Board Game Gumbo is pleased to present the first content provided by members of the Gaming Guild at SUNY WCC. Steve is one of the advisors for the Guild and this game review involved four Guild members: Giulia, Renzo, Bryann, and Dani. They have more on the way, so stay tuned for more posts from slightly further north and east of Louisiana.
To celebrate the beginning of Women’s History Month, four members of our Gaming Guild learned a game that follows the real world social and political events of the Suffragist movement in America. It’s called Votes for Women. (Thanks to Fort Circle Games for providing us with a copy of the game for review purposes.)
Votes for Women is a 1-4 player game that has players taking on the roles of either Suffragists working to pass and ratify the 19th Amendment or playing as the Opposition trying to maintain the status quo and denying women the right to vote. Designed by Tory Brown, developed by Kevin Bertram, and with graphic design by Brigette Indelicato, this card-based board game is a cube-pushing, historically accurate tabletop tug of war. Players battle for influence in Congress to pass the 19th Amendment, while simultaneously campaigning in six different regions across the country to affect voting in the individual states needed to ratify it.
Here are the Guild’s thoughts on our learning game of Votes for Women…
Firstly, none of the players had heard of the game before, so there weren’t many preconceived notions about it. While Steve set up the board, shuffled the card decks, and prepared the components for the teach, Giulia, Bryann, Dani, and Renzo looked things over and tried to get the lay of the land game-wise. Most of the group had not seen a game like this before, so they were intrigued.
The board is a basic map of the United States, but the other components give the game a strong table presence. This final production copy has very stylish meeples for the campaigners on both sides. (One meeple was broken in transit at a point where the wood became a bit narrow, but it would be easily fixed with a little glue.) The Guild’s evaluation of the game’s aesthetic and vibe pre-play was that it looked and felt very cool. The graphic design and visual appeal made us interested and drew us in. The card art and flavor text were particular standouts in this regard.
Big bonus for history buffs: The game comes with reproduced documents that evoke the time period and put you in the right mind-space for that era. These are well-done extras, as is the booklet full of historical information and designer’s notes. They aren’t used at all in game play, but they do give what’s in the box some added style and character. (Gumbo folks might call this a welcome little “lagniappe” – something extra and excellent as a bonus.)
The gist of the game is that the Suffragists need to get the 19th Amendment through Congress and then get 36 states to ratify it. If they do both of those things, they win. In early rounds, that looks like a pretty heavy lift. Those 36 states will require a lot of cubes and a lot of wrangling. The Opposition can win by stopping the progress of the Amendment in Congress for six rounds or by having 13 states vote “no” if the Amendment gets to the ratification stage.
During the early rounds, the Opposition is very likely to get the better of things. However, the Suffragists have more campaigners and campaign buttons available during the game. This allows them to hop around the country more and redeem those tokens for benefits (Strategy cards, rerolls of dice, etc.). The Suffragists can therefore build a better engine for getting cubes representing influence in the states all over the map. Those cubes also give the Suffragists a better chance of earning additional one-time powers through special State cards. It’s a great back-and-forth battle for the hearts and minds of America. The Opposition wants to stall and block; the Suffragists build momentum for change and become harder to stop as the game goes on.
Throughout the game, the rulebook was generally clear and quite helpful. The section on how to set-up the game was organized and detailed. The iconography for actions with cubes, cards, and tokens was welcoming to new players. There are a lot of moving parts to this game, so the Guild found it a little confusing at the start. Good news, though… you can really rely on the card content to guide you in your actions. Card play is the core of the game, so that’s a very good thing that it’s clear and user-friendly. Once we were rolling, everyone pretty much got the rhythms of the turns and rounds down pat.
Votes for Women is a cube-pusher of a Euro game, so the mechanics are strong and drive the game-play. The theme is definitely there, but it can definitely feel rather abstract. All of the flavor text and excellent artwork in the game is designed to engage and draw you in. It works, but only to a point. We had fun and laughed when a big turn happened that really changed the board configuration. But while we may have been competing to take control of Illinois, Pennsylvania, Texas, or Georgia, we didn’t always feel like we were the women barnstorming and marching for change or the patriarchy undermining change in the smoky back rooms of politics. Your mileage may vary on how much the theme really pops.
We really liked that the four-player game we played was competitive across the teams but allowed for good cooperation within the teams. However, in a game like this where history looks back at one side as the righteous winners and the other side as the self-centered oppressors, it might not always feel so great to be on the side of history that was denying women’s rights. It’s a game, of course, so we tried to take it that way. Approach it with an open-mind and deal with any conflicts by switching sides between plays of the game. Don’t make some players the “bad guys” all the time. As a matter of fact, we’re excited to flip things and see things from the other side of the board in a second play!
It’s good that there’s a bot that will allow you to play solo, but we haven’t tried that yet. You can always make the bot represent the patriarchy and play with a clear conscience.
So to sum things up:
- Great artwork to bring the theme out
- Very fun to play and we wanted to try it again almost immediately
- Replayable, especially if you are willing to play on either side of the conflict
- Educational and true to the events (very much appreciated by the history student in the group)
- Game play is very smooth and intuitive once you are past the first round
- Love the theme, but it does have an abstract feel
- Has some luck with dice rolls, but can be mitigated a bit with planning
- The set-up and teach take some time
- As with many games that feature maps full of cubes, can be fiddly
- The map did feel a bit tight – a little more space might have helped
- Endgame can be a little luck-based (dice-driven roll-call for final votes in undecided states)
With all that said, the Guild’s quick review of Votes for Women after our first play was very positive. For people who are new to the hobby, this will be different from most of the games they’ve played before. With game #1 in the books, we expect it will come back to the table soon. Everyone felt that this game was an 8 or higher on a 10-point rating scale. We’d certainly recommend it for history lovers, Euro players, and people comfortable with a tug-of war style area control game with asymmetrical win conditions.
Stay tuned for what we hope will be more game reviews and content from the Gumbo’s new partners in the northeast: The Gaming Guild!
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