The game is governed by the series of board meetings at which those attending vote for the character who will be president for the next turn. A maximum of 5 meetings is catered for but for a shorter game you could agree on less meetings.
Associated with each meeting is a turn track (refreshed for each meeting), which indicates how many turns will take place before the next meeting will be held. The number of turns ranges from 5-10 and is determined by a neat little system with players are given at least 5 turns warning of when the next meeting will be held.
Each player attending the meeting receives 3 million dollars and the president that is elected receives an additional 15 million plus other privileges explained later. Players should endeavour to attend as many meetings as possible but, despite all the planning this is not always achievable, as will be revealed later.
Players start in Southfork with 10 million dollars and a hand of cards; these are multi-purpose and provide the essence of the game as the player has to decide how best to exploit the cards to their own advantage, or more likely to the disadvantage of their opponents!
Each card contains 4 elements of information, namely Movement, Proxy Votes, Events and Blackmail (well, this is Dallas after all!) Players can move any number of spaces up to the value of the Movement shown on the card and they will choose to stop in a space which they consider most advantageous (more of which later).
The game is played on a map of Dallas which contains roadways along which are certain types of building. Ending a turn in these buildings enable the player to do one of the following:
So what constitutes a move? The player has to weigh up the various possibilities open to him and, as in Airlines, you always want to do several things but can only choose one. The movement values range from 1 to 12 as do the Proxy Votes and often a high movement value is linked with a low Proxy Votes value. Sometimes the movement value is insufficient to get you to that square which you wanted.
The Event section of the card is optionally invoked by the player and will either affect all players or only the named character and this latter twist provides for more difficult decision making, as the event can only take place if the player named is ``landed on''! However, it is often worth your while to impose the event as they are wickedly effective, e.g. ``If the player landed on does not pay you 3 million dollars you may take all stock in any one company he owns'' or how about ``Bobby must move immediately to the Airport and miss the next 2 turns''. If this is played on Bobby with 2 turns to go the next meeting he will not be able to attend and all his stock and Proxy Votes will count for nothing this time!
As if these decisions are not enough there is the Blackmail section to consider. Each character is subject to the threat of Blackmail and if they are exposed at any meeting they are forced to vote the way the exposer wants (normally ``vote for Me''!). However, to achieve this it takes a set of 3 matching blackmail cards (or 2 and a wild card), so the player is now playing a bit of rummy as well and the cards must be retained for use at the meeting so they cannot be used for movement and events. What should one do ? You can be sure that as soon as you give up collecting one set the next card you pick up would have completed it!
After playing the card, a new one is taken from the stockpile and eventually the discards are reshuffled to form a new stockpile.
Ok, so you've managed to survive all the events and get back to Southfork for the meeting, what happens now?
Players attending the meeting have 5 minutes to ``negotiate'' any deals and this can take any form -- promises of cash in return for votes, swapping blackmail sets, alliances to defeat the current president. But remember that as this is Dallas there is no guarantee that these promises will be kept.
Blackmail sets are declared, the player with the lowest votes going first and then votes are cast, the player with the most votes going first. Proxy Votes are added to stock holdings to determine the outcome. Players receive their 3 million for attending the meeting and the president gets the extra 15 for winning. He also gets the use of the President's Limo for the duration of the next series of turns, which enables him to add 2 spaces to any move. In addition, on the first turn only, the president can move to any space on the board, so you can see that it is well worth becoming president
On completion of the last meeting players calculate their worth in cash and stocks and the one with the greatest wealth is the winner. The value of any stock in a company in which they hold a controlling interest is doubled, so that's another decision to make: do you go for a controlling interest in a company? If so, will you be able to hold onto it? The player with the greatest wealth is the winner.
Dallas is not a game that will be enjoyed by all -- there are so many random events that can happen to ruin your strategy, should you have one, that some will dismiss it straight away. The distribution of the cards can also greatly affect the outcome, but in spite of all that there's a great deal of perverse satisfaction in playing your blackmail set at a meeting and winning a vote unexpectedly. If players enter into the spirit of the game they will be rewarded with an entertaining 2-3 hours. My group enjoyed it immensely.
Whilst the game is great, the presentation lets it down badly, the components being stored in the sleeves of a Double LP album (with pictures of the Clan on the front) which open up to provide the mapboard, somewhat bowed in appearance. The cards, money and counters are of reasonable quality however, and one can imagine what these would look like given the Gibsons or Ravensburger treatment.
The game was published in 1980 and so will not be readily available. I got my copy from Games Corner for what I consider the bargain price of 10 pounds, so maybe Eamon Bloomfield will be able to track down further copies, or of course he could always be blackmailed into doing so.