The Wizards Go To War

The Wizards Go To War

Argent: The Consortium by Level 99 Games

You're looking at the title, the image and expecting something about Wizards. We'll get there, I swear, because it's a blast of a board game. First, though, I'm going to detour to a hot second into the wide world of sports.

I'm a Chicago fan, generally, and wound up going with a friend to the Bucks-Bulls playoff basketball game last night. Given all the high definition, replays, and comfort that comes from watching a game at home, and COVID rendering such things alien for a couple years, it's easy to forget the kinetic joy of being in an arena. Deafening chants, flashing lights, t-shirt cannons that never quite seem to reach your row . . . it's an intoxicating mix. Enough to almost make me jealous of someone with season tickets and so few obligations that they can attend the forty-odd home games an NBA team gets every year.

And yes, the Bulls won, and while it's always nice, I'd still have had a great time even if the result went the other way. It's the feeling, you know, of getting out and being part of a society--basketball fandom, in this case. Rejuvenating, even if I'm exhausted because of the late game, hard sleeping after the adrenaline, and so on.

In short, sports remain awesome. Hot take, I know.

Imagine, if you will, a Hogwarts at war with itself. Teachers rallying their students into cliques to score points, with the ultimate victor chosen to lead the school. As if Dumbledore weren’t the wise guardian but a bloodthirsty conniver, watching with popcorn stuffed jaws as his instructors blasted each other for the right to succeed him.

Argent: The Consortium puts you into the shoes of these instructors vying for approval, but this isn’t a simple point chase. It’s more a point salad: most things you manage to do, and managing here becomes the operative word, will increase your odds of winning. The catch, though, is from game to game, what lets you win changes depending on who’s deciding the victor.

Perhaps this time, the fire magic magister is doling out points, so you’ll want to embrace fiery spells and engage his supporters. Also, the gold-loving treasurer, willing to award her vote only to the one who saves up the most money. Next time ‘round, neither one might be in session, forcing you to change up your strategy.

Making all this more difficult is that these vote givers are secret, as if Dumbledore handed out ballots to half his staff, at random, and told them to pick who comes next. If you make some effort, if you deploy some of your limited students to do the digging, you can learn who’s casting the ballots this time, but always only a few. You won’t know them all, which led the three of us to make the only proper decision: blow each other apart and see who was left standing.

The infirmary in Argent gets a lot of attention. We would send our students to various places around the school, scrounging for new spells, money, and secrets. Inevitably, another student would come up behind them and blow them apart, freeing any juicy rewards for new hands. Protection and destruction came and went in equal measure, as we instructors tried desperately to save our people from annihilation, save our campaigns from desolate rounds with pitiful points.

Randomness reigned, with decks flipping treasures, supporters, and spells giving and taking hope with every round. I knew the blue mage leader was voting, but the decks made it hard to find supporters. If she was one of the only options, it would’ve been frustrating. Instead, I shifted focus, played to what was available, and if I couldn’t get what I wanted, I made darn sure nobody else could either.

At the end, with the school a hollowed out wreck and our students clogging the infirmary with their fried, blasted bodies, our scores were close. A few gold and a single purple spell made the difference, reaches made in the last round for an unexpected victory. All the same, nobody much cared: we’d all had more fun torching each other’s vain attempts to gain anything. At all.

Argent isn’t a game for the sensitive, for those who need progression to be satisfied. It’s a chaos agent, a cackling blast at the staid solitaire so often present on tables. In this contest, the next headmaster isn’t so much the one who plays best, but the one who survives.

A.R. Knight

A.R. Knight