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Subject: Junta - a bad game full of good memories rss

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Filip W.
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Sell the bananas! Sell the land! Sell the tanks! And put it all in El Presidente's bank account. What? A coup? Call in the troops! What do you mean they haven't got any guns?
Junta is the now classic game of money grubbing in an unnamed Banana Republic(tm). It's a game that opened the way to gamegeekdom for numerous game-virgins in the 80's and 90's and gains popularity from a wave of misplaced nostalgia. For Junta is not a good game. It is painfully slow, can leave players waiting for extended periods of time while others resolve their actions and is liable to have a game stopping coup every couple of turns.

Components
The original Junta, like all most games from the roaring 80's, suffered from cheap components. The only thing durable was the board (and even that cracked in the middle after a while), everything else was printed on cheap paper and tore, folded or rubbed out with repeated play.

The reprints have better components, on par with the lower end of today's games but far from the quality Fantasy Flight, Eagle or Days of Wonder games.

Gameplay

Junta is played in rounds where the most important thing is the annual budget meeting where El Presidente secretly draws money from a stack and promises to give it to different players (representing the army, navy, air force and secret police). The division of loot is traditionally begun with El Presidente complaining about the poor budged and followed by every player threatening, bargaining or whining for more money. Then the budged is voted upon and players have a number of votes based on what political cards they have drawn and played.

After this each player secretly chooses a location his character is going to. Only two are important – the bank where one can send ones money to safe keeping in Switzerland (this is how one wins the game) and the headquarters where one can instigate a coup. Each player then gets a shot at using cards to guess where other players are and try to assassinate them.

If there is a coup little troop markers are rolled out and a move-and-dice fest begins. Troops are killed by rolling a six on a standard D6 and units use from two to six dice. Each player controls between one and six units. Woe on the player who controls the air force or the navy for he will stand and do little but bomb the palace during this phase. The weakest part of the coup mechanic is that once the coup is over players still get to vote on who will be the new Presidente – and there is a distinct possibility that nothing will change.

This continues until the money in La Republica de los Bananos runs out, at which time each player shows his hidden stash of Swiss bullion and compares. The winner is usually the quiet player who's turned his coat the most times.

Conclusion
I used to Love-with-a-capital-L Junta when I was young. Now it merely bores me. Maybe I'm not as ardent a gamer as I used to be, but today, having tasted the forbidden fruit of Eurogames, I do not wish to spend 5+ hours mostly waiting for other players to finish their moves.
Junta is a game full of fond memories. It is better to leave it that way than to try playing it again.
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Klaus Knechtskern
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Philip,

if you want get rid of it drop me a geekmail....

Klaus
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C Lloyd
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Well, I'll agree with part of your assesment. Junta is full of good memories for me. Haven't played in a while, but that's mostly due to the fact that it's best played with seven (and it's really the only way IMO). Granted, it can be a bit long, but I don't recall having much downtime. And as far as the coups go... That's a large part of the game, not a break in the action. Junta is one game I'm not giving up, even if I don't play it much anymore. But that's just my opinion.
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Les Marshall
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Junta is not and does not pretend to be anything that a typical wargame or Eurogame is.

Junta is a beer and pretzels, low rent backstabbing diplomacy/bluffing game which does a good job of capturing the tongue in cheek flavor it aimed for.

What you do mean by "game stopping" coups? The coups are part of the fun. While it is possible to spend several turns on the outs with the current president, this is the time for rabid oppositional propaganda while you hunt through the deck for just the right cards to upset the apple cart. After all, the current president is unlikely to hold power for long if the other players are sane.

Junta is a game to be pulled out occasionally for a good laugh with friends and fills a niche where serious wargames and family friendly Euro's just don't belong.
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Well, it's mainly the metagame that makes it interesting. Get 6 to 10 people in the right mood at the table, and suddenly the game mechanics are very much secondary. 6 players really is the 'critical mass' for this game (you didn't mention for how many players this review was intended).
And use the 8 to 10 player expansion, even when playing with less players, because it makes the game more balanced.
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Filip W.
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Asperamanca wrote:
Well, it's mainly the metagame that makes it interesting. Get 6 to 10 people in the right mood at the table, and suddenly the game mechanics are very much secondary. 6 players really is the 'critical mass' for this game (you didn't mention for how many players this review was intended).

I agree completely. I haven't played with less than 5 players in the last 6 years, and mostly with 6 or 7 players (in the standard game). Up until, say, 2 years ago I thought that Junta was an OK game.

But playing Junta at a gaming club was a real eye opener for me. I went from a tight gaming group where every game was good to an environment where I didn't know the players very well. And I discovered that a good game is a game that can be played with people you don't particularily know/care about and still be fun - it's when the game itself is fun, not the company playing it.

Therefore I no longer appreciate Junta. I could be talked into it by my old gaming group, but I no longer will play Junta with strangers because I know that in most instances it won't work. And that's a game breaker for me.

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steven mathers
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I like it. I agree that the coup phase can take too long.

