“It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first.” – Ronald Reagan
Yeah, yeah, I know it’s been a while since I’ve updated. Yeah, yeah, I know I said I was going to keep up with the By the Numbers updates. The truth is, I’ve been very busy with Game Blog Related Stuff (TM) lately (more to come on that later) and as far as By the Numbers goes, I’m a storyteller at heart and not great with a “just the facts” approach. So the Healthy Gamer plight continues, but with a feel that’s more “me.” (There’s news on that front too, but this is not the point of this post.)
No, today we’re going to discuss the game of politics. Literally. Politics can be a very polarizing subject and people are quicker to anger and bicker over politics than almost anything else if the internets are to be believed. Look at your Facebook feed, I’m sure there will be some political debate going on somewhere (tis the season after all). Find two people with opposing viewpoints. If they are discussing civilly, it is a rarity. It’s no real surprise that there are not that many games with political themes out there, and the majority of those tend to take an abstract approach.
And some grab that controversial bull by the horns, like SuperPACS, currently on Kickstarter.
How it works:
Effectively, SuperPACS is a set-collection game with a lot of “take that” elements, as you might expect from a political satire game.
Setup is simple. Each player is given a Faction Leader card (each with its own ability), $2 (called “MegaBucks” in the game) and 5 Faction Cards (representing various voting blocs/demographics) An Event Deck is created from 10 cards (7 random events and 3 fixed electoral events); this will act as the game clock, after the 10th round, final scores are tallied. Add a few Investment cards to the middle of the table and that’s it. As someone whose last other games played were Trickerion and Chaosmos, I really appreciate a game with a quick setup and takedown time.
The game deals in 3 currencies: Votes, Wealth, and Power. In the end, only Power matters, but it’s not easy to get power without the other 2. Your turn is segmented into a couple of mini-phases; first, you choose whether you will Campaign or Embezzle. Your Faction Leader card will tell you what your Campaign ability is (normally something that draws more Faction cards), or if you opt to Embezzle, you just take $2 from the supply.
Once this is resolved, the player will choose a main action for the round. The main actions are Exploit, Sneak, and Fundraise.
Exploit: When you Exploit, you play a Faction card from your hand, adding it to your play area, or “Coalition”. The Faction cards along with the Leader cards are where the real heart of the game exists. Most Faction cards have a single effect when they enter play, and many of these are disruptive to one or more other players. What this means is that you’ll be hitting people, and they’ll be hitting back, but the humor in the game makes it pretty impossible to feel bad about it in either direction.
Sneak: When you choose the Sneak action, you play 2 Faction cards from your hand face down. No entering play effects are generated, and at the end of the round (before the Event resolves), these will join your coalition. This is a good action to seed cards with strong Wealth or Vote values into your coalition quickly, though you do sacrifice the entering play effects of the cards.
Fundraising: Choosing Fundraising as your action will allow you to add up the total Wealth values of face up cards in your Coalition and take that many MegaBucks from the supply.
After your Primary action (see what I did there?) you have the option of using the ability of your Leader card, and purchasing Investments, which provide some alternate means of accruing Power.
After each player takes their turn, an event is resolved. The three fixed Events are elections competing for the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the White House. During an Election, you count up the Vote values of your Coalition, the player with the most wins that particular election and gains that card and its accompanying Power. After all three Elections have taken place, the player with the most Power in their Coalition is the winner.
Three Things What I Liked About SuperPACS:
The Humor: While often campy and ham-handed, the humor is one of the standout features of the game. The art is reminiscent of political cartoons in newspapers everywhere. Lots of familiar faces to anyone who has paid even passing attention to American politics. You can guess who “The Hairpiece” is.
Easy to Teach: ‘Nuff Said. While the turn order isn’t exactly fluid nor intuitive, one round in and the rulebook was pretty much unnecessary.
Deeper Than It Looks: While I am not going to try to sell this as some Feld joint, there is more to it than just playing cards to giggle and zing the other players. Most of the cards you will play will have differing effects based on what you have already played, making the order of play important. Knowing how the game clock operates, you can keep an eye on the voting power of the other players and adjust your strategy accordingly. While Power is the only thing that matters in the end, there are several ways to obtain it, and I like games where multiple (and viable) strategies exist. In some regards, SuperPACS reminds me of Guildhall, which I am a big fan of.
SuperPACS is thick with satire and theme, and offers a lot to people keeping up with the news. The gameplay and mini-puzzles are entertaining, while not being something that will generate AP. It has at least decent replay value, although the Leaders will be dated before too long. While I wouldn’t call SuperPACS a gateway game, it’s an easy game to teach non-gamers, and the humor and theme are universally well known enough to help get some of them to the table. I can see SuperPACS being the kind of game you might bring to Thanksgiving. There will likely be political infighting, so why not disarm it some with a game? SuperPACS is on Kickstarter right now, and is worth checking out if any of the scribbles above appeal to you. I have certainly played my fair share of terrible Kickstarter games, and I’m happy to say that this isn’t one of them.