I’m an optimistic sort. I believe people are basically good.
I’ve had that belief tested on multiple occasions. A person on the side of the road said he needed help getting his van jumped and it was a couple blocks away. So I let him in my car to drive to the van so I could jump it for him. Of course, rather than doing that, he proceeded to rob me and I was lucky that when I refused to drive to an ATM, he just got out of the car and left rather than beating the crap out of me.
Also, in 2013 we bought a house and were told a loooonnnnggg line of crap from both our realtor and our lender who were looking for a quick buck. We were young and naive and have been paying for it since that day with a ridiculously high interest rate on a home that appraises for half of what we owe on it.
But we’re all human, right? No one actually wants to hurt anyone else, right? Sometimes we get desperate and need to eat, so we may stoop to doing something harmful…but there’s not too many people twirling their mustaches under their tophats thinking of new ways to take money from widows and orphans. Right?
But there’s something humans have done that really REALLY makes me question that. And that’s the subject of the playthrough I am about to play:
In this game, you act as one of three groups with the goal of eliminating slavery in the world. Because ripping away someone’s humanity and treating them like a thing is probably one of the stupidest, worst, god-awful thing that can be done to a people.
There is much to be said about this game and the philosophy behind it. Much of it is…well…not good. I don’t want to dwell on that because 1)I’m no historian. 2) The point of this blog is to point out how fun games are and 3) Lists are really good in threes.
However, it also got me interested in the subject, and it got me to read about Octavius Catto, one of Philadelphia’s first civil rights advocates. There’s a great book out there called “Tasting Freedom” about him. I recommend it. However, get ready to get REAL mad, because holy CRAP did awful stuff happen for no other reason that people’s skin color back then. I mean, really, really awful stuff for stupid, stupid reasons. It made me want to invent a time machine just to go back in time and slap people in the face and be like “What the hell, dude? Think about this for a second!” I’ve never been more mad, more sad….ugh. Like the subject said, humans are jerks.
So anyway, if the philosophy behind this game might be a bit skewed in a way that just ain’t right to my mind, at the very least it makes you think about an uncomfortable subject, and it might make you interested enough to read more about it. And that’s at least a start. If more people do that, then maybe we can come to terms with it all, and start erasing all the crap that still exists today.
Hey, who put this soapbox here? I thought it was supposed to be a game box! Is someone calling me a stinky gamer?
Let’s set the damn game up before I start rambling again. No one comes to this site to listen to my rambling.
HOLY CRAP LOOK AT ALL THAT STUFF!
And what’s weird, is all this fits in a box that fits in the palm of your hand. Wild, right? So let’s break this down, first starting with the player board:
Here we see Parliament Funkadelic’s player board with….woops, force of habit. Just Parliament. Anyway, the stack of agents and freemen on the left are pieces in the pool not yet played, and the black discs are anarchy that hasn’t gone into the world. Yet. Probably. The right side of the board shows how much money Parliament has. Kind of. It’s more a representation of the flow of money, than the actual asset itself.
You see, each time you lower an agent from Capital to Wealth or Wealth to Debt, you generate one “Gold” which you use for a large number of things in the game. You can’t keep it and there’s no gold chit that you’re going to collect, just when you choose something that has a cost, you’ll move your agents down to pay for it all. And yes, you can move an agent from Capital to Debt for 2 gold. To get money back, you do a “Fundraising” action on your turn. In this action, you pull agents off the board (if you choose) back to Wealth, then you can move agents from Capital to Wealth. For each that you do, you may pull an agent from Debt to Wealth (paying off your debts, obvs), and then finally moving everything that’s in Wealth back up to Capital. So being in Wealth is easy to get back to Capital, but Debt makes it a bit more difficult, and you’ll find mastery of this money flow is essential to winning the game. Oh, the player board is also just not a red nothingness on the left either. It’s actually a player aid:
I guess the person who made the Vassal mod thought it made the screen look to busy. I can’t blame him.
Don’t worry, I’ll do my best to help with all this lingo and stuff. We’ve only talked about money, let’s talk about the rest of the world.
I guess I’m going by order of importance.
Here we see the whole of humanity, represented by 10 cards, each a “Sphere” that we’re going to try and “Modernize” away from slavery. Each black square represents about 10,000 people in servitude of one kind or another that we’re trying to free. The brown boats between the Spheres represent slaver ships trading in slave goods from Cotton to Tea to Harems. They suck. The greenish yellow tokens represent malaria as a barrier for us to be able to do anything there until we modernize enough to fight it. Finally above/below the Spheres are the barriers to freedom, 3 to 5 square chits that represent things like the Ku Klux Klan, the Caste System and things I had to look up like the Devsirme System. They suck, too.
What don’t suck are Ideas:
As great investors, we can invest in these Ideas and use them to help spread abolition around the world. The symbols on the right of the card are the actions the Idea allows us to take, the symbol on the left the bonus if the idea is Legislated into the Bill of Rights.
