Games simulating US presidential election campaigns are a little too common, and I’m not just speaking as a Brit, because my issue is with the inevitable cluster of poor games that results from a well-used theme. Kind of like Zombie games or dungeon crawlers say. But unlike those, because I’m a Brit, the theme itself isn’t terribly exciting too me. So when a Presidential election campaign game is at the top of my Kickstarter picks, you can be sure it has some very interesting mechanisms!
Central to Campaign Trail is its crazily large number of options for how to play cards. You play cards to add registered voters into your pool, which can be added to the map by campaigning in the regions where your candidate is, or by advertising in certain regions, according to the map printed on the card. Of course advertising costs money so you can also play cards to fundraise, and discarding other cards will allow you to move your candidate between regions. The insanely difficult decisions begin when I tell you that each card has a choice of 4 of those 6 actions on it, and you can only do one of them when you play that card!
But it gets worse! Or, rather, better! Because after each deck of cards runs out, you have a debate! Which is resolved by using another set of symbols on the card! So you have this extra layer of decision-making, whether you want to save cards for their value in the debates. The debates themselves feature some lovely thematic touches. When you play a card in the debate, one of the symbols on that card must match the debate’s topics (like defence or family value etc), or any of the topics on previously played cards: your candidate jumping on the topics other players have raised. Each state has particular topics of interest to them and commenting on those topics the most will see your candidate gain voters in those states. As with real political debates, the candidate who shouts the loudest will win!
Even the components look good. Yes, the main board could be more exciting, but money is tracked on dials rather than with tokens and the score track… oh this is clever. Each state has a tile that fits into a grooved track. If you have the most voters in that state, you just take the tile and slot it into your groove. Instantly you can see who is in the lead, without doing any maths! The game sounds exceptionally clever, full of brain bendingly difficult choices, and with a great eye for components. Definitely check this one out!
They are on the Campaign Trail until October 8th.
The Scandenavian Design movement, with its focus on minimalism and calming white colours, has become a major force in home décor, product and graphic design. I sit here typing this article into a Macbook, from a company that drove this design philosophy into the tech world. Now we have Less, a board game accentuating this minimalist design in board gaming.
The tagline of “Like Chess, But Less” is misleading. The game is much more like chinese checkers, the aim being to move all your highly polished wooden pieces from your starting corner into your opponents corner, by leap frogging your and your opponent’s pieces to get there faster. It’s a simple race, to which the designers have added an array of walls that slow down your advance when crossing them. The board is formed from a set of 9 (or 16 in the 4 player game) tiles that result in a random board each time you play.
Abstract games typically struggle on Kickstarter. It is platform that rewards shiny, eye-catching graphics and can be a punishing place for abstract games, with their simple geometric shapes and drab colour schemes. Less, however, has smashed it out of the park with one of the most professional Kickstarter videos I have ever seen, and a fantastic, minimalist graphical design. It is a simple game, but with the endlessly varying game board and fast play time, I definitely recommend checking it out.
There will be even Less after October 5th.
Worth a Look
The Others: 7 Sins – A one vs all miniatures game from Cool Mini or Not, The Others sees a force of paranormal warriors fighting off the disturbing hordes of monsters representing each of the 7 deadly sins. Each sin changes up the gameplay, and the heroes must balance their own corruption with the needs of completing the games objectives, lest they be absorbed by the darkness they are trying to combat. Ends Oct 6th.
Brick Work – OMG a Lego board game! Except not Lego for copyright reasons but it’s basically Lego! Players will start off by building two structures they will then race to complete with their own pool of bricks, utilising a dice placement system that rewards you bumping other dice off the board. Very quick playing, for 2 players. Ends Oct 6th.
Greatest of All Mountains – We recommended it before and we’ll recommend it again! A card game in which players take the role of mountains, certainly one of the most original themes ever. A casual game, with long term strategy built into the early choices you make, and lovely art to boot. Ends Oct 7th.
Private Die – A push-your-luck dice rolling game in which everyone is a private eye racing to solve a crime. When you question a witness, you choose how many dice to roll, and if you roll below a value on their card, you’ll gain clues equal to the number of dice you rolled. Witnesses, cases and the detectives all add in bonus abilities or rules that affect the game. Ends Oct 8th.
Walls – The aim is to get from one corner of the board to the other first, through an ever-shifting maze of plastic walls. You can either play it as roll and move if you’re playing with younger kinds or a more strategic, fixed movement game, where careful choices of which walls to move need to be made. They could do with improving the artwork but it’s an original idea! Ends Oct 10th.
Warpath – Mantic’s Sci-fi miniatures game, playing in a very similar way to Warhammer 40,000 (and featuring some of the original designers in fact). There are 2 rulesets available: Warpath for large level battles with hundreds of miniatures, or Firefight, a skirmish level game for around 30 minis. It is mostly a chance to pick up a fair horde of miniatures for cheap. Ends Oct 11th.