It can happen that the president and a few allies can form an almost unbreakable clique which can be frustrating if you are on the outer. Then the bargaining for budget phase becomes meaningless.

I really dont think the game needs a map and unit counters. I think the coup phase would have been much more fun and interesting if it was played out quickly just with cards, sort of like some kind of Steve Jackson-esque trumping card game. Giving the faction cards like Peasants and so on more military power would give players outside a clique some extra tools to use.

I also think that money is too one dimensional - there arent a lot of uses for it in the game other than banking for victory points. It would be a nice touch if the player could do some powerful gaming stuff with money, and thereby be faced with the strategic choice of whether to bank it or invest it in power cards. The way it is, the only strategic choice a player has with money is when to be at the bank to avoid being shot.
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Danny Stevens
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Asperamanca wrote:
...I discovered that a good game is a game that can be played with people you don't particularily know/care about and still be fun - it's when the game itself is fun, not the company playing it.


Actually, I still love playing Junta and I play it with strangers to find out if their approach to gaming is similar to mine, tounge in cheek, try things out and enjoy the mind game when its offered rather than only the strategy game. I like being the admiral just so that I have the pleasure of firing the obligatory openning shots at the imperial palace during a coup.

The people I select to play this game with a second time know that it only works as an "every man for himself" game and so they don't form cliques that can't be broken by a good offer. Play is fast and furious and everyone has a good idea how to come out well from a coup with lots of laughs at suprise twists.

Junta is a greata way to clear your palette between heavier game sessions.
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C Lloyd
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stevenmathers wrote:
It can happen that the president and a few allies can form an almost unbreakable clique which can be frustrating if you are on the outer.

I find that this only happens when the President's allies are naive. There's only so much money to go around, and you can't pay everyone (including youself) enough to stay in power.

stevenmathers wrote:
I also think that money is too one dimensional - there arent a lot of uses for it in the game other than banking for victory points. It would be a nice touch if the player could do some powerful gaming stuff with money, and thereby be faced with the strategic choice of whether to bank it or invest it in power cards. The way it is, the only strategic choice a player has with money is when to be at the bank to avoid being shot.

That's a great idea! Not sure how it would be implemented, but it sounds interesting. Maybe you could buy extra cards to use, or something like that.
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C Lloyd
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Asperamanca wrote:
Well, it's mainly the metagame that makes it interesting. Get 6 to 10 people in the right mood at the table, and suddenly the game mechanics are very much secondary. 6 players really is the 'critical mass' for this game (you didn't mention for how many players this review was intended).
And use the 8 to 10 player expansion, even when playing with less players, because it makes the game more balanced.

Not that I have a group that big, but what is this 8-10 player expansion? I never heard of it before. Is it a new thing, or has this been around for a while?
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I've heard good things about Junta for a while now and so was happy to give it a shot at our game groups NEw YEar's Party last night. I was incredibly disappointed.

As others mentioned, the coups pretty much stopped the game and from my perspective were quite boring and unnecessary. We played for about 3 hours and had to sit through nearly a coup every turn... I kept looking at the stack of bills thinking "we can't stop until that stack is depeleted?" We finally had to quit at about 3:30am as some of us had to go... though I think we were all pretty tired of the game by then.

It's a shame because there is a good game in there trying to get out. The theme is great and the social aspects seemed to work well. I'd get rid of the game board and abstract-ize the coups into some sort of card-laying scheme ala Battle of the Bands, with certain Influence cards giving the player access to certain factions that are willing to hit the streets when the time is right. And as someone else mentioned, find more uses for money. Could be an interetsing project for someone with a lot of time...

Brian
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Mark Humphries
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bwridge wrote:
As others mentioned, the coups pretty much stopped the game and from my perspective were quite boring and unnecessary.


The coups resolution was an essential part of this game's appeal, sounds like you're looking for a Euro treatment of the topic.
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MYOB MYOB
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Oh, great, coup arguments again.

Here's the thing. A large chunk of Junta players are attracted to the politics and backstabbing but not so much the wargaming; others dig the wargaming as much as the politics.

Now, coups are virtually a separate game from the political-economic-assassination skulduggery...while that may be part of the problem, since it's easy to dislike disjointed games, it provides a wonderful solution too. It's easy as pie to use a coup variant, and many have been proposed. Most are die-roll things that use stuff like troop numbers (yes, I kind of dislike those variants as way too blase), but for those who have and like BANG!, the BANG! coup variant (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/25052) works wonders...and quite captures the feel of coups, too, with nobody knowing who's on whose side until the shooting's over.

In short, if you don't like the coups, don't give up on Junta; mod it.
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Andreas Johansson
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filwi wrote:

Junta is the now classic game of money grubbing in an unnamed Banana Republic(tm).

Technically, it's not unnamed - it's called La Republica de las Bananas.
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Simon Cordner
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I'm surprised by how long people say it takes to play Junta. I just played a session with 6 players, a lot of fun, and it took about 150 minutes.

