Some games are here purely to entertain, where you’ll be playing made up characters in made up locations against made up enemies using made up resources to achieve made up win conditions. You’ll learn how the game works and what strategies will win the day for you. Other games like Endangered will try to raise awareness of a specific topic and attempt to educate and inform you as you play. Then you have those special historical games that take you on a trip of information and discovery, allowing you to learn about established historical events while at the same time offering you the opportunity to potentially change the outcome of same said events. In Votes for Women from Fort Circle Games, you take the journey and the battle for the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the various states of America, gathering support and making Women’s Suffrage a reality in the face of opposition for maintaining the status quo.
Votes for Women is a card based area control game. Main actions are decided based on a hand of six cards every round. The game is asymmetrical, so both players will have slightly differing powers that will change how they start the game, and how they play the game to win. The game is split into two main parts where the Suffrage movement is trying to get enough support in the Senate to force the 19th Amendment to a vote, at which point the game moves into it’s final area control part where both sides are trying to get majority in every state.
Your main actions in the game will revolve around the use of cards in order to play events that will help your side, or trade in cards for an action instead. Some of the event cards will have effects that last an entire round, while others will be historical events that will stay in play for the rest of the game and allow other cards to be played. The main board is broken up into coloured control areas with each of those areas feeding in the states that surround them. For those who are outside of the US, then Votes for Women is going to be as much a geography lesson as a history one, as the board only shows the two letter State code for each of states, while the cards only mention the states by name. I’ll admit that a couple of times I had to stop and check which states matched up to the appropriate letter coding. An American localisation problem which made made me chuckle as I assumed it wouldn’t have been something obvious to the designers. Interestingly while you have campaigners who will move to generate support across each of the States, you won’t ever actively move them until you play a campaigning action. It puts you in the situation where you’ll potentially have an idea of what your opponents next move is, but you won’t know for certain until actually play their move and sometimes you’ll find you’ll end up mitigating previous actions instead of pushing forward. This is when the State and Strategy cards come in, that can be won and provide some bigger advantages to the player that wins them. Strategy cards are won through the process of auctions at the beginning of each round where player will bid in Campaign Buttons. State cards are won by being the first player to place four cubes in the matching state the card is from. The State cards change every game and the strategy cards are a fairly large deck, so it really adds a decent number of variables to future games. Votes for Women is a two act game, with the first act consisting of the Suffragists placing six congressional markers in order to pass the nineteenth amendment for ratification. At this point, it’s a race to fill the states with four support cubes which allows you to trade them for either a tick or cross, depending on which side your are playing. During both parts, you’ll be trying to remove as many of the oppositions cubes as you can in order to replace them with your own and win for your side. Events on both sides ramp up in both seriousness and effect and it can lead to some real back and forth as you approach the endgame.
Once the 36th green tick is placed on the board, then the Suffragists win, however if the amendment is passed by the end of the six round to be sent to be ratified or the opposition gains the support of thirteen states, then they win instead and the Amendment is denied.
You’re looking at around and hour and a half to get through a normal two player game. there’s not a huge amount set up time, with both players only needing to create their own draw deck at the beginning of the game and considering there’s only two players, then you can bag the components up in preparation for when you start.
Votes for Women could have been a much simpler game, with dictated historical facts as you rolled towards victory. It could have been dull, something that paid mere lip service to the real struggle that occurred during that time. What you get here instead is a tight area control game in a very pure form, where every action moves you closer to victory in one way or another. There’s a real feeling here that even taking a single one of the States has ramifications to the outcome of the game, as taking one back once there a few opposition pieces can require you to do a lot work to maintain a status quo. As the game progresses, the events in both player’s decks become more extreme with historical situations that allow specific cards to be played that will either help or hinder you. Unusually the tension is on from the start. Even though the opposition starts with a strong hand and position, if you sit by and let the senate become filled too quickly, you’ll be on the back foot for most of the game. As the game enters the final couple of rounds and the available actions become more extreme, there can be entire shifts in how the game is progressing, so at no point as either side do you feel that there is no point in finishing a game if the other player has an advantage. If you judge this game on the subject matter alone, then you’ll be missing out on playing a game that delivers area control extremely well. You’ll find yourself trying to plan and play like you are on some kind of chess board and often you’ll end up reading each of the event cards for the snippets of historical information that they contain. For those who want to delve deeper, there is a entire collection of documents represented in the box for you to read over and digest. There are a small number of annoyances, like the lack of naming in of the States if you aren’t American that might cause confusion. There’s also no mention of the similar effort that took place over the pond at the same time. These are small grains of sand sitting on a mountain of praise. Honestly, if this is the calibre of games that Fort Circle are offering, then I’m sold, and I’m voting for them every single time. Absolutely excellent.
Control of the Senate triggers the end game and so it’s vital you try to control that as much as you can. A quick trigger of the second phase will benefit the Suffragists more than the Opposition.
This review is based on the retail version of the game provided to us by the designer and publisher. We were not paid for this review. We give a general overview of the gameplay and so not all of the mechanical aspects of the game may be mentioned.
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