Publisher: Stronghold Games
I played this game many many years ago in a gathering of friends (not the actually Gathering of Friends). As I recall, the game was novel, even fun. Back then, the social deduction games were just coming of age with Coup and Love Letter making their rounds. I really liked Article 27 then, thinking that the negotiations in the game were quite unique and not long drawn. I certainly had a memorable time. Fast forward at least a decade, I had the opportunity to play a friend’s copy and this time, evaluate if the game stood the test of time.
In Article 27, players are all diplomats negotiating in the security council to push their individual agendas. In a 4 player game, each player gets to be secretary general exactly once. There is a time limit to all negotiations, so the game ends up being quite short. Each round, the secretary general gets to table some agendas. I believe there are 6 different agendas available, but not every agenda needs to be put forth, although it is possible to table all the agendas. This is where all the other players come in. Behind a screen, each player will have a series of agendas with different priorities. Some agenda will score positive points with the higher priorities scoring more points than the lower priorities; some will actually score negative points. The goal is to convince or arm-twist the secretary general to address the issues that you care about while rejecting the agendas you want to avoid. You want to gain the maximum number of points for the agendas assigned behind your screen. Every player has a different set of agendas. Some will align, others will be in conflict.
To convince the sec-gen to take your side, you will have some chips to bribe him or her to your side. Every person will get to be Sec-gen once, so during your tenure, you want to get as many chips as possible without compromising your own agenda. There is no limit to how much you can spend: during this timed period all players will place chips on the sec-gen’s tableau with competing offers increasing in value. Eventually the sec-gen will have to decide which offers to accept or reject and put together a package of agendas to be tabled. As a last step, all players will get to vote to approve the sec-gen’s selection: a single yes or no vote is required. For the package of agendas to be approve, all votes must be either a yea or abstained. A single nay vote will veto the entire package and nothing passes. This is costly as all agendas will fail and it is of the best interest to work together and compromise to craft a package that will make everyone happy. Interestingly at this step, one can still bribe any player to vote yea or nay.
If the agenda is approved, all will rejoice and score points. Every players will individually score the agendas that were tabled by tallying all the points, both positive and negative together. In addition, the discs that represent each agenda will also be shifted to an end-game score board. For agendas that were tabled, they will be flipped face up and counting in the end. Those that were sidelined will be flipped face down to cap the limit of points earned. The end game scoring is hidden. Each player would have received a matching disc before the game, indicating which particular issue is of personal interest. At the end of the game, these individual agendas will be scored based on the progression on this board.
The game itself, because of the timer, is quite short. Each round, players are limited to about 7-8 minutes of discussion before the Sec-gen has to decide which agendas to table. A solid wooden gavel is provided in the game and I’d say that gavel is awesome. Banging the gavel concludes all discussion. In practice, I found that bribing the Sec-gen is costly. Sometimes, when your interests aligned, there is not much that needs to be done, you just follow along and hopefully don’t have to induce the Sec Gen to changing his/her mind. This is best because bribing the Sec Gen is a double whammy. Not only do you lose points, your opponents will gain points.
Overall, Article 27 is a decent negotiation game. I like that the game is compact and discussions are not long drawn. However, I am not convinced if the game supports a robust discussion or negotiation phase. The Sec Gen constantly tries to get bribes but only if it matches his/her own agenda. So, other players can contribute but honestly, they will only give as much as they can earn points behind their screen, which is not much. So, players will normally offer 1-3 chips. The voting veto is interesting. Here, you can bribe other player to vote a certain way or abstain. One can boldly proclaim a veto with no intentions of doing. It’s all a bluff. Of course, you can’t collect the bribes. We weren’t playing great on this front because most of the time, we voted to pass the agendas. It is possible this phase could be more robust, but I don’t think we know how or even if it is useful. I realize that the game could be “broken” if some jerk decides to veto every single time. The game would still function, except that no points would be assigned. However, bribes would still be collected by the Sec Gen. So, the game could still work, but probably boring.
Initial impressions: Average
(Photo credits: Pradyot)