“Truly I was born to be an example of misfortune, and a target at which the arrows of adversary are aimed.” ― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote
First Impressions – Junta: Las Cartas
Greetings, my dear compañeros. It’s another underful day in the paradise state of the Republica de las Bananas. The sun is shining, the working class is protesting, the army is revolting and our flight with a suitcase full of Pesos is ready to take off to Switzerland.
This review describes first impressions of 6 junta generals fighting with political cards for or against El Presidente who tries to “convince” the other players with a *cough* fair share of the state budget in order to prevent a coup by a revolution leader. This little confession is not based on deep insider knowledge, but should help you whether such a truly democratic game is something for your local country as well or whether you should rather try something else (you little traitor). The tested game is the German language version published by Pegasus which is highly language dependent thanks to a lot of card text and does not contain any English language, so English-only players may have to wait for another publication of this game.
Junta: Las Cartas is a little card game which is (in its essence) closely related to its grandfather Junta, the board game. It’s a mean, cut-throat game play full of bribes, betrayal and – most importantly – crying and laughter. Be warned: If you have already destroyed friendships during a game of ludo, this is not your game...
Game Rules & Mechanics
Players draw politics cards as the main game mechanism resource and the player with the president role assigns a randomly drawn amount of money to some or all players (and most importantly, to himself). All players are then allowed to play up to two cards which could have an instant one-time effect (intervention cards), a permanent bonus (building cards) or provide votes or conflict points (influence cards). Beside any number bonus, most cards have more or less critical effects manipulating existing cards, changing the game order or provide other nasty little consequences.
When playing a vote-related card, the player has to decide to vote for or against the presidential budget. If there are enough votes in favour of the budget, all players take the money on their suitcase. All played influence cards go back to a player’s hand at the end of a round. However, any such money is only save at the end of a following round, so still enough time to be stolen or lost during a coup by other players.
In case the president’s budget is not approved by the other players, there is automatically a coup with the player having the most votes against the president also being the revolution leader. In this case all players, starting with the “Fidel Castro”, play an amount of hidden cards which may or may not include valuable influence cards with conflict points (now the only relevant number) as well as a revolution card indicating whether they actually join the rebellion or defend the president (i.e., their fair share of the budget). It should be noted that you can bluff by putting non-battle point cards hidden on the table as well, but all cards played during a coup are lost.
The loosers of the coup battle are punished severly... they loose their money accumulated from last round (which is only safe at the end of the following turn) and any of their Pesos from the current budget will be shared between the winners.
As usual in such pursuation and traitor games, the can even split your votes and your side during a battle is totally up to you. The ultimate goal is getting money and surviving long enough to move it to your Swiss bank account. The player with the most money at the end of the game wins.
Game Play & Strategy
Let’s keep it short here – it’s a rather simple card game with budget determination by the president, two actions to play cards by everybody and a one-time hidden play of cards for coup resolution (if any). The real fun of this game is driven by the player interaction, bribe attempts, sudden betrayals and a lot of trash talk. Therefore, I would not even try to play this game with less than 5-6 players just to keep the chaotic spirit of Junta. A gaming group should like deduction and social interaction games like Coup or Resistance and the amount of special actions on cards may not be easy for beginners as well. A six player round may also actually take up to 60 minutes, but thanks to a lot of discussion and tension it did never feel long for such a game.
As often in those games, Presidents and Rebellion Leaders tend to have a short live span, while the calm (and surviving) player in the corner grabbing a little money each round may have the most money in the end. Nevertheless it’s important that you don’t play these games expecting a lot of strategy an advance planning. You have random options, crazy generals around you and always try to jump to the winning side.
Although the theme and background of this game may not be for everybody and hardcore Junta generals may smile mildly about this down-sized mini-version, the spirit of the cut-throat mechanism of its grandfather can be felt strongly here (although sometimes in a painful way very directly against one).
It still remains a quite random, little card game which needs the right mood and amount of players, but then the play group should enjoy about an hour of a very entertaining banana republic session.
The card production quality and the art work is o.k., maybe the one or other motive could be a bit sillier (especially the building pictures seem to be a bit boring to me). My one real point of criticism would be the 4 page rulebook flyer of the German version – it’s really not a complicated game, but the publisher manages it that key topics are too much hidden or simply not found like which cards are kept or have to be dropped, how are already placed influence cards counted for battle or the correct use of building cards with values in different phases.
So, El Presidente, what will we do with this little box now? The other members of the government are already waiting for you to put it on the table again, together with a little incentive to “sweeten the deal” - who knows what happens if major fractions are not satisfied…