Updated: Apr 27
From the title, you might be forgiven for thinking Elector Counts is a vote-rigging game, perhaps themed, like Distrix on gerrymandering. It's not. Elector Counts is set in the Warhammer (Games Workshop) universe. It's a combat game for 2-4 players where you place out location cards - defending your own and attacking others. Some cards have special abilities, and - as defence and attack cards are played face down when unopposed - there's scope for bluff, feints and tactics.
If the mention of Warhammer has put you in mind of hordes of miniatures, you'll just have to park that thought in your imagination: Elector Counts is a card game. There's not a miniature in sight, tho' Warhammer aficionados will be delighted at the use of familiar and evocative Warhammer art on the cards. Essentially, Elector Counts is a hand management game. If the game runs to full time (pretty much when the 107-card deck runs out, tho' there's an end-game trigger card to signal its approach), the game is won by the player who has the most victory points on the location cards under their control. There is, however, an instant win condition that has mostly determined the winner in our plays at Board's Eye View: have placed out five of your siege tokens, five fortification tokens or a combined total of eight tokens in any combination.
When you have an attack card unopposed by a defender, you place one of your siege tokens on the attacker. If you successfully defend an attack on a location and eliminate the attackers, even if that's at the cost of all your defender cards at that location, you place a fortification token at that location. The fortification token becomes that location's first line of defence: an attack (sacrificing the attack card) has to be made to remove the fortification before there can be another attempt to besiege it.
Elector Counts is designed by Martin Wallace and the game's interesting USP is its variation on the theme of card drafting. Players start with a hand size of 7, 6 or 5 cards (depending on whether you are playing with two, three or four players). On your turn you can place out attack and defence cards and 'support' cards (which trigger a special action) and you can 'sell' (discard) cards for 2 schillings and buy additional cards for 4 schillings. Buying tho' isn't really a deck building mechanic as you are drawing blind (just taking the face-down card from the top of the deck); it's actually more of a push-your-luck action because the twist in Elector Counts is that you must always have three cards remaining in order to pass them to the player to your right. Players then who have drawn very strong hands might want to use the sell/buy actions in order to dump high value cards of which they can't make effective use but which they want to deny to an opponent. Players also draw cards at the end of their turn (4, 3 or 2, depending on player count).
The combat and tussles for control of locations is to and fro - especially in a two-player game - but it's the novel 'pass on three cards' drafting that's at the heart of the game and is what gives it its distinctive edge... Except, it's not entirely novel. As we played Elector Counts some of our team had an eerie sense of deja vu. Elector Counts is actually a re-skin of Doctor Who: The Card Game that Cubicle 7 Entertainment published in 2012. This used photos of the Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors (Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith) and their various companions, as well as Daleks, Cybermen and Sontarans et al. In 2016, a Twelfth Doctor expansion added cards from Peter Capaldi's stint as the Doctor and also upped the player count to five. In the same year, Cubicle 7 also published a 'Classic Doctor Edition' featuring earlier incarnations of the Doctor and his companions.
Thematically, we thought the Warhammer theme was a better fit for this 'take that' card game but if you're a Doctor Who fan then you'll almost certainly prefer one of the earlier versions.