Saturday August 23, 2014

Innovative card design an eyegrabber


There are games out there which grab you by the artwork.

The Agents was one of those games for me.

The game was launched via Kickstarter a few months back from designer Saar Shai, and while game play was interesting from the initial read through of the rules, it was Dan Morison’s artwork which really drew me in.

The work, at least to me, is reminiscent of Mike Mignola’s work on the comic Hellboy. As a comic book fan, although I don’t read many these days since they are hard to access in our city, Mignola’s work has always been something I have favoured. In fact, the cover of Black Wolf, one of my pulp books, has cover art in the same general style from artist Dan Morison.

The Agents is a strategic card game that introduces a unique double-edged card mechanism into the undercover world of covert operations, subterfuge, secrecy and sabotage. Players must join their Agents into Factions, assign Missions and take their opponents down, to gather intel and win the most points.

Shai uses a rather innovative card design in The Agents. Each card is double-ended. When it is played, one end is played toward the opponent, the other toward the player. Each offers what can be seen as pluses and minuses, so the player faces a decision each time on which way to position the card to influence the game.

If you choose to perform the command, one of your opponents scores the points; if you keep the points for yourself, an opponent gets to perform the command.

With 25 different Agents, each with its own unique ability, Agents can be turned, killed, extracted and swapped – making the game ever flexible, variable, unpredictable and a test of forward planning and quick thinking. As you learn about each Agent’s special abilities, discover how Agents work together or against each other, and weigh up the advantages of collecting points for yourself versus using the commands to further your goals and sabotage your opponent’s strategies, the game becomes increasingly complex, dynamic and challenging.

And the card-design is what Shai sees as the highlight of the game.

“The invention of the Double-edged Cards mechanic is definitely what I’m most proud of,” he said. “While it seems intuitive to me now, when I thought of it I was very excited to explore this novel approach to playing cards, and actually surprised it was something that didn’t really exist in other games.”

“It took a whole year to design the game from idea to final version,” he said. “It took some few very intensive months of crafting the mechanics of the gameplay. The rest of the time was invested in play testing so that the rules and the game components were tweaked, balanced and perfected.”

Shai said in creating a game there are always challenges.

“I’d say that play testing, balancing and perfecting all the elements of the game, making all the different components and rules come together, was the biggest effort of designing The Agents,” he said. “There are many variables to consider when examining play sessions and when making changes.

There are many types of players with different experiences, preferences and opinions. It’s not easy analyzing all the data and coordinating the conclusions.”

I was not the only one who was attracted to the game. The initial launch on Kickstarter last August was seeking $6,000 to get the game off the ground. It raised just more than $275,000 from nearly 7,000 backers.

And the world of The Agents is going to grow.

“The game is now a big part of my life and I’m always thinking of ways to enrich and evolve the world of The Agents,” said Shai.

They will be launching a second Kickstarter campaign this week, and those interested should pop over to the popular crowd-funding ‘Net page for a closer look.

Check it out at



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