Forget Democracy – Three Games that Put You in Charge

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Following presidential politics can be depressing. Especially this year. And while there are some great political games, sometimes you don’t want to mess with that whole democracy thing. Things would be a lot better if you were in charge, right? In that case, here are three fantastic games that make you the ruler.

In the Year of the Dragon

The Year of the Dragon just passed, and the next one isn’t until 2024. But you can play this game any time. It sets you up as a lord in ancient China. And, as all wealthy nobles do, you can build palaces and staff them with scholars who will bring you patronage and prestige. But, nobleing isn’t easy. In fact, In the Year of the Dragon can be a punishing experience.

Each round, there are seven actions that can be chosen, but they are divided up randomly into groups. If you choose an action, others can’t choose to play an action from that group unless they are willing to pay for it. And the actions can get you points, allow you to gain rice or fireworks or assert your military. And they are helped by the presence of your scholars.

Some scholars, like farmers, can be used ensure you have enough rice during famine. No rice? Scholars die. And doctors are needed during plague. No doctors? Scholars die. Builders can build palaces. No palaces? No more scholars. And if your scholars die, maybe their palaces also decay.

Yet despite its punishing nature (or maybe because of it), In the Year of the Dragon is an absolute blast. It forces you to make hard choices at every turn, and to counteract your opponents when you can. And, best yet, you are in total control. No need to pander to the masses. If you want to get something done, you make it so through will and coin.

Chaos in the Old World

Taking place in the Warhammer universe, Chaos in the Old World sets up the players as one of the Chaos Powers–Khorne, Nurgle, Tzeench, or Slaanesh. The goal, as it always was in the Old World, is to corrupt the populace, ruin the lands of men, and bring more followers to your power.

One of the most brilliant aspects is that these thematically different factions also take radically different approaches within the game. Khorne, the deity of bloodlust, eschews more subtle corruption and generally tries to kill his way to victory. Meanwhile Nurgle, the pestilent one, plays for the long game in which he ruins the very ground and thereby creates a new utopia for his diseased followers.

Over the course of the game, players can even upgrade their units and use special powers and spells to counter their opponents. It even has alternate paths to victory. You can win by points, gained by corruption, or by simply achieving your faction’s highest desires. And the best part? Your orders are followed resolutely and without question. You answer to no one but your unbending will.

Tigris & Euphrates

You know who had some effective rulers? Mesopotamia. And Tigris & Euphrates puts you in control of a faction. But, interestingly enough, you don’t simply control one particular civilization or people. Instead, you can send your faction’s leaders into different civilizations. At least until a rival comes to oust you.

You see, each player directs four main leaders, a noble, a merchant, a farmer, and a priest. One player’s noble can coexist quite peacefully with another player’s priest. It’s all good until another noble tries to jump in. The existing noble is having none of that. If the noble tries to leap in and usurp power, well, it’s all up to the priests to decide. What’s more interesting is when two neighboring civilizations unite and now the enlarged entity has two nobles. Then it is an all out brawl with players on both sides vying for control. And, whatever the outcome, it is almost assured that the great civilization will see some destruction or even split asunder.

T&E also has one of the more interesting scoring methods–and one that has been copied often since. You can gain points in any of the four types: noble, priest, farmer, or merchant. But at the end of the game, it’s your lowest category that counts for your points. So if you specialize in farmer points and never touch merchants, you will lose to someone who did just one point of everything.

The result is a tense game where each player has a good amount of control over what can happen. Sometimes, as civilizations near each other, the tension can really mount. Both sides try to protect their interests. And, while it is up to the other players to defend against your attack, no one can tell you where to put a leader. You’re in charge.

Admit it, you think life would be just a little better if you were king. What other great games give you the leadership role over a greater populace?

Image Credits: Rio Grande Games and Fantasy Flight Games

Featured Image Credit: HBO

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