Argent: Big & Tall

Much as I love the Indines art style, this character (Sophica Sentavra) makes me feel like I'm about to play a rousing game of RISK 4000 or something.

Argent: The Consortium was my favorite game of 2014 — which, sure, was a bit of a cheat, considering it didn’t release until early 2015. But such is the perk of being a gentleman thief who only targets overseas board game warehouses.

The base game was packed with variety. There were tons of treasures, spells, and supporters, certainly more than you could see in a single game. Every single room and even the workers who carried out your bidding came with an alternate B-side. Between the myriad possible university combinations, powers, spells, and victory conditions, it was possible that every game would be different in some way.

To that end, if you had asked me if Argent needed an expansion, I would have laughed in your face, spittle soiling your eyebrows. Now, I can’t imagine playing without Argent’s first full expansion, Mancers of the University. So what’s the deal?

As a magical university, Argent expands and contracts according to the number of students. Hence its nickname, Ole Elastic. Every dean has tried to change it, every student council has blocked the motion.

The dread six-player game of Argent.

Before we get into the real meat of Mancers of the University, let’s make it clear that not everything in the box could be called revolutionary, provided we were in the habit of tossing around adjectives like “revolutionary” when talking about board game expansions. Rather, mostly everything falls under the category Just More Stuff.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, especially when so many of the additions manage to stretch Argent’s already-broad set of options. In addition to the expected new spells, supporters, and items, there are some new rooms, an extra player board, and even an entirely new school of magic. It comes with enough components to expand Argent from five to six players, though as anyone who’s played Argent with five can attest, six is a bonkers proposition. I’ve survived a fully-staffed game and had a generally good time, but even the most rabid Argent fan must confess it takes ages to finish a game with that many players.

A couple of the new rooms are especially interesting, like the Golem Lab where you can manufacture temporary mages to do your bidding or the Synthesis Workshop where you can sacrifice a combination of treasures and supporters to craft powerful unique items. The others aren’t as flashy, but fit into the overall scheme better by providing locations like a Tavern where you can recruit supporters, an Atelier where you can swap gold and mana, and a Research Archive to gain or even alter your spell research.

"Nice cyber-cape, Sophica. Does it work like a space blanket, or... maybe tin foil? Can you use it for cooking?" —the last words of Rembrandt Uthicus

New spells!

The real highlight of the expansion is the new school of magic. Called Technomancy, this set of spells deals with the physical universe more directly than most other schools, letting you conduct extra research, manipulate or even make use of other players’ vault cards, or take actions that your opponents can’t defend against with reaction spells or items. There are seven new spellbooks in this school alone, including an impressive legendary tome that lets you place mages even after the round has ended. This does bring the downside of diluting the spellbook offer a bit, so it’s harder than ever to get the type of spells you might be after, but the people in my group enjoyed the variety.

In addition to all those spells (and a host of supporters who favor Technomancy), a new class of mage is introduced to the game. When placed, Technomancers (also known as Orange Mages) let you spend gold to gain research. This makes gold a bit more important and research quite a bit easier, and our games saw the construction of more robust spell engines than ever before. In turn, this gives you better abilities, more options, and more ways to mess up everyone else’s plans.

In the insane Indines storyline, Byron Krane has tried to conquer the world multiple times, failing with each attempt. Now he'll settle for tenure, please.

Beware my spell EMPIRE.

Two other additions also help Mancers stand out. The first is the Archmage’s Staff, an item that players can fight to control. It offers a variety of benefits to its holder, though none so enticing as the possibility that the staff’s owner will appear among the conclave voters at the end of the game. This module is great if only because it gives people one more reason to knock heads. The second addition is a deck of Bell Tower cards, randomized each turn. This spices up the game by offering a whole bunch of new offerings for players who spend their actions to bring the round to a close.

Okay, here’s the thing. Is Mancers of the University a must-buy? Absolutely not. With everything mixed in, it’s still the same old Argent. Just plus-sized.

However, one of Argent’s main draws is its crazy amount of variety. Every single game plays out completely differently. Sometimes you’ll wage a cold war where nobody is willing to make the first attack, other times you’ll cast spells that injure everyone standing in the north wing of the school. Mancers might not revolutionize the formula, but why should it? In a game about variety, it provides a lot more of it — and for my part, that’s exactly what I want from Argent.

Posted on March 19, 2015, in Board Game and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Excellent review, looking forward to trying this out when it finally arrives in the UK.

  2. Man, Level 99 Games is so good at expansions.

  1. Pingback: Today in Board Games Issue #259 - Millennium Adventures - Today in Board Games

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