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The Political Machine 2012


The Political Machine 2012

ESRB: Teen - T
Platform: PC Games
Category: Simulation, Strategy

I know next to nothing about American poltics. There, I've said it, it's out. However, if it's anything like British politics (and from what my American friends tell me, it is, but moreso), getting the vote includes promising gullible people that you'll do what they want or get what they need (honest!), and raking muck all over your opponents. In this, The Political Machine 2012 does admirably. Thing is, despite the cartoony graphics and obvious satire... I can't actually tell if it's taking the mickey or not most of the time.


The graphics are cartoony, but simple, much like the game. The UI is pretty clear, and there's only a few things you need to keep an eye on in your average game. All of these are larger than that thing you don't amazingly care about, the Popular Vote (top of the screen, tiny letters and numbers). The caricatures of various political figures are spot on (although they all have smiles, which makes Palin extra creepy), and you know what does what. Excellent.


This is one of the places the game falls down, as it's pretty much a couple of music loops and basic sound effects. It does the job, but it's very minimalist, and the marching band music loop will probably wear if you play it for too long. Luckily, that isn't too much of an issue.


The gameplay is fairly simple, but effective. Within your time limit (default of 21 turns), you have to get the votes in various states, keep your funding relatively constant, and smear the hell out of your opponent. There are several ways of doing this, but let me tell you about my first game to give you an idea.

So, for the giggles, I picked Newt Gingrich. Why? Because his “Get us living on the Moon” platform amused me, and besides, he's one of the more colourful individuals of American Politics from what I hear. I built up my home territory, almost immediately went to my opponent's home turf, and made an expensive advert to claim he doesn't want you all to get jobs. Considering this was Al Gore I was up against, this is unlikely, but American politics, what can you do? The addition of a smear merchant to Al's home state ensured I'd committed the political equivalent of a driveby shooting, Meanwhile, Al is trying to build up his political capital.

I jet around, giving speeches, securing the home state and Texas. I'm building only a few Outreach Centres and Consulting Offices (Giving you points toward free lobbyists and “operatives”, who do things from intimidating the opposition to writing scripts for your speeches, increasing your charm), instead concentrating on getting Headquarters (giving Funding and Awareness boosts to various states... Awareness is basically “How many voters will get interested enough to vote?” in a state). When the time came to pick a co-runner, I again went for the comedy option of Sarah Palin. Co-runners, in the game, boost your Awareness, so I plopped her down next to Texas to get a few more guaranteed votes, as Texas was Republican from the very beginning, and the surrounding states would also give me a few easy votes among the vast majority of “undecided” in the country.

Occasionally, I would take the odd random event or interview (represented in game by cameras or question marks). Random events were generally good, although in the second to last turn of the game, I got slapped with an expensive lawsuit. Go me. The interviews, however, were the hardest to deal with, as you have to remember what national issues are a big deal and which aren't. You get several choices, and I went on a pro-life, anti-unemployment, and anti-Iran platform, which seemed to work for me. Please note that most of this was playing the game, not my own beliefs. I went for what was popular to the voters, not what I believed.

After all of that, voting time came around, and... I was first past the post, by a measly 2 state votes. Not a runaway victory, by any means, but I'd denied Al Gore his victory, presumably doomed the world to nuclear annihilation and living on the moon, and... lost the popular vote by about 5 million, maybe more. Oh well, you clearly don't have to be popular to win!

There is a fair amount of strategic variety in the game, and you can customise both the game and your candidate, should you wish, but the game does what it's meant to do: provide a satirical board game on computer that simulates the craziness of American politics. How does it do as a game, though? Well, firstly, it's under $15, so it's pretty cheap, and you effectively get what you pay for... a game that can be played quickly, can be ignored most of the time, but occasionally jetted through for an hour or two of light amusement. I just wish it didn't require registration with Stardock, logging in, and all that crap.


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