If you’re anything like me, you enjoy both politics and various types of board games. Games of strategy are best, as they usually require planning, improvisation, and just a small touch of luck. Now when you couple strategy with politics, assuming the mechanics are well designed, you get a truly enjoyable experience. Therefore, I wanted to take a break from discussing politics as usual to share with you some of my favorite political board games. And now a word from our sponsor…just kidding of course…there is no sponsor. Enough introduction! On to the games!
Diplomacy by Avalon Hill
Rewrite history! This is game for you and six competitors who can devote multiple hours to the endeavor. Each player is randomly assigned one nation in pre-World War I Europe. The possibilities are France, Great Britain, Germany, Austro-Hungary, Russia, Italy, or Turkey. Your goal is to control half of the major cities/territories in Europe (London, Spain, Paris, Munich, Berlin, Warsaw, Belgium, etc). As there are no dice, the outcome of battles depends on sheer numbers. Often times to either conquer territory or defend your position; you will require assistance from your neighbors. Alliances can be made and broken at will. No agreements are binding. Best played with good friends, assuming no one takes the game too personally! Recommended by Henry Kissinger.
Die Macher by Valley Games
In this game, you take the helm of one of the five major political parties in Germany and do your best to win as many seats as possible in the Bundestag (the lower house of the German parliament). In each round, parties vie for seats in four of the German states. You may change your political positions as needed and no party positions are set in stone. In order to achieve victory, you must balance your resources, constantly update your strategy based upon the plans of the other parties, and form (and avoid) timely coalitions. Gather some folks who appreciate the differences of European politics or are Germanophiles.
Battlestar Galactica by Fantasy Flight Games
A very new board game. Each person takes the role of one of the characters from the first season of the current TV show. Then, everyone is given a loyalty card at the beginning of the game to determine your personal goal. Loyalty cards lead players to help the team or secretly (or not so secretly) sabotage them. Over a number of turns, players perform actions, which can either aid or hinder the rest. But beware of your so-called allies. Until the Cylons (the disloyal player(s)) are jailed, he, she, or they can cause massive trouble for the human crew. Don’t think merely finding the Cylons is good enough for victory, for once they are revealed, the battle continues openly until the humans reach their destination or perish. Designed for 3-6 people, though best with 5. This is the best co-operative game I have played to date. Although you don’t need to be a fan of the show to enjoy the game (I’m rather lukewarm about it personally), if you are one, I certainly encourage you to give this game a try.
Imperial by Rio Grande Games
Like Diplomacy, this game too takes place in pre-World War I Europe. However, in this game, you take the role of an international banker as opposed to the leader of a nation. You use your influence and wealth to compel nations to attack each other, gain territory, build infrastructure, and tax their citizens, all while making you a tidy profit. Throughout the game, your control over nations strengthens and weakens as all players invest in the great powers. France could attack Germany one turn and then withdraw and attack Italy instead, depending on which player pulls her strings. A fun, but disturbing, look at the power and influence of international financiers.
If I remember any additional games in the next couple of days, I’ll make certain to include them. Yes, I know I’ve left out your favorite game, so add it in the comments section. So, if you get some free time, I highly recommend visiting your local game or hobby store and trying these games out.