Yes, these exist and are probably the more complicated part of the game, so I’ll leave it for in-game stuff to get to explain it.
This is a cooperative/competitive game. It is cooperative for about 3/4 of the game since you all have to pass a certain threshold to win the game. However, once that is done, there is only one winner, the person who will forever be viewed as the great abolisher of slavery around the world. The awesomeness of the game is when to start holding back from the competitive aspects of the game and start setting things up for yourself to win at the end. It creates some great tension and makes for a hell of a game.
But you don’t have to compete, you can just play the cooperative aspect and call it game there. I think you lose quite a bit of the fun that way, but it’s still a good game, and the crux of playing solitaire. In fact, solitaire is just playing a 2-player cooperative game 2 handed. So that’s what you’ll end up seeing. The only difference between the “true” game and what you’re seeing is the lack of competitive turns at the end and the lack of “Tyranny,” which I’ll explain when it comes up. And it will. And it will hurt. Tyranny is actually GOOD. For a while, anyway.
So in this game I will be playing Parliament (you have to as their bonus power is too instrumental to the game) and Missionaries. I’m choosing the Missionaries because I’ve pretty well handled how the Entrepreneurs play fairly well and win 99% of my games with them. I still haven’t quite figured out how to get a good win with the Missionaries, and I commonly run out of money with them, so you’ll get to see me struggle and possibly lose!
So, with Parliament and Missionaries, my goals are clear:
Parliament, with their ability to do many Maritime actions will flex their might and place agents on the board and sink slavers to make sure there are more of their own men than slavers out in the world. Missionaries will use their ability to place agents on the board for free (no one expects the poor guy in the frock!) to free as many people as possible!
Of course, they will be lacking the power of the Entrepenurs, which is when they use agents, they can be pulled from the bottom of their money board. Both Parliament and Missionaries, whenever they take an agent and put it on the board or on an idea card, must take that agent from their gold, from the HIGHEST spot. Bye, bye Capital. Yes, it’s expensive. That’s where a lot of strategy goes. But there are ways to make more money. But you have to be smart and think ahead.
Me? I smrt.
So we start. Play order goes Red > Green > White. Parliament begins with the Action phase, of which they get to choose 2 from the menu. They can do the same thing twice:
We can ignore the bottom two (they’re blue because you can ignore them if you’re not playing the “Advanced Game,” but why would we want to do that?. The second column there shows the prerequisites for those actions, and as it’s the first turn, there are no Ideas that are Viable (have icons that match icons in the Bill of Rights or Will of the People), or Syndicated (have agents on them). Nor are there any Revolutions in the market, so that makes 4 choices to make.
Fundraiser. I’ve already discussed what that would do. Essentially at this point it would move all my money to Capital, which actually isn’t a bad thing. However, Parliament gets a bonus Maritime Operation each time they do a fundraiser action, and I’d hate to waste that….because it’s hard to do a Maritime Operation when you don’t have any boats.
Syndicate is what gets your agents onto the Ideas available. The third column there shows you the cost. It’s “Market” + “Agent^2” Market means those in the bottom row cost 0, the row above 1, all the way up to 5 for the top row. Agent ^2 means agent squared. So first one’s free (zero squared), second one will cost 1 gold(1 squared), third one will cost 4(2 squared), etc. It gets pricey. It usually means you don’t get more than 2 agents per Idea, but you never know, the Market can be mean and give you crappy icons, and you can get desperate.
There’s a number of ideas to choose from, so that’s an option. The next is Shipbuilding, and I’ll be honest, action 1 of EVERY game I’ve ever played has been Shipbuilding. It’s pretty much essential to everything else Parliament does, so without boats, it’s just not worth it, so buying a boat is step 1, all the time. You see it costs 3 gold (ick), but it puts an Agent into your debt box, so it actually increases the number of agents you have total, so ultimately it will get you more money once you work it back up into your Wealth and Capital areas.
While this may be the first action, how you pay for it and where you play said boat is often different, so let’s see where I’ll play this.
I decide to place the boat in the Caribbean because it might benefit the white player, too, whom I’m also playing. I can immediately do a Maritime action, which allows me to either move all Marines (agents sitting on boats) or place a Marine on the boat I just placed (a boat without a Marine are considered Merchants which bestow the ability to create Underground Railroads between Spheres. Neat, huh?). So I slap a Marine down right away because that’s a step towards Red’s goal, so it’s kind of important.
However, it’s also costly. I had to spend 3 gold for the boat (I moved 1 from Wealth to Debt and 1 from Capital to Debt). And then I had to place the Marine which moved an agent from Capital to the board, leaving me with only 1 in Capital, 2 in Wealth and 3 (remember I get one extra for building the boat) in Debt.
