My final thoughts can be found here and my 10 minute teardown podcast here

My d4 DICE reviews are a quick and easy to digest review of a board or card game. Along with a brief introduction to the game I use DICE as an acronym for Duration, Interaction, Complexity and Engagement to quickly explore a game. Enjoy!

Humbleburg, a sleepy commuters suburb outside of the big city. Open spaces, wide boulevards and friendly neighbours. The residents have fought off the attempts of property developers, speculators and builders. They did everything they could to keep their idyllic neighbourhood as it was.

But last week everything changed. The city council dropped all zoning laws. Humbleburg was open for business. Land was ripe for the taking, everyone was rushing around and phones were ringing. The time to buy was now, the time to invest was now.

Magnate is a one to five player economic, city building game from designer James Naylor and soon to be published by Naylor Games. In Magnate you play as a real estate property tycoon, purchasing land, constructing buildings and attracting tenants. Speculate and invest and sell off your portfolio before the market crashes. Watch as the price of land increases and you start making money. But be careful as the property market will crash at some point. Buy low, sell high, make a lot of profit and sell before the inevitable crash occurs.

Magnate is played over a number of rounds with the end of the game being triggered when the property market crashes. Each round is made up of a number of phases starting with a bid for turn order.

After turn order has been established each player takes it in turns to attract tenants to any property that has not reached its full tenant capacity. Attracting tenants is done by rolling a set number of die depending on the type of building that players are trying to attract tenants into and the surrounding population of other buildings. For example, homes benefit from offices and retail. Why? Because people need places to work and places to shop. Players can also choose to commit advertising tokens before rolling the dice. These tokens allow players to convert any die to a value of five. Bonuses or penalties are applied to each die depending on what other buildings/locations are in the neighbouring plots. Players will attract tenants if a certain number of dice equal or exceed a certain pip value depending on the type of property.

After all players have attracted tenants, they collect rent from all their occupied buildings that they own.

Next, players can perform three actions one at a time in turn order. Actions include:

  • Buying land – based on the current land price
  • Buying a building – placing it on a plot of land you own.
  • Advertising – gain two advertising tokens
  • Consulting – gaining money from the bank equal to the current land value
  • Sell – selling a building that you own

After players have performed all of their actions there is an end of round resolution phase where a number of risk cards may be drawn and the land value may increase. New tenants are drawn and new land becomes available for sale.

Risk cards will advance the end game moving the risk marker closer to the current land price. When the crash marker hits the land price the property market crashes and the end game is triggered. The risk cards have a second part to them which determine how bad the market crash will be. The land price will significantly drop and then all players sell off any remaining properties that they own for a fraction of the price they potentially purchased them for. The player with the most money at the end of the game is the winner.

d4 D.I.C.E. Review

Duration

There is a lot going on in Magnate: First City and as such the game length reflect this. Typically, games last around the two hours mark, but this is dependent on player count and how quickly players push the property market to crash. The risk cards introduce a random element in to the game and will determine, in some part, how quickly the game will end. People who suffer from analysis paralysis will also slow the game down as there are a lot of aspects to consider when buying land and buildings.

Interaction

The interaction is of a positive nature. Your buildings may well affect another players buildings and ability to attract tenants and vice verse. The turn order plays a big part in this and being first is not always the best place to be in. There is competition for land as this is limited each round and scaled to player count. There is also some interaction when you are selling land as this will determine how quickly the property market might crash.

Complexity

On first glance Magnate seems like a fairly complex and heavy game. However, after a few rounds the mechanisms flow smoothly and make sense. I think the hardest part to grasp is the attract tenants phase of the game. This is harder to teach and explain from the rules than it is to just explain during gameplay. Also, some of the finer mechanisms have to be experienced by the players, such as how important turn order is when there is a lot of competition over the same tenants, or, how going last might actually be beneficial as the other players might have attracted tenants that help with your dice roll during your attract tenant phase.

Engagement

Without a shadow of doubt this is a very immersive and engaging game. You are constantly watching what other people are doing, figuring out if they are trying to force the market to crash and how far you can push your luck. As everyone’s actions have an impact or another part of the game or other players you have to pay attention.

Please note: Magnate: First City was provided as review copy from Naylor Games.