Agent Decker review (solo): a nice free deckbuilder game, with limited replayability

In my quest to find great Solo Print-and-Play (PnP) board games, Agent Decker has been recommended to me multiple times. Ultimately I liked it but felt it has limited replayability value. Here’s why:

Agent Decker – Gameplay

Agent Decker is a free deckbuilder game, which you can print at home (the files can be found on boardgamegeek). In agent Decker, you play the role of a secret agent who has to rescue a hostage and evade a heavily guarded facility with them. You’ll do so by defeating enemies and traps, and adding those defeated encounters to your own deck.

Each turn, you draw a hand of cards from your deck, which gives you a total stealth and fight score. You then use these scores to defeat some of the enemies facing you, and acquire the cards you defeated (they go in your discard pile and will be drawn in subsequent turns). The rightmost enemy then triggers some special ability (typically something bad for you) before being discarded, and you add new enemies to the line to fill it back up. You win if you can achieve the mission’s objective (typically, acquire a specific card – such as the prisoner – from the encounter deck) before running out of encounter cards.

Agent Decker initial setup – Missions on the top left, Alarm at the top center, encounters in the middle, and my starting hand of 4 cards at the bottom

The game mechanics remind me a lot of the Upperdeck Legendary series (e.g. Marvel Legendary) with its deckbuilding system (there are two types of resources, stealth and fight, which are slightly equivalent to the recruit and attack in Marvel Legendary) and in the way encounters are set in a line of 6 elements. It also adds a “mission” mechanic that is a bit similar to Alien Encounters and its objectives.

But unlike the Legendary series, the cards you acquire in your deck happen to be the encounters (except for the starting deck of 8 cards)

Agent Decker also adds a twist, in that new encounter cards are added to the deck as you progress in your missions (similarly to Alien Encounters). This allows the game to get progressively more difficult as your own deck gets stronger, and it also gives a good sense of “progression” which really helps with the theme, as you first have to grab gear, then get the prisoner, and ultimately escape.

At the end of the day, Agent Decker plays a lot like one Alien Legendary Encounters mission, with the differences explained above.

Alien encounters

Agent Decker – Opinion

First of all, a shout out for the nice graphics on the game. As part of the superhot kickstarter campaign, new design was made for Agent Decker, and it got released for free. It gives the game a very professional look that helps with immersion. This specific version can be found here on BGG.

The rules of Agent Decker are fairly easy to understand, and after a few games and a few trips to the boardgamegeek forums, I was all set.

I’ll first start by saying I had a blast in my first few games of Agent Decker. Figuring out the right strategy to win, in particular the first 3 missions, is a great mix of luck and deck building puzzle. Completing a mission, getting a reward for it, and proceeding to the next mission feels awesome.

Mission 1 complete! Notice the gorgeous art

There’s a good balance to reach between increasing your stealth or fight cards in the deck, pruning cards too early or too late, etc…

However, after a few plays, the game lost its appeal to me, because once you’ve figured out a strategy (specifically, which cards to acquire and when) to beat the first missions, this strategy will pretty much work all the time, and the excitement of progressing through the missions is not enough to overcome this.

In that aspect, Agent Decker turned out to feel very much like Alien encounters to me, in that I didn’t feel a need or want to replay a scenario I had already completed (although arguably alien encounters has a bit more replayability as you can choose different characters at the beginning of the game).

I also feel that the game had a slight balance issue, in that the first 3 missions really are the “tough” ones, and once I get past mission 3 I never had any real trouble in missions 4 and 5. That might just be me though, but I would have appreciated missions 1 to 3 to be a tad easier, and 4 and 5 to be a bit more difficult.

As a free game though it’s really hard to say anything bad about Agent Decker. I might get it to the table once every year or so, play it a handful of time, then put it back on its shelf for another year.

For those like me who enjoy the game but consider that they are “done” with it, it’s worth mentioning that Agent Decker’s mechanisms ended up being implemented into two commercial games: Superhot the card game, and Blight Chronicles Agent Decker. Worth looking into, if you want to extend the experience, and assuming you can get your hands on them.

Agent Decker – Conclusion

I liked Agent Decker a lot, for a handful of sessions. Past the initial excitement though, I felt there was little to keep me coming back to the game, in particular since the thrill of discovering new cards and their effects was gone. With that being said, for those who have the time to print/cut the cards, I strongly recommend trying it, in particular the edition with the new art.

Agent Decker – what I liked

  • It’s free!
  • Professional art that helps with immersion
  • Nice deckbuilding mechanics (close to Alien Encounters and the rest of the Legendary series), with some cool twists. I like that the cards I acquire are the encounters themselves, and that more cards are added as the story progresses.
  • Nice deckbuilding brain puzzle in the first few plays to try and figure out how to progress in the game. Choosing between stealth/fight, and when to prune cards is not easy!

Agent Decker – what I disliked

  • Once you figure out a strategy, the game quickly loses its luster. It’s good for a handful of play, then will probably not see much play time from me

Games mentioned in this article

Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game
Check on Amazon (affiliate link)
Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game
Check on Amazon (affiliate link)
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