Brandon Patton and André Pereira
2 - 4
Strong art and card layout
Easy to teach
Non-Intuitive turn order
Some analysis paralysis
Depending on your play group, someone may be dead at the end of the game
Does your gaming group have that one guy who gets really, disturbingly angry when talking about Libertarianism? You may just want to keep on moving. For everyone else, SuperPACS is a nice, middleweight card game, in which players strive to build up political power and take over the country.
One of the nice things about the game is that there are at least three valid ways to accumulate the political power that serves the same role as victory points. You can build a large coalition of different political factions (environmentalists, war vets, etc.) whose small individual numbers will add up to a big score, you can raise lots of money and use it to invest in point cards that may pay off big at the end of the game, or you can try to amass lots of votes, and win elections for the House, Senate, and Presidency. And of course these strategies will play well off each other.
The game is easy to learn as well. Each round, every player will take what is basically a minor action, then a major action, and then may optionally use their special leader ability and/or buy some investments. Mostly you’ll be adding factions to your coalition, which semi-permanently increase your voting numbers, earning potential, and political power. After everyone has had their turn, an end-of-round event will fire off, possibly helping or hurting any number of players. Once all ten events in the event stack have been resolved, the game is over, and everyone counts up their political power. Simple.
Now let’s talk about where things slow down. First, the turn sequence, while not complicated, is certainly odd. At the beginning of your turn, you get that minor action: a choice between using the power at the top of your leader card (usually some variation on drawing a card) or you take $2 (or Megabucks, as the game calls them). Then, you get the major action: a choice between adding a faction card to your coalition and using its power, or adding two factions to your coalition but without using their power, or you can add up all the earning potential in your coalition and take that much money. Then you may optionally use the special power on the bottom of your leader card, which may have some sort of cost associated with it, and may be situational. And finally, you may buy some investments.
This “pick from a list, then pick from a list, then here’s some optional things you can also do” slowed people down a lot at first. By the second half of the game, everyone was pretty much in the swing of things, but it never feels natural.
Also slowing things down is the fact that every faction card in your hand has some potential game text on it. As we said above, if you play one faction on your turn, you may use its game text. Alternately, you can play two, but then you don’t get to use that text. Some factions, however, have text that only works like a standard action card in most games; you may only use them as a response to something else happening in the game, and you must discard them as part of the cost for their use.
Add in the fact that many cards check to see what kind of factions you’ve already played into your coalition earlier in the game, and now play sequence becomes huge. And if you know that a major election is coming up (always the 4th, 7th, and 10th events), you’ll be wanting to stop and count everyone’s voting power, to try to decide if you need to scramble for more votes for yourself.
The flip side to this complexity, though, is an interesting game. If your opponents are taking too long on their turns, it just means that you’ll have more time to figure out the optimal route to take through your cards. And there’s a lot of fun puzzles to solve, and optimization to figure out, as each faction card you play will have both a color and a symbol, which other cards will be referencing. Maybe this game you’ll be specializing in Social groups, and green cards.
Looking for a Fox News joke? Find a red card with a microphone.
Possibly the most important thing to know about SuperPACS is that it is a “take that” style of game, in which you will frequently be destroying or stealing the cards that your opponents have been recruiting into their coalition. And they’ll be returning the favor. Be prepared for your awesome, carefully-crafted points combo to be blown to pieces. Be ready for one person to steal your money, and then for another to buy the investment that you wanted but could no longer afford.
A final note on pure fun value: SuperPACS will probably make you laugh a few times as the game plays out some outrageous scenario. We were brought back to the old Illuminati game, when you could say silly things like “The Bermuda Triangle uses Mind Control Lasers to take over the Dentists”, only this time it was “The Hairpiece exploits the Catholic Church to Bless himself”.
The variable leader powers, and surplus of extra event cards, means that no two games will have quite the same feel. Add in the different valid ways of accumulating points (or destroying your opponent’s points), and players who love this game will always be able to find something new.
SuperPACS’ cards are well laid out, with the important numbers easily visible, even from across the table. The iconography is solid, if not perfect. The art is great, reminiscent of newspaper political cartoons, matching the tone of the game.
Long on theme and comedy, SuperPACS sometimes gets bogged down by a weird turn sequence and a huge decision tree. But there’s enough thought to keep you busy while your opponents toil away. Be prepared for some nasty jabs between players, and make sure you brought your sense of humor.