Gameday First Play – Divided Republic
A card driven, area control game based on the 1860 Presidential Election.
Come on the South!
The presidential election of 1860 was one of the most critical in the history of the United States. With civil war looming as a near inevitability, the challenge was to find a way forward after years of degenerating political discourse in the increasingly divided American electorate. In the end, after months of contentious campaigning between four (!) major parties and over a dozen smaller ones, the election was won by the Republican dark horse candidate, a little known Illinois politician named Abraham Lincoln who hadn’t even been the first choice of his party’s senior leadership.
Each player is given a party to control, and obviously the goal of the game is to win the 1860 election.
To win, you need to try and get 153 votes to get the majority.
Each state is worth a number of votes in the game, the smaller states are worth between two and eight votes where as the larger states such as New York can give you 35 votes.
You get those states by controlling them, to control them you need to have a number of cubes in the State meeting the number required to control it.
You add cubes to states by playing cards, they to be used for two different things. In the top left of the card there is a number and this is the number of cubes to a state. At the bottom of the card is an ability that you can play which will do various things.
The abilities on these cards are highly thematic and quite historically accurate. They are things such as speeches by various people that will cause an effect to happen on the board that would’ve been similar to what actually happened in 1860.
These things like making a speech, or effects that referred to actual events that happened at the time.
Eventually somebody will play a card causes a poll. This is where you are given a mini card to represent the state you control if you have a majority of cubes in that state. This is very much an area control/area majority game.
If you have twice as many cubes on a state as required during the Poll in that area you get to lock that state out. That means nobody else will be able to add cubes in that state for the rest of the game.
The game lasts for six rounds with each player playing five cards each round. At the end of the game you poll every state on the board to make sure the players controlling it has the mini card that represents that state.
Each player then adds all the votes they have and if a player has 153 they win the game.
If no one has won the game, the player with the fewest votes is eliminated and cannot win. In this case the player with the most states wins.
This was a very enjoyable and educational game. It’s one of those games is very very easy to play yet still has a lot of strategy.
We played with the full four players and I think that is the only way to play.
Game designer Andrew Parks said ‘A game is mathematics plus emotion’, this is very much the case here.
While my opponents battle for the higher value states in the north-east or the upper South, I locked out the complete South and West of the board so even though I have the third most number of votes at the end, I had worked out I had enough states to win.
A very enjoyable game.