Review – The Majority 2

MajorityBox            So, I was visiting Japan recently, when I came across an adorable little gem of a game published back in 2011, and I just had to bring it over, do a translation of the cards, and … no, wait, no one is going to believe I am that dedicated a game reviewer. That was all a filthy, filthy lie. Well, except the part about this being about a little gem of a game.

So, what really happened was that I got an e-mail from some folks about a pair of games called The Majority and The Majority 2, which were released in Japan, but have never been brought to the United States. And, since you’re reading a review of the game, you can probably guess at the story – “we’re planning a Kickstarter to bring these games to the U.S., are you interested in a review copy of the Majority 2?” Now, I’ve never heard of these games, so I go running to BGG to see what there is to be found and it turns out that I’m probably not the only who’s never heard of them. But The Majority sounded interesting and the Majority 2’s description sounded like a bad Google translation, and one out of two ain’t bad, so I say sure, send it on over, and I’ll take a look at it.

Now, I’m playing this on a prototype of the Japanese version, with English paste-ups. So consider this your warning that my only clue as to what the final component quality will be is what they say on their website. The original Japanese art that’s on the cards I was playing with will be sticking around though, from what I can tell. The game could be fairly described as falling in the “micro game” category – it’s 60 cards, a few discs, and about 40 coin tokens, and fits easily in one of those small Sail to India/Valley of the Kings-sized boxes.

The Basics

The Majority 2 is a 2-player only card game in which the players try accrue political power by playing cards onto their side of the board to collect sets that contain high VP cards, preferably sets where every single card is the same color. In the course of this process, the players will be passing a communal hand back and forth, so there’s a big element of trying to manage that hand so you get as much out of it as possible while handing as little back to the opponent as possible.

There are three “columns” on the table, and each player gets to play cards to his side of those three columns. The cards are divided up into five groups/colors – devils (green), dragons (red), angels (pink), witches (blue), and reapers (black). Whenever one of your side of one of the columns has five or more cards, your stack will score (unless you have really messed up) – you choose one card of a color that has a majority in the column, set it aside as a “representative,” and increase your coins by one (if you messed up and no color has at least three cards in the column, they all just get discarded, and you get nothing … so really try not to do that). If the entire column is all one color, then your coins are increased by two (which is a reasonably big deal).

On any given turn, you can play one card for free, and it just goes into one of your columns, and the effect of the card doesn’t happen (so you’re just getting the benefits of advancing your stack towards completion). Then you can pay to play as many cards as you can afford (that’s usually 1 for much of the game). Your coins refresh every turn, so increasing your coins by one or two from a prior scoring increases your available funds on every turn for the rest of the game. In addition to a coin cost (which every card has), some cards have an additional cost/threshold of requiring you to already have scored one (more commonly) or two (rarely) sets of the same color.

What really makes this interesting is where the cards come from that you’re playing. The only place you can play cards from is a communal hand that will get passed to the other player at the end of your turn. But there are several ways you can control what will be in that hand. First, at the start of your turn you can swap the hand with a pool of cards called your reserve. The reserve is a stash of cards that exists basically for this very purpose – you can never play anything directly out of the reserve, but you can use the reserve to stash cards that you think you’ll be able to play later, or to keep cards away from your opponent (for example, you might not have the right representatives to meet the requirements on a powerful card, but your opponent might). Then, after you’ve decided whether or not to swap with your reserve, you have to decide whether or not to draw more cards into the hand. The number you draw is fixed, so you have to decide whether increased access to cards for you this turn is worth likely increased access to cards for your opponent on her next turn.

The game end approaches when one player gets five representatives  – the opponent has one more turn to score another set of her own (or potentially remove one of the other player’s five, which will extend the game), and then it’s over. A player’s VP are equal to the value of her representatives, plus the number of coins she has.

The Cards

Each of the five colors has its own sort of effects, beyond the party secretary that everyone has (they are individually very weak cards, but can be worth a ton of VP if your representatives consist of multiple copies of the same secretary). The angels tend to positively affect your own cards or columns. The dragons destroy cards already in play. The witches can interact with players’ reserves. The reapers mess with the opponent’s stuff (although not outright destruction). And the devils are kind of a “more, more, more” faction – cards, coins, VP, you name it – but in a way that doesn’t affect the actual board state right now.

MajorityCards

The art will be a matter of personal taste – I found most of it amusingly cute, although the angels’ eyes are pretty creepy. Don’t expect the theme to matter much – the art does its job conveying “devil” or “witch” or “angel,” but nothing really shouts “underworld political manipulation.” Also, I have no idea what angels or witches have to do with the underworld.

Opinion

I was pretty impressed with The Majority 2. It is a light game (the box says that the player time is 45 minutes, and I think that’s way high – games should not be going past half an hour, if they even go that long), but a light game with interesting decisions almost every turn. Do you swap your reserve with the hand? Do you draw or not? How does that free play work into what you want to do – if you want to use the free play it must be your first card play of the turn, and that limitation can force your strategy in different ways. Do you play this strong but expensive card for free, or spend all your cash to pay full price for it? Do you bury a powerful card you don’t really need and don’t meet the requirements for using your free play, or do something that more directly advances your board position while handing that powerful card over to your opponent? Do you just rush to complete a set now, or try to hold off so that you can complete it with all cards in a single color?

Now, there are definitely some types of players who will not be enthused about this, just because of the sort of game that it is. It is a card game, and it is very much possible to just have some lucky (or unlucky) draws. If you want a low-variance/high-strategy game, this is not it. The element of passing the hand back and forth is also pretty important, and I have known some players who just agonize over decisions where they have to hand off cards/resources/whatever to another player – this game is not going to tickle their fancy.

Ultimately, I think that this one could have a solid life as a two-player filler with some thinking – sort of the same role that something like Star Realms might occupy (although the actual play of those two games is entirely different).

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