Updated: Sep 19, 2019
A little under a year ago I wrote about an upcoming game from a preview I had been sent called The Agents. Everything I wrote in that review is still true for The Agents 2.0, except for the following changes which make the game, faster and clearer and generally better. You can read the full review by clicking on the link and I have reposted my summary below for convenience.
“The Agents is a very well structured game if you enjoy working out puzzles, playing several moves ahead and direct conflict.”
What The Agent’s 2.0 is attempting to do is fix the problems in the original game. Some of these are clarity issues, for example facing in the original rulebook (which is vital to many of the missions and powers) was poorly defined and made it seem like a card was always “facing” you.
Now facing has been redefined to clearly state it is only facing you when it’s text box is orientated towards you.
But before we get down to the nitty-gritty of the changes lets first examine what comes in the box.
The Agents ships in a long thin box, with three decks of cards individually packed inside it. A deck of agents, a deck of missions and a deck of point cards. The artwork is nice, it’s very stylised and it’s what originally drew me to look deeper at the game. A lot of it is quite dark and it won't appeal to all gamers.
The cards themselves are printed on plastic, which means they are durable and won't require sleeving to be protected from errant drinks. However, this makes them very slippery, I’ve dropped the point cards all over the place multiple times.
And that brings me to the point cards. When I played the prototype I used dials instead of cards because cards are a bit of a faff, they feel like large tokens and you constantly have to hand in smaller cards to make change etc. There definitely could have been a more elegant solution to points scoring than cards, even keeping score on paper would be better.
Overall though it’s not a bad little package, there are some typos on the cards, which is a shame and the original rulebook still had some clarity issues but for a first time publisher, it could have been a lot worse. In theory the new edition will fix most of these problems.
I can’t find the original game for sale except through kickstarter for the price of $18, which is probably about right for both the contents of the box and the weight of the game (It’s a thinking man’s filler game)
Lots of changes were made between the prototype and what is now the 2.0 ruleset.
Safe houses are static cards that cannot be affected by other agents. Each side has half a data token, allowing you to score a minimum of 4 points on turn one, double what you could have scored when placing agents in the original version. Each faction has one safe house when the game starts.
I like the safe houses because they provide a static card you can always count on. In The Agents you really can’t rely on anything being where you left it, at least with the safe house you know your opponent can’t mess with it. That said, I think because the safe house exists there may be less card manipulation happening overall.
The cost of buying cards has been reduced and you can buy more cards with a single action now. 1 action now allows you to buy up to 2 Agents (for 1 point each) and up to 2 missions (for 2 points each). This means you can get back into the action quicker than before and missions are much more tempting to purchase (more on that later). In addition you can take an action to discard as many cards from your hand as you like and draw an equal number of cards, allowing you to quickly cycle through the decks looking for agents and missions to further your cause and to suit the new situation you find yourself in.
Free Agents now stay on the table until their power is used. If you choose not to use it immediately when played you may spend one of your actions to use it later in the game. This prevents someone scoring “free points” by playing a card, like the Director who says “Retire an opposing player’s mission” when they don't have one. Under the new rules you could choose to wait until an opportune time to activate that card, meaning the points your opponent scores by playing the card are not “free” and actually add an air of threatening anticipation as the player wonders when exactly you’ll activate the ability.
The biggest and most significant change is the addition of the missions phase. This really makes the game for me. Previously, playing a mission took up an action and in most cases scored you fewer points than you could have scored by doing something else with that action. Now missions have been moved to their own phase. After you take both of your actions you can then totally re-manipulate your missions, assigning up to two missions to both of your factions.
You can play any number of missions from your hand, pick up any number from the table and move any number between factions. Essentially you can rearrange all the missions you own to score you maximum points for the turn. Which, not only makes sense from a gameplay point of view, but it also makes sense thematically.
With these rules missions are not on the side-lines, scoring you the odd point when you can get them to work, they are front and centre and the very reason you are manipulating the agents under your control.
All the changes in the Agents 2.0 are positive, the rules are cleaner and easier to follow and the game plays faster and smoother than it did before.
So far, in most of my games, I’m finding that I manipulate the agents less than I did previously. It is possible that is the way the cards have fallen in the games I’ve played or it could be the introduction of the safe houses that effectively split the factions and mean that the cards interact with each other less.
The changes to the way missions and free agents operate in the game have significantly altered the game, generating faster games. The game still requires you to think about every single move carefully, but now you also have to think about how best to defuse your opponent’s most potent missions as well as splitting up his best agents.
The Agents is as much about point denial as it is about scoring points and this new edition is no different. It’s not a game I would play with every gamer, but it fills a niche. Fast playing but deeply tactical, it requires more thought than your average “filler” game but at the same time plays quickly enough to not outstay it’s welcome.
A review copy of the Agents was provided by Double-Edged Games