When it comes to games night, one of the toughest games can be choosing which board games to actually play. You might be at someone’s house who has a big collection, or lots of people bring their own games along – or maybe you simply have a big range of tastes. Either way, what on earth do you do next?
One possible solution is to pick up a copy of Game Election from Naturalist Games. Coming in a standard 54-card deck box and costing less than £10, it accommodates two to six players with up to eight games in the ‘election’ mix. Ten minutes later, you should have a game to play thanks to the joys of democracy.
The rules are simple: take one coloured set of cards (each set has the same cards) and keep all the ones up to one number higher than the amount of games being voted on (so you’d keep all nine cards if you were voting on eight games). Each player then places one of their cards next to each nominee, leaving them one card in hand. Once this is done, you may get the chance to use your remaining card to do a ‘backroom deal’.
Each card will have ‘nay’, ‘yea’, ‘yea yea’ or ‘veto’ on the back – with the more powerful ‘yea yeah’ and ‘veto’ cards also containing some extra text. If you held back a veto, for example, you can swap two of a player’s votes or cancel one of a player’s vote entirely; or if you held back a yea yea card you can choose a game to either win or lose ties.
But there are consequences to using your backroom power: you will have to either set up or take down the game if you used your yea yea card in the backroom, while cancelling or swapping a player’s votes with your veto will let them either decide your place in turn order or decide your starting colour.
Once the backroom shenanigans are over, simply flip over and count up the votes (a yea yea scores two, while each veto is a minus one). If there is a tie, the instructions handily suggest you ‘flip a damn coin’.
Erm, hang on a minute…
It doesn’t take long to start seeing the gaping holes here. First, if you’re going to ask me to spend 10 minutes playing a game to decide which game to play, you better end up with a damn winner because I am not going to flip a damn coin – I’m going to pop your damn game in the damn bin and move on. It’s not funny – it’s lazy game design.
Second, who in their right mind is going to sit around twiddling their thumbs while one person sets up as game – especially when they may not have even played it? And who exactly are you’re punishing by getting one player to pack up? The poor shmo who brought it along and now has their game packed up ‘wrong’ (you know what we’re like!).
In the vast majority of cases, set up and pack down of games is a shared responsibility. It gets you into the game (or the next one) quicker, it feels like the right thing to do and it’s all part of being in a friendly game group.
Of the other ‘consequences’, letting someone pick your player colour is at worst inconsequential – while letting them decide your player position is a decision made with no knowledge of what you’re going to play. Overall, the powers and consequences are going to be at worst a hindrance to the overall fun of the evening and at best pointless.
I’m not saying every group will hate this, and apart from the lack of tiebreaker the powers and consequences aren’t intrinsically broken. I just can’t see how they’re going to have much of an impact in the vast majority of cases.
But the election is a nice idea, right?
Powers and no tiebreaker aside, the idea of voting for a game choice is a sound one. The card text is clear, the instructions simple, the colours bright and the card stock – well, not great actually but not the worst.
But by letting people mess with the votes, you’re not getting the outcome the group wanted. Surely that’s the point? You’re adding a bunch of poorly thought out extra rules which may only end up serving to create the wrong result.
I’ve tried this with two groups and both times it has fallen totally flat after some initial interest in the idea. And both times the lowest common denominator game won, which is probably what would’ve happened anyway. It’s fair to say I’ve had my last game election – at least in this format.
I can’t help thinking something much simpler would’ve been better. Number cards 10, 8, 6, 4 etc and make everyone put a card each on a game – simply add up the votes and whoever put the lowest number on the winning game gets to choose their starting position. Ties break in favour of lowest/fewest ‘high’ cards. Maybe I’ll try that.
So are there any winners?
I think some people will get something out of Game Election. People who like to record plays, for example, get to put another game onto Board Game Geek – while people who like to play purple will be pleased to know they get to play their favourite colour.
But kidding aside, this could be a useful exercise for a game loving teacher who brings play into the classroom, or for a gaming family with children. There are some potentially interesting things to be learnt about respecting other people’s opinions; consequences, and about screwing dad so you don’t have to play what he wants to play.
These examples may even get use out of the set up/take down actions. I’ll be passing my copy on to a dad/teacher, so I’ll let you know if they get on better with it than I did. But until then, I’m happy to cut to the chase and flip the damn coin.