(2012 – Stronghold Games)
Negotiation in games require a certain group of players. Players that, instead of coming up with an personal strategy that works for the game itself, can feed off of the various opponents and base their strategy around dealing and bargaining with the individual personalities surrounding them. Many games such as The Resistance, Cosmic Encounter, and to a larger extent Diplomacy, have all involved the mechanic of negotiation in their makeup. With Article 27, designer Dan Baden has taken this popular mechanic and merged it with a political theme. Two things that fit quite well together.
In Article 27, players take on the roles of various members of the U.N. Security Council and the negotiations revolved around different Proposals that come up during their meetings together. Each player represents a member for 1 of 6 different countries, and each of these members will have a specific Agenda in which they are working towards throughout a game. One of these members each turn will take on the role of the Security General, whom is in charge of deciding what Issues to include in the current Proposal before it goes to a vote. Players will gain Influence throughout the game which in return they can use to bribe the Security General player and help alter the decisions he makes. At the end of the game, the member with the highest amount of Influence is declared the winner.
– Article 27 Game Board
– Individual Player Boards
– Individual Player Screens (France, Germany, Russia, China, Great Britain, and the United States)
– Player Tokens (France, Germany, Russia, China, Great Britain, and the United States)
– Issue Markers
– Issue Draw Tokens
– Secret Agenda Tokens
– Voting Tokens
– Influence Tokens (1’s, 5’s, and 10’s)
– Wooden Gavel
– Negotiation Timer
– Cloth Bag
Each player will begin by taking a player board and choosing 1 of the 6 player screens according to which country representative they plan to play as.
These player screens fit securely into each of the player boards, and will allow players to keep their Influence Tokens, Secret Agenda Tokens, and Issue Draw Tokens hidden from all other players.
The main game board includes 3 main areas. I’ll go over each of these areas during the Gameplay section of this review, but for now we’ll just take a look at the Issue section. There are 5 Issue areas that form the outside of the main game board. From left to right, they include Peacekeeping (blue), Trade Sanctions (green), Diplomatic Sanctions (black), Nuclear Non-Proliferation (red), and Humanitarian Concerns (yellow). On each of these Issue sections, there are 6 empty spaces used for the placement of Issue Makers. Each Issue color contains 6 Issue Markers, which contain each of the 6 secret agenda types: Wealth, Peace, Innovation, Justice, Prestige, and Power. At the beginning of the game, these Issue Markers are randomly placed face-down into each of the empty spaces of their corresponding Issue areas. The number of Markers placed depend on the number of players in the game:
– In a 3 or 6 player game, all six Markers are placed into each of the Issue areas.
– In a 4 player game, four Markers are placed into each of the Issue areas.
– In a 5 player game, five Markers are placed into each of the Issue areas.
Each player will randomly receive a Secret Agenda token that they will place behind their player screen. This will be the secret agenda they will work towards throughout the game in order to score extra bonus Influence (Victory Points) during end-game scoring.
The Issue Draw tokens symbolize each of the 6 Issues being voted on during the game. All of these tokens are placed into the cloth bag and will be drawn by players at the beginning of each Round.
Each player then receives their individual set of Player tokens corresponding to the Country they have chosen, along with a set of “Yes” and “No” Voting tokens, and 12 Influence tokens.
After initial setup is complete, the play area should look something like this:
Throughout the game, players will try to pass different proposals through use of bribery, negotiation, and voting. One player each Round will take the role of the Secretary General whom is essentially the leader of the council. This player will determine which Issues will be included with the current Proposal being voted upon. During a game of Article 27, each player will be able to take the role of the Secretary General only once, with the exception of a 3 player game, in which each player will be able to take this role twice. Gameplay is made up of a series of Rounds in which there are 4 phases: the Secretary Setup Phase, the Negotiation Phase, the Voting Phase, and the Influence Phase.
1.) Secretary Setup Phase – Each Round begins with a new player taking the role of the Secretary General. With each new Round, this role will switch to a new player in a clockwise fashion. The Secretary General will receive both the Negotiation Timer and the Gavel. The Secretary General player will then draw 5 Issue Draw tokens (1 at a time) from the cloth bag and place them on the corresponding spaces behind his player screen from left to right. After the Secretary General player has drawn all 5 of his tokens, the bag is passed to the next player clockwise and he draws his 5 tokens, and so on until all players in the game have taken this action.
For example, Player A selects 5 Issue Draw tokens (one at a time) from the bag. The 1st token he draws is a Peacekeeping token, in which he places in the far leftmost space. The 2nd token he draws is a Nuclear Non-Proliferation token, in which he places in the next empty slot and so on until he has filled all 5 spaces.
Below each of these spaces are a set of positive and negative numbers. These numbers represent how much Influence a player will gain if a particular Issue is part of a proposal that passes by the end of the Round. This makes up a large part of a player’s strategy each Round, and how they will attempt to negotiate with other players in order to set up passed proposals that will earn them a maximum amount of Influence.
Player B has drawn all 5 of his Issue Draw tokens and placed them behind in player screen. Taking a look at his player board we can see that during this Round, if a proposal passes that includes a Trade Sanction (green), Player B will gain 6 Influence (+5 and +1 combined). If a Diplomatic Sanction (black) is passed, he will earn 3 Influence. If a Humanitarian Concern (yellow) is part of the proposal he will actually lose 2 Influence, while he will lose 4 Influence if a Peacekeeping agenda (blue) is part of the proposal.
