05 November 2013

Trying out Junta

David at our club is an avid fan of the boardgame Junta and had been talking about it for quite some time. The problem with the game is that it requires something like 7 people to play  as you have to fill a multitude of roles in the game. The game itself is about some corrupt and obscure bananna republic where the ruling government is stealing money from the UN funds or something similar that is sent to the island to support the population. Players take the role of president, security minister and various generals through elections and then proceed to backstab their way to fortune, there is a lot of randomness involved in the game structure - players can get killed (happens quite often) in which case they lose all their funds and perhaps most important of all the power of your vote cards that players draw at the start of each turn from the shared deck of cards.

The game begins with each player holding a speech about why he should be the president (or just say "pass" if not interested in the position). After this players cast their votes on themselves or another player. Once a president has been elected this player distributes the various cabinet positions (security minister, 3 army generals, 1 air force general and 1 navy general). The president position being the weakest in terms of military power must rely on other players to remain in control - thus you have to balance your own swindling of money with keeping everyone else (or at least the majority) happy.

The president is given an annual budget which he distributes to each player, the players then vote if they want to pass the budget - or call for a new election. If the budget is passed the player may attempt to bring their money to the bank and deposit it in Swiss bank accounts where the money will be safe, attempt to assassinate someone, or start an uprising/rebellion against the president.

Assassination attempts are tricky because you have to guess the location of each player (which is picked at the start of each turn). If you pick the correct location you often also have to roll a D6 to succeed at a specific result.

Igniting a rebellion is also a bit risky; a lone general is never going to topple the president. On the other hand a successful rebellion will grant the rebels the choice of picking their own new president - and kill a player from the opposition.

And around it goes; it's a pretty chaotic game - which can grow tedious if everything bogs down with elections and re-elections each turn. It can probably be a fun game if you are into this type of genre and play with the right people. Our session felt like it would never end, and I personally felt how my enthusiasm dropped after about 2 hours because of the way the game is built. You are very reliant on the cards you draw from the deck - without voters you can't influence anything, and without any other good event or assassin cards you can't do anything really. So for about 1.5 hour I felt extremely passive as all cards I was drawing from the deck were useless and didn't help me out in any way.

But perhaps the main problem with Junta, as I see it, is the player requirement. You need so many people to play this game it's ridiculous. While most games work fine with 3-5 players most of my boardgame sessions involve 3-4 people. It's hard to attract beyond 5 players at my club. So the need for 7 or so players really creates a difficult obstacle for those that actually love the game and would like to play it often.

My score for this game: 6/10.

7 comments:

  1. It's a funny game if the players are playing it non-seriously. True the number of players is a headache, but how much fun it is to start a revolution. Election/Re-elections are less fun

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  2. I played this once in the early 90's. It was a very entertaining game, but we never played it again, probably because of the number of players as you mentioned. I like the theme and chaos of the game, but it sounds like it could use some serious stream-lining.

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  3. We normally played with 5 players, sometimes 6 and one time with 4. I think I must have played Junta about 10-15 times over the late 80's/early 90's. I never found any of the games boring but do not remember enough about the game anymore except I would jump at the chance to play it again. I do not think we had as many elections as you seems to have. Each to their own though!

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  4. Yeah, I don't know exactly how old the game is - but it did seem quite optimistic about the player number. Nowadays most games tend to restrict themselves to being playable with 3 people, and 6 at the most, which is a lot easier to scramble together for a game.

    Perhaps if played as a party game the number of players wouldn't be an issue? The light tone and funny nature of the game would probably suit such situations well.

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  5. Its a late 80's game that can be really fun with enough people. I had a great time playing it with its creator. We used to play it as a new years eve party game.

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  6. I had a lot of fun with it. The players are heads of families not Generals so you can move them around. It is important so they are unable to collect cards to make winning hands.

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  7. I played it a lot as a student - there were enough in the role play groups to do it properly. Its a game that bears numerous plays because as you learn it you learn the others game styles, and can adapt your play.

    El Presedente is notoriously hard to play - you get 8 notes, worth 1, 2, or 3 million pesos each, to distribute among 7 people. Many presidents find it hard to keep every happy. I turned this to my advantage - I didn't appear TOO eager to be elected, but I never dodged it. You then play like Havelock Vetinarii would - you make it too much effort and too costly to replace you. You can't keep every one happy, so don't. Assign enemies to positions they are unsuited for, keep 2 or 3 allies happy- sure they could rise up but they are making more as general than president, and rebels will need overwhelming odds. Don't oppose everything that will hurt you, support the least worst option. And don't get too greedy.

    Do the allocation of money face up, everything on the table, supplementing from your hand if need be.

    Sorry - there is a bit missing in that last sentence, it should start "After palming a couple (not all) high value notes into your hand, and replacing with 1's..."

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