William Whyte, £5
Reviewed by Stuart Dagger
This is a two game package designed and produced by William Whyte and available from him as a game kit. The two games use the same equipment, are for 4-6 players and are based on Irish election campaigns - the former on a parliamentary campaign, the latter on a presidential one. The kit consists of a large constituency map, which acts as a game board, a set of constituency cards and a copy of the rules. All are well produced, given that this is not a professional production. There is also a small sheet that can be made up as counters, though if you have a RISK set (particularly one of the older ones) you would be better following William's recommendation and using the pieces out of that.
Dail Eireann: This is a 4 hour game, with each player taking the part of one of the groupings in the Irish parliament. Play is split into 15 rounds, in each of which players campaign and fight elections. Seats won translate into victory points (necessary, because this is a game in which the parties are not of equal strength and so each has its own conversion rate), and at the end the player with the highest number of victory points wins. Each party has a percentage share of the vote. At the start these range from 44 for Fianna Fail down to 3 for the Independents, but these will fluctuate during the game as a result of electoral successes and failures and the campaigning attentions of one's opponents. Each 5 per cent, or part thereof, that you have at the start of a round entitles you either to draw a constituency card or to place a marker on the board. Owning a constituency card enables you to decide when the election will be called for the seat, and having a marker in the constituency is necessary if you are to take part when it is.
An election can not be called if a constituency contains fewer than 3 markers. Markers once played can be moved, and there is a limit to the number of markers that can be in a constituency at any one time (with a Civilization-style combat mechanism for removing any surplus). All of which makes for a lot of tactical jostling. When an election is called, players with markers in the constituency collect votes equal to 1d6 plus the number of their markers. An overall majority is needed for victory, and votes of less successful candidates are reallocated until this is achieved. Reallocation is done using a preference list mechanism, which again offers a lot of scope for tactical manoeuvre.
When I discussed Dail Eireann with Mike, he suggested that it might be considered a game without much strategy. It hadn't occurred to me before, but, having thought about it, I reckon that he is right. So, be warned: if you are the sort of player who likes planning several moves ahead, you may well not like this one, as it is very much a game to be played one season at a time, with short term schemes only, and constant adjustments as you have to react to what the others are doing. However, I think that the tactical richness more than makes up for having to forego the pleasure of devising a game plan. I have ten election games, all bar one are good, and for me Dail Eireann rates in the top three.
Aras An Uachtaran: This is much shorter, with a playing time of about 90 minutes. Each player is a presidential candidate, with a playing piece that moves around the map picking up votes. Movement is by die roll. My first reaction when we started to play was that there was really nothing much to the game, but by the time we were a third of the way through, everyone was clearly having to think, I was enjoying myself and my opinion had been changed.
Three constituency cards are dealt face up by the board. The first candidate to visit the constituency collects the card and replaces it with another one from the deck. The object is to collect as many cards as you can and eventually an overall majority. Very much at the ``6 and up'' level so far. The fun again comes with the markers. When you collect a card you place one of your markers in the constituency, and on a turn when you fail to pick up a card you place one in a constituency of your choice. The effect of these is to slow down the movement of your rivals. The basic cost to move from one constituency to the next is one point from the die roll, but if you are trying to move into a constituency where some other player has more markers than you, you increase the cost by the number of markers you are behind the constituency leader.
So what starts as a level field soon develops some very adverse gradients, and regional fiefdoms begin to appear. If this were the only effect the markers had, the game would still be fairly straightforward, but it isn't. Once again, this is an Irish election, and a simple majority is not enough to become president; you need an overall one. So after all the cards have been picked up and a pecking order established on the first count, votes start being transferred. When a candidate is eliminated, the votes they had switch over on a constituency by constituency basis, going to whichever still active candidate has most markers in the constituency. The effect of this is that in the later stages of the game proper you have to start making choices. Do you place markers so as to impede your rivals, or do you start planning for the count? And if the latter, whose switches do you aim for? What looked easy at the start isn't any longer. It all adds up to a good little game of the sort that, given the German treatment component wise, would grace the range of a company such as Hans im Gluck.
Both games are available as a game kit for a £5 cheque payable to William Whyte, 107 Windmill Road, Headington, Oxford OX4 1SD.
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