We're reviewing this game on the day immediately following Polling Day for local council elections here in the UK. It's the day on which most of the ballots are counted and such days are invariably characterised by party spokesmen touring the radio and TV studios to spin the results in the most favourable light. No matter how seemingly dire the results are for a party, the spin doctors are always able to spot silver linings that somehow eluded the rest of us. It's this, and the recent run of political crises and scandals in the UK that's behind this satirical party game from Wit Works.
Spin Machine is a storytelling game for three or more players where we can all summon our inner Cabinet Minister. There's no official upper limit on player count but from our plays at Board's Eye View, the sweet spot is 5-8 players - making this an ideal choice as a dinner party game. Each round, one player is designated as the Speaker of the House. In an Orwellian twist that will already be familiar to followers of politics but will seem counterintuitive to everyone else, the Speaker is the one player who doesn't get to make a speech that round. The Speaker chooses a card from the deck of 100 'problems'. That's then the issue that the other players have to address or, more likely, deflect attention from. Players each draw two cards from the 200-card 'solutions' deck and they choose one as the solution they will use. Players then take turns delivering a 30-second speech addressing or deflecting from the issue at hand. The Speaker chooses the 'best' response, and players rinse & repeat until everyone has taken a turn as Speaker.
The rules are simple and intuitive. There's a 30-second timer that you'll probably only use to jolly along any players who take their speechifying a bit too seriously, and players are encouraged to jeer and bray at the end of each other's speeches in true House of Commons style. As is invariably the case with all storytelling games, the fun and enjoyment is strongly predicated on the enthusiasm and inventiveness that the participants bring to the party. In the array tho' of 'problems' and 'solutions' on the cards, designer Ben Thomas has drawn deeply on actual news headlines. In recent years, Britain has lurched from one political scandal and sleaze story to the next, so that's provided plenty of material. Likewise, successive Ministers have demonstrated that no cliché is too well-worn to trot out as a deflection or excuse. If in doubt, blame it on Covid or the invasion of Ukraine or the previous government - and hope that no-one remembers that your government has been in power for 12 years or more!
I've dabbled in politics (I've been a Parliamentary candidate, I was a local councillor for 12 years, and I'm still an Honorary Alderman of one of the London Boroughs) so I guess I'm treading very familiar territory when I play Spin Machine. You can actually play it 'seriously' to see how convincing you can be in arguing that night doesn't necessarily follow day and that when it does it's only as a direct result of insightful government policy. Most folk tho' will want to play the game for laughs - and there's plenty here to prompt players' satirical barbs.
We didn't find anything offensive in any of the 'problem' or 'solution' cards but the publishers have nonetheless flagged some cards as potentially NSFW (Not Safe For Work). Tho' not actually offensive on the face of it, it looks like they've been flagged as NSFW because they might give rise to comments players might make that could cause offence. We thought the publishers were being overcautious but if you're in any doubt over the suitability of a card, it's easy enough to fillet out those that have a red warning flash on them.
If you can't find a copy in your local games shop, you can order a copy of Spin Machine direct from the publishers. The Prime Minister's tenure in office is still hanging by a thread... If you're planning a career in politics, this could be the best investment you've ever made!