My game is a game of talking your way from one point to two entirely unrelated points. It was inspired by the theater of political debates, especially the recent Democratic Debates between all the Democratic nominees for president. Nominees will often be asked what the average person would agree are straightforward questions, and instead of answering what was asked of them, the nominees will talk their way though all sorts of twists and turns to talk about something completely unrelated to the question at hand. This kind of mental gymnastics would be a lot more entertaining if it weren’t for the realization that these people want to lead one of the most important countries in the world and they literally can’t answer a simple yes or no question. So I thought I’d channel this general disbelief at the state of the political establishment into a fun and entertaining party game.
In my game, three players act as candidates in a debate. Rounds consist of each candidate drawing two discussion cards, and a non-candidate player asking the candidates a question, preferably with a political theme. Each candidate must then refer to their discussion cards, which all feature different unique subjects for them to try to weave into their answer. For instance, a non-candidate may ask the candidates what they think about Canadian armies amassing on the northern border. The candidate must then refer to their cards (which include subjects like “Your Favorite Anime” and “BIC Ballpoint Pens”) to see what they must talk about in their answer.
An example of how someone might answer that question with those cards is as follows: “Well you know, that’s a very important question. Obviously I take national security very seriously. I believe that everything should have a tight lid on it, you know, very covered up, prevent spilling any red. Sort of like a BIC ballpoint pen, you have to keep the cap on it or else you’ll get red all over your pocket. You’ll end up with a pocket that looks like Japan’s flag. And you know, speaking of Japan, I just rewatched my favorite anime, Yuri on Ice, and that had some Canadians in it. So perhaps if things escalate we can ask our friends in Japan if they know anything about Canadian tactics after making a whole anime about their ice skating antics?” Something like that. It makes no sense and is only tangentially related to the question at hand, but I got from the main point to my two preferred talking points, so it’s all good!
After each candidate has said their piece, the rest of the players vote on who they think “won the debate.” What criteria that’s based on is entirely up to the individual player. Whoever wins the debate gets a point, and the next three players clockwise are the new debaters. The first player to 5 points wins the game, and the election! Yay, democratic process!
As mentioned before, my game is meant to satirize the political theater that goes on in America. Everything that politicians do to secure the vote is, at it’s heart, an act. Presidential candidates are constantly performing to an audience of roughly a quarter of a billion eligible voters in order to secure their vote at the ballot box in November. So when candidates have the chance, on national TV, to talk, they’ll take it, even if it means they don’t answer what questions we really want to know. That, and just general frustration at the state of democracy in America, where not even people in the same party can agree on the most basic fundamental policies for America. It’s cathartic to goof on the process every once in a while with friends.
The actual gameplay is of course inspired by other popular party games like Apples to Apples, Metagame, and Cards Against Humanity. I like the random nature of these games, where you can’t quite expect the same thing to happen in any two games. Plus the development and testing process helps me flex my creative and comedic muscles for writing open ended prompts for players to mess with. The game-testing process helped me outline the important minutia like how exactly to write the cards for maximized humor potential, and the bigger stuff like how many rounds each candidate pool goes through, how many discussions cards they should each receive, if the players should argue with each other, those things.
Here are some of the discussion cards players might receive as candidates:
- Game of Thrones Season 8
- The Houston Astros
- Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Sheep Herding in Seattle
- The Merriam-Webster Dictionary
- Stale Wheat Thins
- Your Favorite Anime
- IKEA Furniture
- The North Pole
- The TV Show FRIENDS
- Apple Products
- Thermal Underwear
- BIC Ballpoint Pens
- A Red-Ringed XBOX
- A Paper Jam
- Amazon Warehouse Workers
- A Hydroflask
- An Backpack Full of Notebooks