My d4 D.I.C.E. review can be found here and my 10 minute teardown podcast here

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.

Final Thoughts

Magnate: The First City has blown me away. What a deep, rich and thematic game this is. I am hugely impressed with the gameplay which just keeps getting better and better every time I play it. There are so many interconnecting and subtle mechanisms in the game that may not be apparent at first glance.

The bidding for first player can be vitally important which might not seem apparent at first. However, there are limited plots for sale and limited tenants available each round. If there is a particularly nice looking plot or the certain type of tenant that you need is limited you had better make sure you are bidding high enough to be first player.

Attracting tenants is a neat mechanism in itself and almost feels like a whole game on its own. The push your luck element of using the advertising tokens or not makes for some tough choices. The number of die you roll will be determined to some extent as to the turn order. In some instances, you might not want to be first player as a player before you are going to attract tenants to a commercial building but will result in you rolling more dice. Then the bonuses or penalties for the neighbourhoods come in to play and will change the dice that you have rolled. On top of that, depending on which type of tenants you are trying to attract will determine what final dice roll you are aiming for. The attracting tenants aspect offers such a thematic element to the game with residential buildings being penalised for the neighbouring industrial buildings, for example.

The actions and the order you perform them in is also important and impacted on how well the previous rounds, and even phases in the current round, have gone. If you failed to attract tenants in to your shiny new building you will be collecting less rent. Less rent means that you might be short a few hundred thousand to purchase a new plot of land. But you know that it is a juicy looking plot and someone else is going to gobble it up before you. So careful planning for future rounds is key in the game as is getting tenants in to your buildings.

Performing advertising, selling buildings/land and taking tenants all have an impact on the end of round resolution phase. Depending on how many of these actions have been taken will result in more or less risk cards being drawn and the land price increasing. Everything just makes thematic sense in the game.

The mechanisms and theme just blend together so nicely you actually feel like a property tycoon. Everything that you do in the game has an impact on another aspect of the game. This might not be obvious on the first couple of rounds, however, and players certainly benefit from repeated plays.

Magnate: First City is such a fantastic game. It is deep, rich and overflowing with thematic mechanisms and choices. I can not recommend Magnate enough.

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