Magnate: The First City - A visual tour

Magnate: The First City - A visual tour

Want to know how Magnate works and get a closer look at its components? This is the post for you…

As I announced before Tabletop Gaming Live last week, the Magnate art prototype is now ready. Since it’s starting to look like the game that was always in my head, I thought it’d be good time to tell you more about the game itself and its components.

But rather than walk you through a bland component list, I thought it might be nice to give you a tour of the game; the closest thing in written form to being on the stand with me, with a real-life copy of Magnate.

Ready to get going? Then follow me…

At the heart of Magnate’s modular board is the city centre tile. This is where all the existing buildings go and it shows how to place the other neighbourhood tiles. From here you’ll gradually extend the city outwards into its suburbs.
The centre is surrounded by mostly green outlying areas with few buildings. It won’t stay that way for long though! Each of these neighbourhoods has its own name and various features which your future tenants will want to be near; like playgrounds and woods of Sunnyvale. Arrows will show how to place the tile during set-up.
Some of these neighbourhoods contain large amenities like airports and docks. While positive for some residents, they’ll be negative for others. Surprise surprise, people don’t like to actually live right next to a container port, but for industrial occupiers it’s another story.
Throughout the game plots of land will come-up randomly for sale in these neighbourhoods. On the back of each of these markers is a specific co-ordinate for a plot. As long as you have the cash, you can buy any plot you like; provided someone doesn’t snap the land-up first.
In Magnate, money is almost everything. You’ll need this to buy your land, develop it and perform many other actions in the game. Indeed, Magnate’s win condition is very simple: whoever has made the most of it at the end is the winner. From small beginnings, large sums are soon involved thanks to the game’s steep power curve.
Money is secret, however, and stored in a wallet that matches your property company’s logo: which is also how players and their holdings are indicated. You all start with the same amount of money, but you’ll quickly have very different amounts as result of the variance between your investment strategies.
Secrecy is especially important when you’re using money to bid for the right to go first in a round. There are potentially valuable plots to buy and tenants to snag. Plus you get to take this very fetching digger when you win the bid!
Money is most important of all for funding construction. At its core, Magnate is all about building! Lots and lots of building. In Magnate you can construct eight different realistic 3D buildings; each with their own unique qualities and effects. Each one can contain tenants of one of four specific types who each have their own demands.
In Magnate the demand of these tenants is something you must satisfy. An empty building is mostly a liability in this game, not an asset. This isn’t your classic eurogame. You must actually move tenants into your buildings to get benefit from them. Once you do, they’ll pay you rent and push-up the value of your investment. They’ll also affect other tenants around them, potentially changing the game for everyone.
To move in tenants you’re going to be rolling dice. Lots and lots of dice! Specifically, you’ll be trying to hit a target number in order to persuade your tenant that your building is the right place for them. Those amenities will make this more or less likely as will the number of tenant discs of other types that are around. Call it a hang over from my wargame salad days but, I always enjoy chucking lots of dice and I hope you do too. In large numbers they can also be used to normalise the distribution of outcomes; making this game about balancing risk and reward, not blind luck.
And when you really, really need to move that tenant in, there are further ways to push the odds in your favour. You can deploy marketing (represented by these fetching purple cubes) to the plot, allowing you to manipulate a die roll by a single pip for each cube you have. At the core of Magnate is an economic engine that responds to what players do. If players buy land lots of land, sell a moderate amount and there’s a steady pool of tenants left, prices rise faster. If they stop buying, sell too much or overbuild and suck-up all the tenants, a crash becomes more likely instead. But whatever happens a crash is coming that will end the game. It’s just a matter of when. Will some of the players get burned or will they all get out of the market in time? Who will be crowned richest developer when it’s all over?
No game will ever be the same. Thanks to modular board, the random appearance of plots for sale and these cards dictating which tenants want to move in, you can expect each game to require a different path to victory, with many different investment choices to be made.
And that is pretty much Magnate. As the sun starts to set on City Hall, I hope you’ll be keen to play sometime.

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