Last night I had more fun than I've had in a great many moons, well, that is excluding some booty action with Mamasan. We received our copy of Politico: Fall of Caesar from Small Box Games, a small but incredibly prolific self-publisher of some uber-badass games. Small Box is the same company that made Seii Taishogun, one of the most incredible Samurai-ish games ever made. In fact, John Clowdus, principal game designer and owner of Small Box, has been recognized by some of the top names in gaming as a fucking genius. Unfortunately, being a genius in the world of board games amounts to either Jack or Shit if people don't either know who you are, and Jack left. Let's change that, together.
This is my little contribution to the cause of supporting the underdog, by bringing you a review of a game that absolutely amazed me with its brilliant, yet simple design. My wife and I played this game for TWO HOURS on a Monday night. Getting my wife to play a new game, and especially on a Monday night when I would normally be at my regular Game Night Event, is about like pulling a bad tooth out of a rabid Pit Bull who was very recently kicked hard in the balls. It just doesn't happen much, and usually, when I make it happen, I suffer for it.
Not last night, though. I'm not going to lie, Small Box has incredible games, but their rulebooks are a bit on the "hard to get" side. This never stopped powerhouses like AEG, so I'm guessing that this won't stop Small Box, either. That being said, Politico was very easy to get into, and once we did a little re-reading of the rules we were playing like champs! The premise of the game is that you're a Senator that's sick of being tyrannically ruled by the Caesar, and so you're trying to gain enough supporters to stab the bastard mercilessly, "et tu Brute" style. The game is absolutely a family-friendly game, but is deep enough to play with the hardcore "Taped Glasses and Fingerless Knit Gloves" gamers too. It's just completely accessible, incredibly thoughtful, and plain old fun.
When you open the box, you'll find a 8.5x11 standard sheet of paper which serves as the rulebook, 10 "Hail Caesar!" Tactics Cards, 10 Supporter Cards, 16 Supporter Score Cards, and about 70 or so regular Tactics cards. The art on the outside of the box is a little on the bland side, but once you crack out the other cards, all are colorful, jovial, and a lot of fun to look at; The Entertainer image is especially funny to me, since he looks like a toga-wearing, crackhead version of the guy that played "The Greatest American Hero".
To play, you simply give every player one of each of the four types of Scoring Track, give them 2 Tactics cards, and flip the first Supporter card into play. The Supporter cards act as the "suit" you're trying to match, as well as a game timer as once you've played all ten of them, the game ends. Alternatively, the game ends when one or more players gains 13 Supporters, but must include at least one Supporter of each type. Essentially, either have enough clout to overthrow the Caesar, or be the closest to the goal when time runs out.
The idea is that if you play a Tactics card that matches the type of current Supporter card, you get one action, and if you played a card type that is different than other players, you get an action for each player you didn't match. The tactics cards fall into one of two categories: Persuade or Manipulate. Playing a Persuade card allows you to score one supporter of the current type for every action that you've earned, getting you closer to victory. Playing a Manipulate Card allows you to the options of drawing a new card into your hand, playing a card from your hand that matches the current Supporter to gain a Supporter of that type, or playing a card from your hand as a Tactic, which allows you to perform the Tactic that is printed in the Tactic box on the card. Finally, the Hail Caesar! cards are wild cards that allow you to automatically match the card to whichever Supporter type is the current type.
The gameplay is fast, and with the Tactics ranging from denying your opponents Supporters to stealing their Supporters and other such backstabbery. The game time printed on the box is 30-45 minutes, but we have yet to crest a 20 minute game with 2 players. I will be playing this on my Friday Game Night Event at home, and I suspect that everyone else at the table will be as giddy as we were.
As an aside, I told John Clowdus that I'd be reviewing this, and he told me that Preorders for the game will be opening May 2nd, 2010. Get over to the site and order this...it's just simply a no-brainer.
Things I Absolutely Juiced My Jeans For:
*The art is really, really funny and fits the game's lighthearted play very well
*Brisk turn times makes the game very fast playing with minimal downtime
*The price point is so low that he is almost giving this away - the value and replayability is OUTSTANDING
*The cards are actually as good or better, in quality, than his older game cards
Things That I Wish Were Done Far Better:
*I'd just about give my left nut for Small Box to make the rules more clear for douchebags like myself
Anyone that does NOT have this game is missing out. If you like good games, this is one that is a MUST HAVE game. Sell your dog to the butcher, do what you have to do to get the twenty bones to buy it. I have yet to play a Small Box stinker, and I've played quite a few. Last word: BUY THIS GAME.
To learn more about Small Box Games: http://www.smallboxgames.com/games.html
Pete is a member of Fortress: Ameritrash. You can read more of his reviews at The Superfly Circus.