Plus, we have a player that's addicted to coups.

I'm curious what it is that stretches the game out for others.
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Michael Perry
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I find a coup takes 20-30 minutes, but usually when I'm playing Junta at least half the players have never played before. The game races along if you don't end up in a lot of coups.

The unbreakable coalition is a huge problem in a 5-player game, because the two Coalition players get two roles each, and the two Outsider players get only one, which makes coups almost impossible. For this reason, I highly recommend the expansion for a 5-player game. For the same reason, I don't recommend it for the 7-player game: three players would get two roles each, and three would get one each. Obviously you wouldn't use it with 4, and you have to use it with 8-10, but it's kind of a toss-up for 6. I'd lean towards using it.

The expansion was printed in a magazine, and I got a Xeroxed copy of it with the game when I bought it (thank you eBay). The three new roles are Minister of War, Foreign Minister, and Farm & Labor Secretary. It also has location and control markers for three new players (Cane, Scarf, and Boots, but since I got a Xerox I don't know what colors they were, if they had colors). Details:

- Farm & Labor gets 5 votes, instead of 1 like all other positions. He/she may also play any Event cards as though he controlled Labor Union and Peasants (but does not control their votes).

- Instead of drawing 8 money cards, Farm & Labor chooses a number from 2 to 7 and draws that many cards. Then, Foreign Minister chooses from 2 to 7 and draws. They each get to look at their pile, then hand it to the President. The two piles together form the budget.

- After the money is drawn, and before the budget is proposed, the Minister of War may give New Weapons to any General, or Air Force or Navy, or to nobody. The regular units that come with that role score hits on a 5 or 6, if a coup happens this turn. Other units that player controls aren't affected.

- The Minister of War controls the Bodyguard unit, which automatically has the New Weapons bonus. It starts based on that player's Location:
Bank -> Bank
Headquarters -> Cathedral
Home -> Wealthy Neighborhood
Mistress -> University City
Nightclub -> Market

- The Minister of War may move two separate stacks each coup phase (which of course makes the rules for trading coup units very important).

- At the start of coup phase 1, the Foreign Minister rolls a die and subtracts 2. He/she gets that many Foreign Intervention units, which automatically have the New Weapons bonus. He/she chooses those units from the following pool:
4 Air Strikes
1 Helicopter
1 Paratrooper
3 Commandos
They are deployed in the same way as the regular units of those types.
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Max Pfennighaus
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Ugh. This review is the final nail in the coffin for me. I think I'll have to pass on trying Junta. Seems like a game I should have played back in the day in order to be nostalgic about it now.
 
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James Wahl
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Fireflyz wrote:
I find a coup takes 20-30 minutes, but usually when I'm playing Junta at least half the players have never played before. The game races along if you don't end up in a lot of coups.

The unbreakable coalition is a huge problem in a 5-player game, because the two Coalition players get two roles each, and the two Outsider players get only one, which makes coups almost impossible. For this reason, I highly recommend the expansion for a 5-player game. For the same reason, I don't recommend it for the 7-player game: three players would get two roles each, and three would get one each. Obviously you wouldn't use it with 4, and you have to use it with 8-10, but it's kind of a toss-up for 6. I'd lean towards using it.

The expansion was printed in a magazine, and I got a Xeroxed copy of it with the game when I bought it (thank you eBay). The three new roles are Minister of War, Foreign Minister, and Farm & Labor Secretary. It also has location and control markers for three new players (Cane, Scarf, and Boots, but since I got a Xerox I don't know what colors they were, if they had colors). Details:

- Farm & Labor gets 5 votes, instead of 1 like all other positions. He/she may also play any Event cards as though he controlled Labor Union and Peasants (but does not control their votes).

- Instead of drawing 8 money cards, Farm & Labor chooses a number from 2 to 7 and draws that many cards. Then, Foreign Minister chooses from 2 to 7 and draws. They each get to look at their pile, then hand it to the President. The two piles together form the budget.

- After the money is drawn, and before the budget is proposed, the Minister of War may give New Weapons to any General, or Air Force or Navy, or to nobody. The regular units that come with that role score hits on a 5 or 6, if a coup happens this turn. Other units that player controls aren't affected.

- The Minister of War controls the Bodyguard unit, which automatically has the New Weapons bonus. It starts based on that player's Location:
Bank -> Bank
Headquarters -> Cathedral
Home -> Wealthy Neighborhood
Mistress -> University City
Nightclub -> Market

- The Minister of War may move two separate stacks each coup phase (which of course makes the rules for trading coup units very important).

- At the start of coup phase 1, the Foreign Minister rolls a die and subtracts 2. He/she gets that many Foreign Intervention units, which automatically have the New Weapons bonus. He/she chooses those units from the following pool:
4 Air Strikes
1 Helicopter
1 Paratrooper
3 Commandos
They are deployed in the same way as the regular units of those types.


Found it here: https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/9975/junta-varpdf
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