I have to think about money, as now that I’ve played this Marine I can use it to a) Remove Anarchy from any adjacent sphere (none to worry about right now) b) Remove a Purple Barrier from any adjacent sphere (neither Brazil nor America have one, those are “Embargo” barriers) or c) attempt to sink the slaver. That’s a good thing, but it, too, costs money. 1^2 gold per die. So 1, 4, 9, etc. And you have to roll over the number of black squares on the adjacent spheres (4 in this case). Yuck. 2 dice would be a done deal, but 4 gold is a bit out of my reach at the moment. 1 is possible, but if you only roll 1 die and it shows up as any of the die symbols on the slaver ship, you experience “Corruption” and either anarchy is dropped on a sphere, or one of your barriers has to go back onto the sphere. It stinks.
So despite the awesomeness of a free Maritime action, I’m holding on to my money for now.
Instead I’m going to use my 2nd action to Syndicate and place my Capital agent onto Bengali Renaissance.
It’s on the bottom row, so it’s “Free”. The quotes are there because it cost me my only Capital agent. However, it means I can take one of the three Ops available on the right side of that card during the Ops phase…which is RIGHT NOW.
Another large menu to look through, and this one is far more complicated. Luckily there’s only 3 we have to worry about since that’s all the Idea card has: Suffrage, Literacy and Westernize.
Suffrage is great, because that’s how you grab barriers which makes doing anything else a whole lot better, however, if you look under “Cost”, you see it’s Slaver^2. So it’ll cost 4 gold in 90% of the world right now. So let’s just move past that. Literacy is a good one, wherever you have an agent (I have a few), you can just make a Dissident. Why would you want that? Well, if you have both a dissident and anarchy, you create a Revolution! Revolutions are how you can modernize a Sphere to permanently change them and stop them from creating trouble for you (and give you some points while at it). Usually you need to set some things up beforehand, though, to make sure your Revolution will succeed before you start one. Failure stinks. We’ll move past that one.
Westernize looks pretty easy. As long as we have a Red Agent (or no red barrier), we can just plop down a Freedman. Freedmen are White’s goal AND they cover up the black boxes which makes sinking slavers a whole lot easier. Win-win, so let’s do that.
I only have Agents in two locations, London and Virginia, so I make one in Virginia as that’s the only location with empty boxes.
Notice something about the Westernize icon (as well as many more icons?)
This little stealthy bugger is an Elephant. This means that when we take this action we move the elephant marker (yes, the game comes with a small black elephant meeple) to the location where we are doing this action.
Once the elephant has been moved, it won’t be moved again for that turn, so if you do multiple “Elephant Actions/Ops”, they must all be in the same location. BUT, that also means the elephant won’t walk during its own Elephant phase…which is NOW.
Now that Actions and Ops are done, it’s now the game’s turn to fight back, and the elephant is going to do the fighting. First we roll 1d6. In this case I roll a ‘5’. Normally the elephant would “Walk” clockwise 5 Spheres, skipping modern or diseased Spheres. If it did, it would land in Maratha, India, which would be bad. But since I played an Elephant Op, it stays put in Virginia. The ‘5’, though, also represents “Cultural Diffusion” and discards or moves the Idea card 5th from the bottom of the Western Idea column. This card doesn’t have a little arrow on it, which means Principia is discarded. No tears here, there weren’t any Op icons on it.
Anyway, now we go to the Hate Roll. Yeah, that’s what it’s actually called. In this you roll 1d6 for each empty space in the location where the elephant is. You always count the “port” space (the little circle the elephant’s trunk is on), so you’ll always be rolling 1 die. In our case, we’ll have two since we have the port and one revealed black square. What we’re hoping aren’t rolled are the die faces on the barriers in this Sphere.
Each color of the die represents who the people will kill in response to their hate. Yeah, it ain’t pretty. The yellow dice represent losing money in all this nonsense. If the die is rimmed in black, there is “Frustrated Hate,” meaning if there is no one to kill, then anarchy will be produced. Ridiculous, yes. Realistic, yes.
So I roll 2d6 (by the way, you never roll more than 4d6, thank goodness) and roll 5,6. Which is an AWFUL roll. That would mean kill a white and green pawn. Neither are there, and they’re both Frustrated hate, so two anarchy discs are placed in the Colonies. I also have to spend one gold. Crap.
So that’s the elephant phase. Awesome, right?
Now we have the Pogrom phase. Because that didn’t hurt enough. Pogroms only happen when a sphere is showing 2 anarchy discs.
Oh, lucky me, I have a sphere with 2 anarchy discs.
Here you just roll d6 for the sphere and it has a chance to either kill someone or spawn another anarchy. I roll a 2, which kills a red piece. Hey, that’s me! Worse, this Massacres the piece, so it doesn’t create a Dissident or anything. No martyrs for me, just a dead Freeman going back to my pool.
That turn did NOT go well.
Lastly is the Revolution phase where if any Revolutions could start, they would, and if any Revolutions could stop, they would, but we’re not there.
So that’s setup and one full turn of Pax Emancipation. I have an uphill battle now, but the Missionaries haven’t even started yet and there’s a lot of game to play.