Often games with a political theme blur the line between game and satire. And ofttimes the 'satire' is mere mockery of opposing political viewpoints. We've lost count of the number of anti-Trump board and card games released over the last few years, including Trump Card (Thymia) which we reviewed here on Board's Eye View three and a half years ago. The title of Coozies' Buy The Vote! sounds like it's going to be another satirical riff about corruption in politics but the reality here is very different.
Buy the Vote! isn't about bribery, back-handers, dubious phone calls to state officials or political corruption. It's a blind bidding game where players have limited resources (initially a paltry $10 million in cash) to spend on trying to win the US states for which they are competing. There is a card representing each state, showing its value in US electoral college votes. Each round, players place out their bids for the states in play by positioning their money tokens on a grid behind a screen. When everyone has placed their bid, the screens are removed and the bids compared: the state goes to the player who placed the highest bid. If there's a tie, the state remains in play, stacked under a different state card drawn in the next round. The relatively unusual twist in Buy the Vote! is that you spend your money whether your bids are successful or not: so we preferred to think of the money as being spent on advertising in the state rather than a more blatantly corrupt attempt at bribery.
With money tight, and the knowledge that an unsuccessful bid means money wasted, the blind bidding in this game is an especially tense and exciting psychological tussle. The game takes 2-5 players but, for us, it really shone at the higher player counts. With four or five players competing blind, there's a very real risk of ties where no-one wins the state. Some players ignore the small states like Delaware and Vermont (just 3 electoral college votes) and pile everything in to try to win the high-value states like California (55 electoral college votes) and Texas (38 votes), but that can mean other players may be able to pick up small states very cheaply. And there are rounds where players get additional income for each state they've won, so those small states can prove to be disproportionately valuable generating vital cash in the mid-game.
And there's more... Some states are designated 'swing states': win one of these and you get to steal from an opponent the last state they won. This device hugely ups the ante for these states, so New Hampshire, for example, can be worth far more than its mere 4 electoral college votes, especially if an opponent has just taken a high-value state like New York (29 electoral college votes).
The rules for Buy the Vote! insist on playing with a strict 15-minute timer (not supplied). The idea is that the game ends abruptly when the timer runs down. On the plus side, this ensures a brisk filler-length game that's never going to outstay its welcome. On the negative side, however, it can make it frustrating playing with a dithering player or, worse, a player who works out that they're currently ahead and deliberately plays for time. You may need to consider imposing 'extra time' for the indecisive or you'll need to introduce an in-game Supreme Court to impose penalties on deliberate time-wasters!