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Subject: Simple political simulation rss

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At the turn of year 2013 and 2014 there was a revolution in Ukraine. It is most commonly referred as Ukrainian Spring or Revolution of Dignity and its crowning moment was the events at the end of February 2015 which took place in a Kiev main square, called Maidan.

I am sure, that this name is known to almost everyone, but at the same time it makes some glitches with it. For most people, what happened in Ukraine is completely identified with Maidan itself, as if the whole revolution took place only in Kiev. However, in reality these events were just the tip of the iceberg.
The newly established publisher, Symeo Games, released game designed by Krzysztof Dytczak, called “Majdan”, but this game portrays social conflict in all Ukraine. It immediately stipulate that the game does not include subsequent events, as “hybrid war” and conflict with Russia.

After box opening you will find thin rules booklet, mounted mapboard of Ukraine and neighboring countries, two dice, cards and counters.
In modern boardgames elements such as good quality, sturdy box or mounted mapboard are no longer surprise for anyone. There are even taken for granted and would rather surprising lack thereof. However, I believe, that publisher was able to raise the bar a little more in terms of durability of components, because cards and counters are quality in itself.
Cards are quite stiff and appear as a thick laminated. Tell about them that they are armored will be a serious understatement. We all know how quickly card may be destroyed or wear, when they are hand-held and perpetually nervous crumple by the geeks. Not this time. Maidan cards will be able to save our grandchildren in our last will.
But there is something that your grandchildren will be able to bequeath your great-great grandchildren. It is a counters, that you will find in “Majdan” box.
Anyway, I’m not sure if the word „counters” is adequate, it may be better described as thin pads? Look closely at the picture. What you see is a few millimeters of plexiglass with colorful print. To damage them, you really have to try very hard. Unfortunately there is serious dissonance in them. Yellow color used on them is very pale, so in low light conditions, white numbers placed on them are hard to see. Speaking of colors in question – mapboard is maintained is the yellow-brown tones. Counters and cards are in yellow (opposition) and blue (government). If you have not noticed – they are colors of the Ukrainian flag. This may, however, be not very important, but it is pleasant flavor. Cards common to both players are gray.
The colors may seem monotonous, but I think it fits well with the rather grim climate of Ukrainian events.

Key word describing the rules is: short. It is so short, that being familiar with the proverbial takes a few minutes, which may surprise with a game, that at first glance seems to be quite heavy. Publisher has applied an interesting combination of two-language version. Each page is divided into two columns-on the left you read the Polish rules, on the right you read rules in English. Importantly, the text in both columns on each page is equivalent, so it is very easy to verify correctness content of the rules – what is so important that, unfortunately, did not manage to avoid mistakes and misunderstandings. Fortunately, none of them will “overload the system” and you can safely handle with them.

If rulebook is short, then the rules must be simple.
The board is divided into districts of Ukraine. Each districts is described by a number value (from 1 to 4). These values gives players victory points for control or support in district and their sum determines victor. At the same time interesting situation can occur, when both players has points in given district.
We have two types of counters. Political control (“face” counters) markers portrays level of support influence the each faction has in given district. They have value of 1 or 2. Second level is the highest possible – it means doubling the number of victory points in district. At any moment of the game, both players may have support on level 1 in same district, but only one player can have support on level 2.
Second type of counters represents control over authorities of the district taken by force (“fist” counters). They mean that in a given district, his authorities have been forcibly taken over by given faction. This could mean either a group of demonstrators who stormed into the governor’s office and took him away on the wheelbarrow or the militia, which surrounded the office for his “protection”. As you might guess, control over district may be held only by one side.
On mapboard we have places to held five face-up cards that players can take to hand. These cards represent a potential means, which will be later used during struggles. Each card has min. two factors – its strength in struggle for control or for support. Players can draw cards of his colors (they represents sympathizers, supporters or special units of given faction) or gray, which represent influence in the media, army and militia. Yes, yes, opposition may have influence among militia which may cause during the conflict that district militia take his side (f.e. refuses to take part in repression of the demonstrators).

Game is divided into three turns, which are divided into different number of rounds. In each subsequent step they are less rounds, which simulates growing conflict dynamics – beginning has lot of time to various activities and more closer to the end, everything happens faster and time is running out. During each round, players perform one action. There are few types of them – it may be a card draw, increasing support influence or attempt of taking control over district.
It is worth to note, what is attempt to taking control. This is by no means shooting to someone, rather it is event such as breaking up demonstrations and arrests by militia on the one hand or intrusion by demonstrators to offices and occupation of them on the other hand.

Anyone, who chooses to be the first to take control solution automatically loses prestige points, which means losing victory points. In addition, forceful measures are risky and you cannot be sure of its results – there is a serious element of uncertainty. If a player takes control of district, he must make dice roll to check, if this take control was successful. To make things even more interesting, from first declaration of force solution roll two dice on random events, which will further increase confusion, weakening one of faction (though mostly government). From that moment the game really increases randomness but this fits perfectly into reality – when it comes to force solution on own people, the uncertainty increases (remember the lonely man with a plastic bag, which stopped tanks in Tiananmen Square?)
Taking control over district temporarily reset support level of losing side (people hide in houses, so as not want to be arrested or be hit by demonstrators), so for the losing faction it may be the only chance of salvation to fight for social influence.

When one faction is trying to take control of district from opponent (entry on 2nd level of support in district, where opponent has same level already or by brute force to force-controlled district) it comes to struggle. There are two types of struggle: by violent power and by political means. Both has same mechanics, but we use different parameters on cards. Players choose 6 cards from his hands. Of course we have universal cards and those, who works good in one type of struggle (such as media or army). Then, both players shows cards, one by one, simultaneously. Strength of card is represented by a number (from 0 to 6). Stronger card wins. After six round of struggle we count wins of both players. That player, who has more wins, has won struggle, but every two loss, players loses card from hand. If the drawn cards are gray, other player takes them and faction cards return to the deck. This can lead to curious situations, when a player wins struggle, but loses very strong hand to his losing opponent… it is interesting, and real, situation, when people say “enough” and go to other side of fence.
It’s important to note about completely unpredictable cards – Masses (in the sense of a crowd of people). No one can be sure how to keep the weight of the demonstrators – maybe they cry few words and can be snapped on to show heroism as on Tiananmen Square? Therefore, strength of Masses cards is random – you never know what to expect.

Despite heavy and grim subject, “Majdan” is medium light game. It is fast and dynamic, and in spite of the simple rules, there are enough possibilities for tactical gameplay, which not became schematic and boilerplate. And game takes 45-60 minutes, so it will not happen to be bored. I know, that there are people who really do not like randomness of “Majdan”. However, I believe, that it fits very well into mood and theme of game. Not only does not impoverish it but enhances it, because shows well, that in similar situations, especially when it comes to force solutions, nothing is certain.
Of particular interest is the fact, that such a simple game can quite accurately simulate such a complex process as a social revolution. Situations that occur on the board, lead to interesting reflections, for example, when at the end opposition controls offices, but most support is held by pro-government society. I have also game, that faithfully reproduced what happened on Ukraine in reality.

Contrary to what some thought, it’s not a wargame. If I had to outline its category it would be a lightweight political simulation game. I think, it may interest all players, regardless of gender and gaming preferences. I will definitely come back to it.
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