Posted by: gschloesser | August 2, 2011

Global Powers

Designed by Leif Busse
Releaed by:  Eggert Spiele
2 – 5 Players, 2 hours
Review by:  Greg J. Schloesser 

EDITOR’S NOTE:  This review first appeared in Counter Magazine #25 

This is one of those games that I missed at the Spiele Faire in Essen.  Oh, I saw the Eggertspiele booth and briefly stopped by to glance at the components, but never took the time to sit down and learn the game.  There are simply SO many booths and SO many games, it is impossible to carefully view every one.  

A month or so after the convention, the Great Dane Mik Svellov wrote a glowing report of the game.  This was enough to pique my interest, so I promptly ordered a copy.  Mik had also designed some handy English player aid charts, which have greatly assisted in our games. 

Global Powers is NOT your average German-style game.  It actually bears much more in common with games released by American companies such as Avalon Hill.  The game is filled with negotiations, deal-making, voting and cut-throat actions.  Not exactly the family friendly atmosphere that most European games attempt to capture.  Indeed, even the opening sentence in the game’s description warns of its nature:  “A politically incorrect game including tactics, agitation …”

Players vie for political control in the twelve regions of the world, using their political clout to expand their influence into other territories, purge their political enemies, declare war on neighboring regions and even call on the United Nations to help ban political parties in various regions.  Politics can be a very nasty business!  Just ask Al Gore. 

Players each begin the game with 20 politicians and identical decks of power cards.  The rules provide for two different methods in which to seed the board with politicians from each player.  One is an auction method, while the other is more open with each player selecting regions of their choice.  Each region is inherently worth the same number of victory points, but some are richer in resources than others.  Resources enable the players to perform numerous actions, so the regions that are resource-rich tend to be sites of consistent conflict. 

Each player takes turns either activating a region or playing a card.  A player may activate any region – even if he does not have a presence there – but the player or players controlling the government takes the actions allowed.  The player who has the most politicians in a particular region controls the government, and if two or more players tie for the most politicians, they form a coalition government.  That is where things get really tricky, as these players must agree on which actions to take.  Some actions will benefit all players in a coalition, so there is often no dispute.  However, if the players each have different ideas as to which actions they desire, the discussions and negotiations can be quite lengthy.  Sadly, the rules don’t really specify the exact procedure in which this should be handled, so several house rules have already been developed to deal with this situation and help shorten the amount of time these discussions can absorb. 

When a region is activated, the controlling government may perform as many actions as the strength of the government, which is equal to the number of politicians controlled by the player having the most politicians in that region.  There are a wide variety of actions a player can take, including, but not limited to: 

Migration:  Move one politician from the region into a neighboring region. 

Propaganda:  Move a politician from stock (known as a “base” politician) into the region or an adjacent region.  The player must send a politician to Mauritius, however, which means that the player will have one less politician available for future actions.  Further, when victory points are tallied, players lose 1 victory point for each politician that has been so exiled. 

Purge:  Remove an opposition politician from the region.  This action does cause the expenditure of one of the region’s military chips. 

War:  Declare war on a neighboring region.  Conflicts are resolved quickly, with each region adding a die roll to the number of military chips present in their region.  High roll wins, which usually causes the expulsion of politicians from the defeated region, to be replaced by politicians from the player controlling the victorious government.  War can radically affect the government of the defeated region and the overall board situation. 

All of these actions require a vote of the politicians in the activated region.  Of course, if the player controlling the government has an absolute majority, the vote will automatically pass.  However, any player who has politicians present in the region can protest the passage of such a vile motion and cause its defeat by removing a politician from the region and returning him to his base.  The player controlling the government can override this veto by also recalling a politician.  The loss of politicians in a region, however, can ultimately alter the composition of the parties present and even force a change in government.  

A player also has the option of executing various Diplomatic actions.  These include banning a particular party in any region, forcing a region to disarm or placing economic sanctions on a region.  However, EVERY region must vote on these propositions, including those politicians in the United Nations.  The players controlling the governments in the regions vote, expending diplomatic chips on either a “yes” or “no” vote.  Diplomatic chips in most regions tend to be scarce, so too many votes will quickly deplete them, meaning regions may not be able to vote in subsequent elections.  This can have disastrous consequences. 

As opposed to activating a region, a player may elect to play one of his power cards.  Each player begins the game with 16 power cards and forms an initial hand of five cards, choosing which cards he desires.  The cards can be wildly powerful and drastically alter the board situation.  Beware the revolution, quite likely the most powerful card in the deck.  This can cause governments to fall and depopulate numerous adjacent regions.  Nasty. 

Once all twelve regions have been activated, the game halts and an evaluation round is conducted.  Players earn victory points as follows: 

4 VP for being the only party in a region

3 VP for having the majority of politicians in a region

2 VP for sharing the government with another party

1 VP for being in the opposition party (having at least one politician present in a region) 

2 VP for each politician present in the United Nations 

-1 VP for each politician in Mauritius 

After points are tallied, if a player has reached or surpassed a certain number of victory points – which varies according to the number of players – victory is achieved and the game is over.  With five players, this total is 22 victory points.  If no player has reached this level, however, several tasks must be performed before the next round can begin. 

First, each player removes five of their politicians, either from their base and/or the regions.  The player with the highest number of victory points in the rounds sends all of these politicians to the United Nations.  The player with the next highest victory point tally sends four of his politicians to the U.N., removing the remaining politician from the game.  Each player performs this procedure, sending one less politician to the U.N. than the previous player.  Thus, the player who scored the fewest points in the evaluation round will only send one politician to the U.N.  Sadly, the rules are silent as to ties, but the designer has since clarified this, giving the nod to the player who is currently the strongest (has the most pieces on the board). 

This aspect of the game is a bit troubling, as it rewards the player who performed well during the round and penalizes the player(s) who did not do well.  Since each politician in the U.N. is worth 2 victory points during the next evaluation round, the “rich get richer”.  However, to be fair, that player will also likely be a target during the next round, so will likely need those points to help offset the loss of points he may suffer as a result of treacherous actions by his opponents. 

 The game can also end prior to an evaluation round if a player controls a specified number of regions, which is also dependent upon the number of players.  With a full contingent of five players, the required number of controlled regions is 7.  This total reduces with each subsequent round, as do the required number of victory points needed to achieve victory during an evaluation round. 

The game, at first, is a bit much.  There are numerous actions a player can take when activating a government, and deciding which of these to perform can be quite perplexing and taxing.  It is difficult to conceptualize how everything fits together and how the actions can best be used to one’s short and long-term advantage.  The rules are also vague, being too brief for their own good.  It would have been much easier to understand the game if more examples had been given and if various actions would have been explained more clearly and thoroughly.  We spent a great deal of time discussing the rules and lack thereof, having to make some quick group decisions when various situations arose that were not adequately dealt with by the rules. 

The good news, however, is that in subsequent playings, the proceedings flowed much smoother as players become familiar with the myriad of possible actions and their potential consequences.  Further, the designer has clarified many of the ambiguities and made rulings on situations which were overlooked in the rules. 

There is no doubt that the game is intriguing.  There is great depth here, without an undue amount of time.  I feared the game would be on the longer side, but was pleasantly surprised to find that our games have played to completion in about 2 hours.  That is pretty amazing for a game that deals with politics and diplomacy on such a grand scale.  It also means that the game is going to see regular table-time with our group.  Other groups, however, may shy away from it since, as mentioned, the game is certainly NOT your traditional European-style game.

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