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Votes for Women

Fort Circle Games seem to specialise in games themed around less well known episodes of American history; for example, The Shores of Tripoli - based on Thomas Jefferson's Barbary War. Most players will come out of a game of Votes for Women knowing much more about the fight for women's suffrage in the USA in the late 19th and early 20th centuries than before they sat down to play.

Tory Brown's Votes for Women is certainly educational. It even comes with a collection of facsimile historical documents from the period. Happily, it's also a very good game. It recreates the campaign in the United States for Congress to pass what is now known as the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, giving women the vote throughout the United States, and the campaign to get the Amendment ratified in the requisite 3/4 of the states. Prior to the 19th Amendment, voter registration was considered a matter for each state so women had the vote in some states but were excluded in others.

You can play the game either competitively with one or two players as the suffragettes and one or two controlling the opposition to women's suffrage, or you can play cooperatively or solo against a card-driven 'Oppobot', tho' we've enjoyed Votes for Women most as a two-player game with one Suffragist and one Opposition player. Even with just one player on each side, the Suffragist is represented with two colours of campaigner meeple and cubes (yellow and purple), representing the different factions that came together to campaign. The different colours only matter because some Opposition cards affect just one specific faction (for example, the 'Red Scare' card removes all purple cubes in two states).

The game is played using a board representing a state-by-state map of the United States, albeit broken down into regions. When you place out campaign activist meeples, they are played to a region but voting cubes are placed out in individual states. The game is card-driven with each player having a hand of multi-use cards. These are reminiscent of the multi-use cards in Twilight Struggle (GMT) in that each features an event with a historical basis divided into early, middle or late periods, but in Votes for Women each side has their own discrete deck of cards. You can play a card for its event text or you can discard it as a Campaigning Action to roll a die for each campaigner meeple you have on the board, placing out the corresponding number of cubes to states in that campaigner's region. Alternatively, you can discard the card as an Organising Action to collect campaign buttons for each campaigner you have on the board. The campaign buttons are the game's currency: used to bid for strategy cards, to move activist meeples between regions and to pay for dice re-rolls. Finally, you can discard a card as a Lobbying Action: rolling a d6 for each campaigner on the board and placing out (or if you're the opposition player, removing) a Congressional Marker.

The Suffragist player(s) have to get six Congressional Markers out before the end of six rounds (confusingly referred to as turns in the rules; with turns referred to as rounds!). This represents Congress passing the 19th Amendment. Once six Markers have been placed out, the game shifts gear to focus more directly on individual states. Those states with four Suffragist or four Opposition cubes are immediately declared for or against the amendment and those states are out of play. Players are then engaged in an area control tussle to get four cubes in remaining states to reach their target of 36 states for the Suffragist or 13 for the Opposition.

Votes for Women is an engrossing but accessible game. It's not overly difficult to learn and you can expect to play it through in a little over an hour. You might initially baulk at the luck factor: several of the events and other actions in the game are determined on the roll of d6, d8 or d4 dice (the latter, actually a d12 with each number repeated three times) but there is mitigation because the game always offers the option of spending a campaign button to re-roll (tho' note that when you buy a re-roll, you must re-roll all the dice). And, yes, we now know a lot more about the campaign in America to give women the vote.

Fort Circle are currently on Kickstarter raising funds for a reprint of Votes for Women. Click here to check out the campaign.

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