Today we’re here to talk about politics.
Wait, wait wait! Come back. It’ll be ok. We promise.
Throughout human civilization we’ve experimented with one form after another on how different societies of sometimes disparate groups of people came to collectively work together. From tribal leaders, to warlords and despots, to kings and autocrats, to repeated attempts at the often fragility of democratic self-rule. Some leaders and administrators were elected willingly from among its population while others simply imposed their will to rule over its people by force. Whether their perceived right to do so has come from divine belief, their caste or station, the consent of the governed, or the edge of a blade has echoed across time and location for as long as humanity has congregated with each other.
Many have such an aversion to the word, but that organized body, in whatever form it takes, in its most basic form, is all government is: the system by which a society is governed. Despite its many vernacular connotations, there’s nothing scary or mystical about it. Some governments work well while others are abysmal. Some governments adapt quickly to change while others are slow and deliberate in their frameworks. Some governments are incredibly stable, while others routinely teeter on the brink of collapse. Rising above all these different forms (to most at least), is that of a democratic rule – a government by which the supreme power of the government is derived from the people themselves or those selected to represent them.
Democracy, however, is not perfect. It’s messy, loud, and can be confounding or reactionary in its decisions based on the whims of the majority. And it’s incredibly fragile. As several have quoted over the centuries, democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.
Ultimately, it’s not democratic systems or the concept of a government that many have an aversion to. Rather, it’s the intrigue and strategy which those within the system look to obtain or exercise the power that comes with governmental affairs. That’s what we call politics. The form it’s taken varies based on the country, society, and time period in which it’s occurring, be it intriguing and Machiavellian power struggles in medieval courts to the sometimes brilliant, sometimes inept partisan wrangling of the modern day nation-state. Yes, many of us view politics as a dirty word these days (and you would not be entirely wrong), but one thing it isn’t is boring.
It is from that vantage in which we dive into SHASN, the inaugural title by Mumbai-based designer Zain Memon and the Memesys Culture Lab. SHASN is, in effect, a political campaign simulator for 3-5 players in which each person is a politician looking to amass the most support among the voters of various zones and use their backing to secure the election. Using a handful of proto-typical candidate archetypes, each round players are presented with a political issue and must make a choice. Those policy decisions garner you resources that will help build power and trust among supporters, raise funds, and gather political clout – all to keep your voters happy. Building an ideology can yield serious rewards, and one must constantly weigh short-term gains against long-term benefits.
Using a mix of area control, trading, coercive negotiation, and strategic maneuvering, SHASN distills the elements of political campaigns down to its basic elements, all while still having a slightly humorous undercurrent of irreverence about the whole thing. What’s more, unlike many such games, you aren’t just limited to one single election or government. Yet throughout them all, SHASN is engaging, dynamic, and even thought-provoking, and accomplishes something many games attempt but few succeed at: making politics entertaining.
Now we know, we know – there’s a bit of 2020 burnout for anything politics-related right now. But if this clever game sounds even remotely intriguing to you, then start preparing your stump speech and get ready to shake some hands. And to help one lucky candidate get started, we’re raffling off a copy of the game! Think of it as a handy, albeit non-monetary, campaign donation.
Yes, from now though April 9th, 2020, you can check out the contest details and enter below. Just follow the entry form and proceed with the contest. The more of these entries you do, even if just one, you still have a better chance than not entering at all. Of course you’re welcome to do that too. But your odds of winning drop to zero. No pressure or anything.
The Cardboard Republic, in conjunction with Memesys Culture Lab is giving this game away strictly for entertainment purposes. This act is not a paid endorsement by Memesys Culture Lab or any other entity. This contest is open to individuals only. Staff members of The Cardboard Republic and Memesys Culture Lab are not eligible to participate. For winners outside of the Continental US, the publisher reserves the right to request they cover part or all of the shipping costs.