Marcus Roberts is Deputy General Secretary of the Fabian Society.
First, the candidate’s charm and grit are needed to persuade the apathetic voter – I mean, gamer – to participate. Next, the organiser’s talents are put to the test: beer, pizza and careful diary management are required to make your gaming operation truly effective. Then the spin doctor and number-cruncher can get to work, framing rules arguments and calculating win numbers as they work out the paths to victory.
But why should you, the busy candidate, stressed organiser or all-knowing guru, spend your time on such frivolity?
For me, the answer is that gaming is not just enjoyable escapism but actually useful for any politico who wants to stretch their brain whilst having fun. Because when you play proper games of strategy, be it simple Risk or complex Catan, you grapple with so many of the dynamics that drive the great game of politics itself: the balance of probabilities, the role of chance, the impact of rivals, the importance and irrelevance of planning, and so much more.
When I play games, my mind works over the problem of winning and delights in the search for creative paths to victory. (The joy of crushing my friends is a bonus.) Then, when I return to work, thinking about one candidate’s messaging problem or the field plan needed in a low turnout council ward, my mind sees parallels between the games I play and the problems I must solve. The result is solutions that may be more creative or better thought-out then would be otherwise the case. During time spent gaming my mind has worked over my political problems anew.
So, having made the case for why you should game, let’s consider how you should game in a few broad categories.
Co-operative games: There are few things funnier than a group of politicos, each confident in their own unique leadership qualities, trying to work together to defeat the game itself. For instance, Pandemic sees your gaming group shouting and seething to create a coherent plan to defeat a global disease epidemic. Unless you can break past your egos the disease will beat the players every time.
Euro games: Have heart ConHome readers who secretly cheer on Farage! Just because this category has “Euro” in it, it doesn’t mean it’s Brussels-bad! The hallmark of these games is high strategy, clever rules (often with handicapping systems to punish more successful players and boost those lagging behind) and high quality maps and pieces. Check out Powergrid for a brilliant game of energy market manipulation, greed and territorial conquest rolled into one – surely the inspiration for Ed’s energy price freeze!
Wargames: What politico doesn’t harbour the certain knowledge that they could have outdone Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg, or beat back William at Hastings? Wargames are your chance to do just that. From faithful historical recreations through to full-on alternate histories, this is your chance to show the strategic prowess that mere mortals like Caesar or Churchill so clearly lacked. Axis & Allies is a good place to start, with huge sprawling games of Twilight Imperium awaiting you after you’ve mastered the basics of the genre.
These categories barely scratch the surface of gaming addiction. Good gateway drugs to get you going also include Dominion, the deck building game with over six trillion possible unique games card combinations, or the beautifully simple, fiendishly frustrating Ticket to Ride for the Andrew Adonis-ish train fans among us.
So, next time you’re contemplating another voter ID shift or direct mail push, do yourself and your strategy a favour – play some board games instead.