Reading my blog you probably know that I am huge fan of history. Familiarizing with how our predecessors acted, why, what motivated them and pushed to what conclusions and actions – that is fantastic lecture which enriches one’s knowledge of the world enormously. That interest of mine is also transposed to my great hobby – boardgames. While most of the titles I play, purely touches the war side of the past, a lot of them has also significant component of politics.
In my today article I would like to focus on games or games series which, while using some common wargaming mechanics, evidently can be called as Political ones. Below are some of my favorite titles in that category – they not only gave me a lot of fun from pure play but enormously enriched the history knowledge. Enjoy!
Other articles in the series:
Thanks to Jason Matthews and Ananda Gupta we got many great political games, which in fascinating way were depicting time they were telling the story of. I will name only three, and each of them is great design: Twilight Struggle, 1989: Dawn of Freedom, Imperial Struggle. Still, when creating the ranking I need to choose one title and out of those creations it will be – surprisingly? – Imperial Struggle!
Imperial Struggle is a long awaited spiritual successor (cause I will not call it a sequel) to the Twilight Struggle. It is a two-player game depicting the 18th-century rivalry between France and Britain. It covers almost 100 years (from 1697 till 1789), touching war, political, economical and diplomacy aspects. Unlike most Card Driven games, here you choose from common pool of investment tiles and only sometimes supplement it with event. Once you play event, it is removed from the game permanently.
The player’s order (initiative) is not fixed, and depends on VPs position. The action points come in three types – diplomacy, military and economy – and can only be used for that purposes. Last but not least, there are six Peace and four War turns.
I appreciate this game for how replyable it is, for lack of fixed openings, for fantastic theme and components as well as great support from the designers (especially on BGG). Really great design.
Last, very important thing. Did we get better game than TS? Well, that is hard question to tackle and probably there will never by one answer to this. Did we get new, innovative, engrossing and multi-layer simulation of 18th century global conflict between France and England – well, for this I can definitely answer yes!
More about game:
Another game series where the difficult choice is needed. Mark Herman is known for years as a designer of fantastic card-assisted games. He created brilliant, politically themed, The Great Statesmen series, encompassing such titles like Churchill, Pericles or Versailles (with more to come). But this is ranking and as with first position, a choice has to be made. This time I decided to go for Churchill, the initial design in the series.
This is a game about “big three” – players take the roles of Churchill, Roosevelt, or Stalin and try to maneuver their allies into the best direction for them. Of course, while still defeating their enemies (Japan, Germany). In the end this is not a game “if” (the Allies will defeat Axis) but “who” (will rule the world after World War II).
It is hard to classify that position – at one hand this is political game – a lot of negotiations, hidden agendas, political plotting, etc. On the other, kind of a wargame as in the end, all that negotiation translates into the real forces which are being used on three fronts in Europe (Western, Eastern and Mediterranean) and four in Asia (Burma, The far East, Central and South-West Pacific) to crush the Axis.
The game is played over 10 turns, where first part is designated to conference (agenda preparation and then discussion) while second to the resolution of the decisions taken (war and political phases). The discussion and debates are really exciting and pretty close. The battle resolution is simple and efficient. The long-term consequences of the decisions made – often not fully predictable. The play is pretty quick, each of the nations has special abilities and in the background, the twilight struggle over who will have A-Bomb first rages on.
More about game:
I had some reservations with last title. It is defined by the BGG as Political Game. Still, it encompasses area control, battles and army build-up. However, on the other hand we have court build up, spies and clandestine actions, political control and gaining the favor with the belligerent powers. In the end I was pretty sure that Pax Pamir can be defined as political game, and as I like it pretty much, be part of this ranking.
In Pax Pamir, players assume the role of nineteenth century Afghan leaders attempting to forge a new state after the collapse of the Durrani Empire. Western histories often call this period “The Great Game” because of the role played by the Europeans who attempted to use central Asia as a theater for their own rivalries.
In terms of game play, Pax Pamir is a pretty straightforward tableau builder. Players spend most of their turns purchasing cards from a central market, then playing those cards in front of them in a single row called a court. Playing cards adds units to the game’s map and grants access to additional actions that can be taken to disrupt other players and influence the course of the game.
To survive, players will organize into coalitions. Throughout the game, the dominance of the different coalitions will be evaluated by the players when a special card, called a “Dominance Check”, is resolved. If a single coalition has a commanding lead during one of these checks, those players loyal to that coalition will receive victory points based on their influence in their coalition. However, if Afghanistan remains fragmented during one of these checks, players instead will receive victory points based on their personal power base.
The loyalty and political aspects of the game are fantastic. You really are not tide to one Coalition and can change your proffered side as you need. Highly recommended!
More about game:
The area of Political Games is pretty vast – and indeed, it is hard to draw a line between “wargame and political game”. Still, above titles provide a decent selection of such titles, which put so much focus on negotiations, clandestine operations, bargain, etc. where a brutal force is just an effect of the mentioned actions.
All above titles are highly recommended! And see you in next episode of the “My Top 3” series!