Thursday, July 2, 2009

Card/Board Game Review: Politico

I bought Politico, published by Small Box Games, a couple years ago, fully expecting to like it because of all of the good things I read surrounding its release. I did like it, and I’ve introduced it to many friends since buying it. Without exception, everyone I’ve played this game with likes it. This group of people includes Erin.

I didn’t expect Erin to like Politico because it can seem a bit complicated at first, and complicated games usually aren’t her favorites. Don't get me wrong--Erin is not a simple person; she just likes simpler games. Unless it’s the game of playing with my mind. Then she weaves a complicated web of distractions so that she gets exactly what she wants and I’m left wondering what happened. When this happens, I say, “You just Bugs Bunnied me.” Erin always says she doesn’t know what I’m talking about.

Anyways, Politico can seem a bit complicated at first to someone who doesn't play a lot of games, but after a game or two, the game mechanics become second nature, almost intuitive.

Politico is a card game for 2-5 players which requires that you collect enough followers (represented by tokens of four different colors) needed to win an election in a new democracy. To win the election you must collect 13 followers total, with at least one follower from each of the following classes: clergy (white), merchant (yellow), the guild (brownish red-Erin swears they are brown, but I know they are maroon), and peasants (green).

To win over these followers, you must choose each turn whether to shake hands with them or draw and use influence cards to, you know, influence them. These influence cards do things like turn a peasant into a member of the clergy and steal followers from other players based on how many of a certain follower you have. The trick of the game is to balance these three things: what followers you need, what followers your opponent will need, and what followers you think your opponents think they need. For every opponent that chooses the opposite of what you decide to do in regards to shaking hands or drawing and using influence cards, you get an extra action to take during your turn.

I have to say that this game plays good with two players, but it plays great with three to five. The reason that two-player game of Politico is a slightly weaker is that there are less factors to keep in mind; you only have one opponent to take into your calculations when choosing whether to shake hands or go after influence cards. The rules remedy this in a two player game by creating a sort of ghost player—each turn you draw at random a card to shake hands or a card to go after influence cards. This clever mechanic works and saves the two-player game.

The Verdict
This game rocks to play with the Mrs. Erin and I always have fun when playing this game together, and we have even more fun when we add in other friends. The rules are simple after you get a game under your belt, but you will find a lot of strategy in this one. Another great feature of Politico is that a player is never truly out of this game, and victory can be snatched from the front-runner in a one short turn. It only takes 10-45 minutes, so you can usually get in more than one game in a sitting. I highly recommend this game for couples, especially if you ever have friends that like to play games with you.

I just checked Small Box Games' website, only to find that Politico is not currently available for sale. Here is a link to the rest of Small Box Games' games, which I bet are also good:

Small Box Games

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