Agamemnon is an area control/area influence game for two; a sort of tile-laying struggle for dominance which is won not by combat or randomness, but rather by careful planning and canny placement of influence markers.
Gameplay involves the placement of tiles along the branching paths, or strings, which define the game board. These tiles represent warriors fighting for either side of the conflict, and they come in 3 flavors.
- Warrior tiles show between 1-3 spears, adding that much strength to the string.
- Leader tiles also show spears, but also show the letter ranking which the depicted leader possesses.
- Weaver tiles do not contribute spears or rank, but they can be used to manipulate the strings of fate themselves. Warp tiles swap two of the strings which they connect to, while Weft tiles cut all the strings that they connect to, effectively splitting them into smaller strings.
There are three types of Strings, and control over them is assessed separately (this assessment is triggered at the end of the game). It is the player who controls the most strings who will win the game.
- Strength strings belong to the player with the most military might, measured in spears, along the length of the string.
- Leadership strings are controlled by the player who placed the highest ranked leader along that string.
- Force strings are controlled by the player who has the most tiles, regardless of type, connected to the string.
Over the course of the game, players will take turns placing tiles into the strings of fate. The heart of the strategy, of course, is to bring influence to bear in such a manner as to control as many strings at the end of the game as possible. However, your opponent will have the same goal in mind, so sometimes it is as important to disrupt their control as it is to establish your own.
At the end of the game, each string is evaluated, and the controlling player takes the string tiles as points. The player with the most points is the winner.
The theme, that of a godly view of the fabled struggles of The Iliad, is, to be blunt, completely meaningless. While it is interesting to imagine the Olympians looking down on the threads of fate that knot around the people involved in that mythic conflict, Agamemnon is an abstract game, pure and simple, and the theme exists nowhere besides the rule booklet. That said, the game certainly benefits from the aesthetic choices – Agamemnon is a starkly beautiful game, with little visual complexity to hamper its gameplay.
Jess: Agamemnon isn’t really my cup of tea. Fully admitting that abstracts generally aren’t my thing, I just found that the choices were fairly limited, but at the same time, plotting the best way of using each piece was sometimes really brain-burny.
Andrew: I agree with that last bit – it’s a game that invites you to study not only your own optimal placements, but to also try and predict what your opponent is likely to do. And it is definitely a frequent thing to have spent time and effort building up control over a valuable string, only to have your opponent use a Weaver tile to split or subvert it. Sure, that can be frustrating. But that said, I actually liked Agamemnon quite a bit – I found its presentation gorgeous, and I liked the abstract, tactical nature of its gameplay.
Jess: Oh yeah, it’s a pretty one, for sure, and I did actually appreciate that, despite the temptation to really analyze every placement, the game didn’t feel like it dragged at any point. Since your options are naturally limited by the tiles you are placing, you don’t have to literally consider everything. But I’m a thematic gamer at heart, so the lack of theme penetration is a real knock for me.
For gamer pairs who do like abstracts, Agamemnon presents an interesting, if reasonably limited, puzzle. There is an in-box variant, called The Loom, which adds some variety to the starting placement of strings (which are pre-defined in the basic game); using the Loom variant, Agamemnon gains some much-needed replay value.
Jess: I agree – though it didn’t change the gameplay, The Loom variant prevented us from having an identical board setup every time we played, and that’s a good thing.
So, on the whole, we recommend Agamemnon for players who appreciate well-tuned head-to-head style games. Though its theme is completely absent in gameplay, it does come through in Agamemnon’s striking aesthetic, which we both really appreciated. For anyone who seeks a solid 2-player abstract, Agamemnon will fit beautifully into your collection.
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(Gameosity received a review copy of this title. We were not otherwise compensated.)