Designer: Matt Quock
Publisher: Mountaintop Games
Player Count: 1-5
Play time: 45 to 60 min
I want to be clear before we get started with this preview. THIS GAME IS NOT ABOUT POLITICS. The best way to describe the game is that it’s more of a teaching tool about the electoral college system and what a campaigning is like. The gameplay in The Primary is a combination of programming and area majority/influence game. This preview is solely focused on the solo variant of the game, which is identical to the multiplayer, but with AI cards. Everything you see is in prototype form and I want to thank Mountaintop Games for supporting Jambalaya Plays Games.
Kickstarter Preview: The Primary
As described by the publisher, “The goal of The Primary is to amass the most delegates in order to become your political party’s candidate for the President of the United States! To earn delegates, you must win regional elections by having the most influence in a region at the end of the round during which regions vote takes place.”
Quick Gameplay Overview
Each player will choose between two candidates to begin a game. Each candidate has a unique candidate power and a set of starting influence cubes that are used to control regions on the map. Influence cubes are used to win regions and take specific actions. The candidates do not have any affiliation with a political party. Each round has four phases:
- Draw a News card: News cards have events that only affect the current round of play. The events will force candidates to move, make actions cost less influence and earn extra influence for playing specific cards.
- Action: Each player has a 14 card hand with 7 types of Action cards. Each player will choose 4 cards from their entire hand and lay them in a programming sequence in front of them. The Action cards are resolved one at a time, from left to right. Actions cards do things like transporting candidates by air or bus, gain influence by fundraising, and removing influence from regions by placing negative ads. One of the riskier cards to play is the SUPER PAC cards. You have 4 SUPER PAC cards and you have to play the most of them during the round to win 4 influence tokens. Playing the SUPER PAC cards is a high-risk reward element that adds a little spice to the experience.
- Vote: When a Vote marker is on a region of the map, you will have voting at the end of the round. Simply, the player with the most influence cubes wins the points on the region. There are a couple double round markers, so you’ll have two regions scoring that round. Then, some regions have points awarded to the first and second place players. A tie split the points.
- Organize: At the end of the round, all of the regions that were voted on get cleared and the Voting marker moves to the next region, depending the round. The first player token moves and everyone get all of their cards back.
Play continues until the 12th round is complete. The player (candidate) with the most points wins.
Man vs ELECTO-0-BOT 9000
Solitaire gameplay is similar to the regular game. The ELECTO-0-BOT 9000 is an AI character, that has a set of programmed moves based on multiple conditions on a Bot card. Depending on the difficulty you choose for the bot, it will start with a certain amount of influence cubes to add to each region. You roll the custom die for each region and place cubes based on the result. It’s a little intimidating to see the whole board covered with influence cubes for the Bot. You know there’s a lot of pressure to build influence quickly. You start each round like a normal game by turning over a News card. The News card has a line of text that says if the news event will affect the Bot’s turn. During the Action Phase, you will take a total of four actions, but the Bot with act after you second. You draw from the AI deck and take actions based on one of the three condition statements on the card. If a certain condition is not met, then move to the next one. The last part of the Bot’s turn is rolling the custom die and matching the results with the Super PAC values you might have played. In the normal game, you get four influence cubes for having the majority of SUPER PAC cards in play. The Bot rolls the custom die to stop you from winning the SUPER PAC benefit, but it will not gain influence. After the Bot’s turn, you finish your last two actions. Voting and non-voting rounds are resolved the same way. Whoever scores the most points wins.
Defeating the Bot
THE BOT IS HARD TO BEAT. It’s not unfair, but it’s difficult to predict its actions, just like human players. The Bot has the board littered with influence to start the game and you have to scramble to keep up and remove as much influence as possible. Usually the bot targets regions where you’re dominating or worth the most points. I think the focus of the solo mode is spreading yourself out as much as possible. You can kind of make the bot chase you to different regions, by placing influence cubes in a region that isn’t important to at the time. Sometimes I focused coming in second place in the smaller point regions and then loaded up on the larger ones. I had a hard time building up influence cubes fast enough and then figuring out how to make more efficient and impactful turns. You might have to spend a round or two playing SUPER PAC cards and possibly risk losing to one roll of the Bot die. I’m not going to lie, it’s a bit of a bummer. I assume in multiplayer, you might not have as much randomness. I started the solo mode on easy and I got my butt kicked twice. I was eventually able to work my way up to normal, but continued to fall back on my losing ways. I was humbled by ELECTO-0-BOT 9000, but I wanted to come back for more.
Why should I back The Primary?
- Easy to learn and has more strategy than you would expect
- The solo mode only players out there will appreciate a good challenge
- The programming mechanic make each round exciting
- The art is ok, but this is a prototype so….
- I wish there was more modes, but that would probably lean towards actual politics stuff
- Some backers won’t be able to look past the theme
I took a chance on The Primary because I wanted to give a game with a political theme a shot. I was also curious about how the programming and area influence mechanics work. I have to say I’m surprised how much I liked this game as a solo only game. I felt like the solo mode was challenging and unpredictable enough to keep me on my toes for a good 45 minutes. The gameplay is more thinky than I thought it would be. You have to make choices for the present and future rounds, but the Bot puts a lot of pressure on your choices. I can tell this game was play tested a lot because the rules and the gameplay feel very polished. An additional benefit of The Primary, is it can be used as a teaching tool or conversation starter with kids about politics. You get a basic overview of campaigning, without the attachment to political parties. That’s definitely a bonus. So, should you back this as a solo player? If you’re looking for a fun and challenging solo experience, The Primary is definitely something you want to consider pledging for.
I hope today’s solo preview was informative. I decided that the solo mode was worth covering for people who pledge based on solo mode only. What do you think? Do you have any questions?