Statecraft review


15 November 2017
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Statecraft_component_layout_V1.3-18102.jpg Statecraft
A wildly uneven flow lets down an otherwise fascinating satirical political card game

Almost everything about Statecraft makes you want to love it – except actually playing it.

Designed as a card-battling simulation of a political race for Number 10/The White House/Leader of the Earth (delete as appropriate), the game neatly breaks down complex political concepts into four key scales that slide up and down as each of your cabinet members endorses or denounces specific policies. Support state-owned housing? Say hello to socialism and anarchism. Prefer affordable housing? Extra authoritarianism it is. It’s a fluid way of tracking your overall manifesto as you attempt to court floating voters, and introduces some amusing thematic decisions as you try to please as many supporters as possible, scrapping the minimum wage as you chase retirees or backing agricultural labour to the chagrin of the middle-class. The bright and clean visuals of the cards pair with snappy flavour text that leans into the satirical thick of it, so to speak.

There are a variety of different setups and win conditions, with the basic game being a straight democratic election. Reflecting the back-and-forth scraps of modern politics, players can pinch voters that have grown unsatisfied (or, for a cost, even those who claim to be happy) or employ action cards that screw over their opponents with everything from scandals to assassination. The interaction here is solid and lifts up the otherwise fairly lifeless policy play, unlike the event cards – Statecraft’s career-ending blunder.

Drawn at random during play, the event cards aim to shake things up by forcing tough decisions on players, often resulting in the loss of voters, policies, politicians or all three. The manual suggests adding a third, two thirds or all of the cards to the deck for normal, disruptive or chaotic play, but it hardly makes a difference – they suck. With no effort to maintain a flow over the course of a match, the occurrences feel random, frustrating and repetitive, pulling many of the same punishing tricks time and time again to hinder a satisfying sense of progression and achievement.

Real-world politics aren't fair, but Statecraft kills what could've been a fascinating satirical simulation with a wildly uneven flow. The core ingredients of something special are in here, let down by a severely lacking execution and what too often appears to be an underdeveloped grander vision. Cast your vote elsewhere.

MATT JARVIS

 

Publisher: Inside the Box Board Games

Price: £19

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Genre: Hand management

Players: 2-6

Time: 20-60 minutes

Age: 14+

Website: itbboardgames.com/games/statecraft

 

This review originally appeared in the October/November 2017 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here – or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.

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