Al Parlamento

Out Of Print
(Reviewed by William Whyte)

Al Parlamento is far more satisfying than it should be. I suspect this is a function of the company rather than the game, which is an Italian one about elections and governing. In Alan Moon's (or Derek Carver's) feature on election games in GI 4 (or 5?), this was his (or her) favourite by far. However, it's been out of print since the turn of the decade so I more or less gave up hope of ever seeing it. The day was inadvertently saved when Stuart Dagger wrote to me asking for a copy of Dail Eirann, and, in return, offered to send me a copy of Al Parlamento. I'm very glad he did.

As all proper election and government games are, this is divided into two phases. The first is the election. The second is the government. During the election you campaign by allocating points to the seven issues that perturb the voters (Taxation, Cost of Living, Unemployment, Individual Freedom, Law and Order, Ecology and finally Welfare - note the absence of Defence - Italy in the mid 70's must have been an idyllically safe place to be, or at least to invade.) The point allocation is done in seven rounds, and after each round the importance of one issue in the campaign is revealed. This causes immense heartache when you've put all your points on Ecology only to find that none of the voters give a shit about it. This causes even more immense heartache when you've put all your points on Ecology and no one else has. You also have to place a token showing where you've campaigned most that turn. Since the game is basically a glorified beer and pretzels game, you have to invent things to shout at people who start putting points where you've been putting yours. Approved Al Parlamento calls are 'Oi! Get off my turf!' and nothing else.

Once seven election rounds have passed and each issue's importance has been determined, the seats are allocated on a points per issue basis. For each issue, the person with the most points on it receives one third of the seats going for that issue straight away. The remaining seats are then divided among the players including the one who had most in proportion to the points they had put on it. So it'll be rare for the person with most points on an issue to get less than half the seats going for it. At this point, the election phase is over and the parliament phase, which is an entirely new game, begins.

The point of the parliament is twofold: 1) to enact laws 2) to bring down governments. It's a uniquely Italian viewpoint, though it does seem to be catching on in the Baltics a bit. And the reason why governments are so easy to bring down is that for each set of four bills you are given five vote cards with yes no and abstain written on them. You vote on a bill by playing a vote card so come the last bill of a set you'll be likely not have any significant choice in the matter of how you vote on it. That's the silly but necessary mechanism for this bit. The brilliant mechanism for this bit is connected with a party's support base, or, as it should really be known 'defection base'. Each party is given, at the start of the game, one major support group and a selection of minor ones. During the parliament phase, bills are randomly generated which apply to one of the support groups. The support group will thus want you to vote in favour of it or against it. If you don't vote the way your major support group wants, three of your four MPs leave your party to go to every party that did vote the way your support group wanted. This is a great way to lose prestige. It's an even better way to watch someone else lose prestige, just because they were stuck with two NO cards on the last vote and everyone else had two YESes.

The point of the game, in so far as that really matters, is to gain success disks, also known as points. If you're in government, you vote one way on a bill and the bill goes that way, you get a success disk. If the bill goes against the government, all members of the opposition who voted against get a success disk and the leader of the largest opposition party gets to be Prime Minister. And those are the rules. Once again, the entertainment value of the game is greatly enhanced if you provide something stupid for the PM to wear, such as a woolly hat, a false beard, sunglasses, a sheep, Norway etc.

Obviously this is not a serious game; player's choices are usually either very constrained or ludicrously free, there's no long term strategy to it at all and a lot of the player interaction is strictly illusory. But it's extremely enjoyable. I've played it three times already which is more than I'd play most games within the first three weeks of having them. Well worth free, at any rate, and probably well worth whatever the price was when you could buy it as there would have been a lot of components with it you could cannibalise into other games if nothing else. A worthwhile discovery, particularly for someone with as many silly friends as me.

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