Swedish Parliament 2022
You might think Swedish politics to be a rather esoteric theme for a board game but in fact this isn't the first time Harald Enoksson has distilled the Swedish political scene into a game: Mondainai previously published Swedish Parliament 2010 and Swedish Parliament 2014. But you don't have to know about Swedish politics to play and enjoy the shifting alliances in this card drafting board game.
If you're Swedish or follow Sweden's political scene then you will appreciate the element of satire built into Swedish Parliament 2022, including caricatures of leading Swedish political leaders. However, these are purely for flavour. The game is played by 2-6 players on a board that looks complicated because each of the hexes shows iconography used to indicate the direction each of the parties move in when a corresponding policy card is played and a symbol that represents the key demographic in that hex if, at the end of the game, it is equidistant from the markers of two or more parties. The board is a political rather than geographic map made up of 91 'voters' - tho' we preferred to think of them as sections of the electorate. All six political parties are included in the game even if there are fewer than six players; and, indeed, there is also an option for playing the game solitaire.
Gameplay is simple. Players each take a party and, ideally, sit around the board in the position corresponding to that party. There will be a display showing five face-up cards plus a face-down draw pile. You can take a card from the draw pile for free but to draft any of the face-up cards you must pay the amount corresponding to the position of the card (ie: 1-5 krona), placing a krona on each of the cards you passed over. It's the mechanism that's familiar from games such as Century: Spice Road (Plan B), but note here that you include the draw pile in this. Players who take a card with money on it collect that money too, so it becomes increasingly tempting to draw a card from the face-down draw pile, if only because that gives you cash to spend more freely when drafting on subsequent turns. When you draw a face-down card, you don't have to reveal it to the other players.
On your first turn, you'll just be drawing or drafting a card but on all other turns you'll have the option of first playing one or more cards. The cards all have a top and bottom side. The top represents a policy and it will move the three indicated parties in the direction of that policy platform. The bottom represents a shift in public opinion; in effect, a shift of the entire board. When you play a card as an opinion rather than policy, you move pieces for all six parties in the opposite direction. Whether a card is played as a policy or opinion, another player can prevent their marker from moving by 'sacrificing' a card from their hand. Cards sacrificed in this way aren't discarded but are placed under their leader card: the icons on them could help determine equally contested hexes at the end of the game...
When you play a card on your turn, you also get to influence an alliance between parties. You can form an alliance (most likely between your own and a neighbouring party), you can strengthen an existing alliance or you can weaken or break an alliance (typically between opposing parties). Alliances are marked by using large cardboard hexes and numbered link tokens. There will be a mass of alliance interactions between parties through the course of the game, so it's almost a puzzle game in its own right organising the party hexes to reflect the multiplicity of alliances.
The game ends when there are no more cards left. Then comes the task of working out how many votes each party has won. This can be rather fiddly and can be quite a lengthy process, especially in comparison to the relatively swift play & draft gameplay. Votes are won by the party whose marker is closest to them. Where two or more markers are equidistant, you place a question mark token on that hex. The question mark hexes are awarded to the player with the most icons representing the demographics on that hex (men/woman; young/old; urban/rural). There are tie breakers but if a voting hex remains unresolved, you place a sofa token on it: the voters there have stayed at home on the sofa rather than turning out to vote.
Voting hexes all resolved, you count up the number of votes each party has won and put that number on the parties' alliance hexes. The links are thinned out and small parties removed until you come up with a coalition that comprises >50% of the vote (so 46 if there are no sofa-surfing non-voters). That alliance forms the government, but there's a further step to take to calculate the 'centre of gravity' of the coalition in order to work out who becomes Prime Minister and so the winner of the game.
In arguments about electoral systems, it's often pointed out that fair vote proportional representation systems like 'single transferable vote with quota' are simple for the voters (they just number preferred candidates in rank order) but they can be fiendishly complicated to work out the results (involving the transfer between candidates of not merely of eliminated candidates' votes but fractional surplus votes of already successful candidates). The end-game calculations in Swedish Parliament 2022 somewhat mirror this: more complicated certainly than the main gameplay. That doesn't detract tho' from Swedish Parliament 2022 being a fascinating highly interactive game: one of the most interesting politics-related games we've played.
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