The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret – The Agents preview

Coming straight out of nowhere, Saar Shai has brought The Agents out into the light through Kickstarter. I was lucky enough to receive a preview prototype recently and am pleased to say that the hype behind the game – one which blew through its funding target in a matter of hours, quite impressive considering there are no minis involved, just cards – is well deserved. Other reviewers have roundly praised this interesting little game, and I’m happy to add my voice to the chorus.

The Agents is, at its heart, a simple game. However, as with so many good games, little ideas and touches enhance the experience greatly. It’s one of those titles that, when investigated, you get to thinking why it hasn’t been thought up yet. Between two and five players command a team of Agents, each one bestowed with a special ability and represented on cards. Many of the Agents also have a points value that will help you get to your target of scoring 40 points – manage to do so and you win the game immediately.

So far, so simple. As you’d expect though, there’s a twist. These cards will be added to a row between pair of players, so your always facing off against the people to your left and right. Cards can only be added to either end of the row, but you also have to make an additional call. You see, the cards you play are double ended – depending on which way you place them, you’ll either get to take advantage of the Agent ability or score the points, and making the correct decision is the difference between glory and failure.

Thankfully, the abilities on offer give you plenty of opportunity to skew the rules in your favour, and clever manipulation of the right cards can bring in a stack of points. Another thing to consider is how these points will be used: not only do you need to keep hold of them in order to win, you also have to spend them to bring new cards into your hand – a potentially very tricky decision, but one that must be balanced to ensure victory. Points are also available by making sure that arrows on the cards are pointing towards you – manage to engineer the layout well and a healthy bonus is on its way to you at the end of each turn.

Two other card types will also come into play: Special Agents and Missions. The Special Agents don’t get added to your rows, instead acting as one-off actions that can often pull you out of a fix. Missions are played face down to the side of one of your rows (in a top secret fashion, as you’d expect) and are flipped to reveal them should the objective on them be reached. Clever management of these will give your points total a decent boost, so getting the, into play is a must.

Agents CARDS
Being a prototype, I can’t really comment on production quality, but I can make mention of a few pros and cons. First of all, the game is visually striking – the graphical style is bold and of a kind rarely seen outside of indie comic books; definitely a positive, in my opinion. Once players have a basic grasp of the rules, you’re pretty much good to go – after all, most of the stuff you need to know are on the cards you’ll be playing – so despite being a simple game, there are many things you need to consider when your turn rolls around.

My only real negative with The Agents is with the points cards – a system of keeping score that I never like. With different values on each side (1 and 2, and 5 & 10), less scrupulous players could well be tempted to flip over the occasional card in order to bolster their hand and further their progress. I’d personally prefer to see tokens being used and can see why the designer went for this method – it’s just not to my liking, that’s all.

Here are some strategies to help your play well in a game of The Agents. It is as easy as trading using the Trader VC.

  1. Identify all the disposable means to know what can hinder the agent
  2. Go in for a more containment and a proactive approach
  3. Play aggressively and play fast to prevent the slow progressing of the game
  4. Try not to use the equipments early or in the very beginning of the game

Overall though? The Agents is a bloody good game. So good that I’ve actually chucked my own money into the Kickstarter campaign that is currently running wild, well over ten times its funding target – and that is a pretty rare occurrence, I tell you. Get in on it now if you’re looking for something that looks to take your card gaming in a new direction. You shan’t be disappointed.