining resources or actions from spaces that still have their students.
After five rounds, you reveal the judges one at a time. Whoever, most meets their criteria the most wins their vote. The player with the most votes at the end wins.
Who’s judging who?
Argent: The Consortium is my favourite board game of all time. It’s as though the designer disassembled their favourite worker placement game, analysed every mechanic, and rebuilt it changing each part for the better.
Let’s start with the winning condition of convincing a random selection of 12 judges to vote for you. With 18 judges included in the base game, it means you’ll have a fair idea of who’s in this cabal but won’t know the full picture. You can try to get the full picture during the game by spending actions to secretly look at the judges, but as a turn, its inefficiency is costly.
This is such a cool, innovative twist on victory points and makes for a thrilling end to the game. The dramatic reveal of the judges, one at a time awarding as you go is like a gamified version of election night. You never know who’s going to win until it’s all over.
But it’s more than just a flourish at the finish line.
Throughout the game, different people around the table are gathering different information about who’s on the panel. So there are a lot of tricky mind games being played, and players getting into small battles over gaining specific candidates’ approval.
Except, with 12 judges, you need at least seven on your side to guarantee the win. Meaning putting your horse blinders on and focusing too hard on one is a sure way to lose.
Argent: The Consortium is a fight on school grounds
Argent reverses the design paradigm of worker placement games. Usually, the focus of this genre is the action spaces, specifically their activation. This creates a phase of nothing but placing workers, where interaction amounts to blocking spaces from others. The interest here is reaping future rewards.
Argent: The Consortium has that as well, but also has the interactivity of an area control game. It makes this section of the game a lot more exciting than normal as you need to fight for your action spaces.
Thankfully, you’re given plenty of tools to do so.
For starters, there are six different mage types you can choose from. A lot of their abilities revolve around either sending other mages to the infirmary or defending against being sent to the infirmary.
However, the purple and grey mages fight by focusing on tempo. This is another fascinating (and awesome) aspect of Argent: The Consortium that many games don’t embrace. Given the round doesn’t finish until players spend turns to grab Bell Tower Offering Cards, it means the speed of the game is determined by the players.
If you can get all of your mages onto the board before the enemy has a chance to. You can effectively take turns off of them, ruining their strategy, or forcing them to make even tougher decisions. Having this as another avenue of tactical and strategic decision-making adds a lot of depth to an already deep game.
Additionally, you’ll also have supporters and artifacts to help with this battle for action spaces. But the real bazooka of your arsenal is the spells you’re able to cast.
Although, they don’t come cheap.
Unleash your inner spell slinger
Without spells, Argent: The Consortium is already an 8 out of 10 board game. It’s fresh, fun, and fast. Adding a new unique voice to the worker placement genre. Once you add spells though, Argent‘s ranking becomes 12 out of 10 at least.
These 25 unique spell cards are from all the different schools of magic. They are some of the wildest, most overpowered abilities I’ve seen from any game. They come with a large price tag and take multiple turns to level them up before they get really insane.
But when they get insane, they get INSANE.
Some spells allow you to take multiple turns. While others send all mages in a packed room to the infirmary or remove a location from the board entirely. In a game and genre that reveres efficiency, this is like someone casting an embiggen spell on an exploding potion before tossing it into your plans.
As such I have so many fantastic stories to tell of playing Argent: The Consortium. Where people have pulled off an impossible maneuver with a spell they’ve worked on all game. It’s awesome to be the one playing the spell, but I found it equally fun being on the other side, figuring out if that was legal and how to recover.
This is why I love this game so much. It’s so interactive that it doesn’t allow you to sit on your laurels. You need to be constantly engaged and think about your next move if you want to win. Furthermore, it gives you the tools to do it, with multiple paths to victory, and its blend of long-term strategy and tactile decision-making.
This great gaming moment was brought to you by Argent: The Consortium
Argent: The Consortium is a heavy game in the same way Spirit Island and Great Western Trail are heavy games. The complexity comes not from the number of rules you must learn, but from the vast amount of decision space, and learning what you need to do to win.
Funnily enough, all of these games ramp up significantly throughout the game giving you plenty of time to familiarise yourself with the rules before throwing you in the deep end with their myriad of options.
The beauty of Argent: The Consortium is even when you’re in the deep end and can’t swim, you can still flounder. Meaning even if you end up doing something none of the twelve judges wants, you still become more powerful and your turn feels meaningful.
However, if there’s one thing to deduct marks from Argent, it’s the size of the game. It barely fits on my table – and there’s a lot of wasted space throughout the components. I sorely hope a second edition comes out sometime that’s smaller, and easier to get to the table.
Otherwise, Argent: The Consortium is flawless, and my favourite board game to date. Despite being harder to get to the table than some games, it gets me excited every time it does. Because I know another great board gaming moment is right around the corner.
Designer: Trey Chambers
Publisher: LVL99 Games
See how Argent: The Consortium compares to all of the other board games I’ve reviewed.