BALLOT BOTS (Robot Martini Games, 3-4 players, about 20 minutes; $5.99)
With 2008 being an election year in the United States, it is only natural that games with an election as a focal point would appear in the marketplace. And so it is with, Ballot Bots, a reworked version of a three player game called Treeo, published by Robot Martini Games (www.robotmartini.com) where winning an election is the means for a clever game of set collection.
Ballot Bots, by Mike Petty and Stephen Glenn, comes in a ziplock bag to hold the deck of 49 cards consisting of 4 Campaign cards, 4 Position cards, a Spotlight card (denoting the "first player), 36 Voter cards and 4 Specials. The object of the game, as you might suspect, is to gather the most votes and win over various interest groups. The method to this madness centers on the Campaign and Position cards and the play of your own set of Voter cards.
The four Campaign cards, each with their own ability, head four columns. The Campaign cards offer benefits to the player who plays the "right" card and consist of Fundraiser (allows you to take the top card in the discard pile and add it to your score pile), Advertise (take the public card and place it in your score pile), Speech (take the Spotlight card and take the Spotlight player's card into your score pile) and Debate (claim a played card and put any remaining cards face down on the discard pile in any order). Position cards are placed adjacent to these Campaign cards. Position cards determine if the highest, 2nd highest, 3rd highest or lowest played card wins the Campaign perk for a player.
Voter cards consist of six sets (of six cards each) grouped into six "interest groups", specifically Liberal, Conservative, Minority, Wealthy, Impoverished and Undecided. In addition to its affiliation, each of these cards have an "Influence Value" (ranging from 3 to 38, on the left) and a "Vote Value" (ranging from 0 votes for the Undecided up to 8 for the Conservative, on the right). The four Special Cards have no affiliations but they have extreme Influence values (influence of 1, 2, 39 and 40) and a mild Voter Value of 2 votes each.
The Voter and Special cards are shuffled together and each player receives a hand of 8 cards (10 when three are playing). One of the remaining cards is placed face down to start a discard pile with the rest laid out in a row, the last card in the row called the "Public card". The Spotlight card is given to a player and he can now arrange the Position cards to determine which relative value of card played will win the Campaign perk for the turn. He then plays a card from his hand FACE UP. Each of the other players now choose and simultaneously reveal a card from his hand. Players then claim cards based on the relative Influence values of the cards played.
The process is repeated for seven rounds (nine rounds with three players). After the final round, votes are tallied.
Player receive the number of votes depicted on the cards. In addition, players receive an additional 10 votes for every set of three cards (or more) they have collected from any of the interest groups. (Special cards do not give out bonuses.) Finally, to compensate for the 0 votes of the Undecided group, a player who has managed to collect three or more of those cards gets a 25 vote bonus. The player with the highest total of votes wins! (Tie? The player who has collected the highest valued Influence card gets the edge.)
There is room for a bit of planning to go along with the guessing and second-guessing as you try to determine which way to best spend your resources. By burying a card at the beginning, Ballot Bots successfully frustrates the card counters among us from breaking the game. The card artwork by Gavin Schmitt & David Lovejoy is stylized and fun with colors being easy to distinguish, of particular importance when you're trying to collect color-coded sets, and numbers easy to read. Everything fits into a small ziplock bag which accounts for the small price. And, speaking of small, the cards are smaller than normal (roughly 3" x 2") and the card stock adequate but I wouldn't object to "normal-sized" cards and sturdier stock in a second edition. All things considered, Ballot Bots serves as a pleasant filler and a prime example of good things coming in small packages. - - - - - - - - - Herb Levy
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