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Swing States 2012» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A solid solitaire simulation rss

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Edd Allard
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I own 5 VPG titles, all of them solitaire. After 3 sessions (one massive loss, one close loss and one decisive win), here are my impressions of Swing States 2012.

Components

Swing States has somewhat better components than my previous VPG titles. The counters are thick, heavy, and solid. They feel like they’re made of wood. They punch out of the frame easily, with no tearing or hanging chads. However, VPG has started using a new lazar cutting method, so they come out of the card with a lot of soot on the edges. You’ll want to have a paper towel handy to wipe them off, or you and the game will end up with a lot of smudges the first time you play.

The maps, player aids, and cards are all sturdy cardstock, but not on the same par as the counters. Also, there is one player aid chart detailing how to handle economic up- or down-turns that is buried in the middle of the rulebook (pg. 8) … it would have been nice if that was with the other charts on the back of the rulebook or the player aid card as these events happen often and there are several “if-then” statements in chart.

The rulebook is not the best I’ve seen from VPG. There are a lot of rules, and they tried to organize them in the order they will occur during gameplay. But, since some of the same game effects can result during different phases, they put them in the rules multiple times. Until I played it, I thought some of these were “repeat” events that could occur twice in a turn. Also, they used the same symbols and colors to mean different things depending on if they occurred on one type of card or another … not intuitive.

The cards are standard size, nicely printed, and well organized. And, except for the issue with the symbols mentioned above, the information on the cards is easy to understand and apply in game terms.

However, it all still comes in a ziplock bag that barely holds all of the components once you’ve “unboxed” them.
The price is about on par with other VPG offerings of the same size and quality, so it’s about right.

Components: 3.5 of 5

The Game Experience

Whether playing the standard game (generic nominees) or the more advanced game with actual politicians, the game offers myriad decisions each turn. It combines elements of resource management, worker placement, regional acquisition and control, and offensive and defensive “battles”. There is never enough money to do everything you want to do in a turn, but there is a way to create a money generating “engine” if you have enough time. The AI provides sufficient conflict in terms of both changes to the political climate from turn to turn, as well as an opposing worker placement element that often forces the player to directly “confront the enemy.” The tension is definitely there, and this isn’t one of those solitaire games that goes into “autopilot” after a few turns.

Set-up is quick, easy, and variable which give a different game experience each time. Playing time is reasonable … although I’ve not been able to get in under an hour yet. The record keeping (often tedious in a solitaire game) is easy so you don’t get bogged down and the turns move quickly.

Game Experience: 4.5 of 5

Mechanics

The game engine is definitely the cards. There are 20 in the standard event deck, and 10 more in the reserve deck. Plus there are cards in an optional opposition research deck that may enter play depending on player actions. The event and reserve deck cards will all come into play (one per turn) so the game is generally 30+ turns. These cards drive most of the tension in the game as each has multiple effects from changing current voter opinion in a region (usually downward), increasing or decreasing your influence in a region, or sending the opposition nominees to “campaign” in one or more regions. Each card also indicates how much money your campaign has to spend in that turn.

Each turn the player has several choices to make: where to have your nominees campaign/advertise, how best to spend your limited money, whether to prepare early for a debate (better chances of success) or to keep “stumping”, etc.

As already noted, there’s a fair amount of tension throughout the game. In all three sessions so far, I had a number of states that were “too close to call” requiring a number of end-game runoffs. Although I knew the first game was “out of reach”, the other two were close enough that it really came down to the final vote count before I really knew where I stood.

The optional use of “real” candidates with variable game-influencing abilities only enhances an already thoughtful representation of the election process. Between the optional candidates and the variable decks, this game definitely has legs. I see several replays in the future … even more if they release new candidates for future election years, as the base game is generic enough as it stands.

Mechanics: 4.5 of 5

Replayability

The optional use of “real” candidates with variable game-influencing abilities only enhances an already thoughtful representation of the election process. Between the optional candidates and the variable decks, this game definitely has legs. I see several replays in the future … even more if they release new candidates for future election years, as the base game is generic enough as it stands.

Replayability 4.5/5

Audience

This game won’t suit everyone. Like a lot of solitaire games, there’s a lot to keep track of. Although most of it becomes intuitive after several sessions, it’s still a lot of record keeping. It won’t appeal to hardcore wargamers, as the level of conflict – while high – is more subtle. But, if you’re interested in the subject matter, don’t mind the extra record keeping and chart referencing, and want to play a well-designed AI, this is definitely one for you!

Overall Rating 4.5/5

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Joe Zarate-Sanderlin
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I was ready to write a review and then my twins arrived!

I like your take on this and I have enjoyed it as well. What I find great is that the Republican side (the only side with whom I have won) has an uphill battle however the Democratic side has the opportunity for quick disaster with the Fiasco rules. I have yet to play with candidates and I am looking forward to seeing how that shakes out.

Though I like the new laser counters, mine were pretty smudged even before I punched them out and that was disappointing. I know that they are working on it, though. I think the smoke smell is more suitable for war games . . .
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Edd Allard
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jofezasa wrote:
I think the smoke smell is more suitable for war games . . .


Too funny! But yeah, I heard they are working on it as well.
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