Tom Clancy's Politika
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For those who don't know:
Politika was published in 1997 by Red Storm Entertainment, and the main theme is that Yeltsin has died shortly after democracy was installed in Russia (and the old Soviet states) and now 8 factions are vying for control of the country. (Church, Communists, KGB, Army, Church, Seperatists, Reformers, and the Mafia, each of which have special abilities like stealing money from other factions, or gaining additional monies for having control of certain regions)
The game map is massive, and shows Russia, each region with it's name in russified english, and a number of pips equal to how likely it is to produce resources. At the start of the game each player picks a faction, and then 'influence' markers are randomly put down, 3 per region and 3 per uprising (3 uprisings: Bourgeoisie, Student, Labour which stop production in regions that they're in, having partial control of these allow you to move them)
The game plays a lot like any standard war game from that point on. At the start of each turn you flip over a production card which shows which 3 regions will produce money for players which have influence in them.
After that you move to the active phase, each player has 2 representative markers on the map, which allow challenges to other factions and an opportunity to gain control of more of the map, or to challenge uprisings to gain more control in those. The defender gets dice equal to the number of influence markers they have in the region + the number of influence that their ally (if any) while the attacker must pay for dice beyond their first.
The dice rolls can also be influenced by action cards, you get a number of them at the start of the game, and then can buy more later.
This main part of the game plays a lot like Risk with money involved and less pieces to work with, but it's ultimately less satisfying.
Alliances and the special faction ablities are ultimately the most interesting special features of the game, but they're also poorly done.
Alliances are absolutely necessary for successful defence, so it makes the game unplayable with anything other than even numbers of players, 4 or 6, it's supposedly playable with 8 but I couldn't imagine how long the game would drag out.
Meanwhile, the special abilities of the factions are unbalanced, with the Seperatists in particular being overpowered because they can produce double money in their production regions, and since more money means more attacking dice things can get out of hand in a hurry.
Above and beyond these issues with bad gameplay you also have to contend with the game components, which are horrific. Though the board itself is well done, the main components of the game, the influence markers, which you constantly have to handle, are flimsy cardboard, poorly made, and are only coloured on one side, the backs being white, which is the Church's colour, so it's a pain to keep them all straight.
I bought this game a few years ago because I'm a Soviet History buff, and loved the idea of playing out the internal struggle in the remains of the old CCCP, unfortunately, this game, which I wanted badly to like, has only been played twice, the second time with extreme reluctance and a half-hearted hope that it'd be better that time around. In other words, even if you think you're exactly the kind of person who would love this game, you probably won't be able to get much enjoyment out of it.
I give the game 1 star simply because as the game is (was?) packaged it's really a disaster. The theme is fantastic, but the execution in this case is so bad that it's completely unplayable without extensive house rules, which I don't have the time or interest to pen.
Avoid at all costs.