Therefore, during this Round, Player B should focus on making sure that a Trade Sanction is part of the finalized proposal, while attempting to make sure that Humanitarian Concerns and Peacekeeping are left out.
After these tokens have been drawn by each player, the Secretary General player will flip over 1 of the Issue Markers from each of the Issue areas and set them on the inner Table space on the game board. The colors on each Marker represent the possible Issues that can be included with the current Proposal, if voted upon (in the 3rd phase of each Round).
A Secret Agenda icon is also represented on each Marker. These icons will score bonuses at the end of the game if they are part of a Proposal that passes, therefore players want to pay attention to the type of Issue (in comparison to their Issue Draw Tokens behind their player screens) as well as the Issue Marker’s Secret Agenda icon (in comparison to a player’s own Secret Agenda). Remember, the color of an Issue marker represents the type of Issue, while the icon represented on the Issue marker itself corresponds to the type of Secret Agenda.
2.) Negotiation Phase – Before we get into how the Negotiation Phase works, it’s important to first take a look at each player’s individual board.
On a player’s board, two negotiation sections sit above the area which includes the player’s screen and Issue Draw tokens. All 5 Issue types are represented here and each is divided into 2 bribe spaces. During the Negotiation Phase, player’s will attempt to bride the Secretary General player, in how he decides which Issues will be included in the current Proposal, and which ones will be left out.
At the beginning of the Negotiation Phase, the Secretary General player will start by banging the gavel and flipping the timer to start the phase. Players will negotiate amongst themselves and with the Secretary General player as to which current Issues should be included in the Round’s Proposal, until either the Secretary General player bangs the gavel again to stop the phase or the timer runs out.
Player A has started the current Round and begins the Negotiation Phase with Peacekeeping (blue) and Non-Nuclear Proliferation (red) as the 2 Issues currently in the Proposal. Players will be able to keep up with which Issues are part of the current Proposal by seeing which ones are currently in the middle floor space. Since Player A has currently left Trade Sanctions (green), Diplomatic Sanctions (black), and Humanitarian Concerns (yellow) out of the current Proposal, they are left on the outlying Table area.
According to the Issue Draw tokens and the particular Secret Agenda token that each player obtained, players will each want particular Issues to either make up the Proposal or be left out of the Proposal. Remember, that players can either earn or lose Influence based on the type of Issues that are included in the Proposal according to the Issue Draw tokens they placed behind their screen during setup. Ultimately, the Secretary General player is the only one who can decide which Issues are included. Therefore, opposing players will use the Negotiation Phase in order to attempt to offer bribes to the Secretary General player to sway his decisions.
In order to offer a bribe, a player must make an offer to the Secretary General player to either include or exclude Issues from the Proposal using Influence tokens. If the Secretary General player accepts this offer, the Influence tokens along with a player token of the offering player is placed on the corresponding space of the Secretary General’s board according to the deal made.
For example, in the previous example, we saw that it is in the best interest of Player B to try and get Trade Sanctions (green) into the current Proposal. By doing so, he would be rewarded with 6 Influence. During the Negotiation Phase, he offers Player A (the current Secretary General player) 2 Influence in order to make sure that Trade Sanctions are part of the current Proposal. Player A accepts and takes the 2 Influence tokens along with a player token representing Player B, and places them on the “check-mark” space of his Trade Sanctions area on his player board.
During the Negotiation Phase, the Secretary General player will move Issue Markers from the table area of the game board, onto the middle floor area. Any markers that are placed into the Floor area are considered Issues that are part of the current Proposal. Any markers left on the outlying table space are considered excluded from the Proposal. As players offer bribes to the Secretary General, these Markers can be switched back and forth until a final decision has been made.
After Player A accepts the offer from Player B, in agreeing to include Trade Sanctions with the current Proposal, he would then place this Marker onto the floor space. It is now considered part of the Proposal.
Once either the Secretary General player has used the gavel to end negotiations or the timer has run out, players will then proceed to the Voting phase of the game.
3.) Voting Phase – After the Negotiation Phase players must choose whether to vote for or against the current, Proposal, finalized by the Secretary General. Each player will take their set of Voting tokens, comprised of a “Yes” token and a “Veto” token, choose how they want to Vote, and simultaneously reveal them from their hands.
– For every empty hand revealed with no token, that player has Abstained from Voting.
– If a “Veto” token is revealed by any player, the Proposal is turned down.
At the end of negotiations, the current Proposal includes Trade Sanctions (green), Peacekeeping (blue), and Nuclear Non-Proliferation (red). When all three players reveal their Votes, Player A has voted “Yes”, as has Player “B”. Player “C” however Vetoes the Proposal and pays 5 Influence tokens to do so. Because he played a Veto token, the current Proposal fails to pass. If however, Player C would have played a “Yes” token or had Abstained from voting, the Proposal would have passed because it would have had a majority of “Yes” votes, and Player A would receive a bonus 5 Influence since he was the Secretary General this Round.
During the Negotiation Phase, players can make offers to other players according to how they wish for them to Vote during the Voting Phase. At the top of each player board are 4 spaces.
If an offer is placed on the leftmost space, this means that the player has agreed to Abstain during Voting. If an offer is placed on the 2nd space, the player has agreed to vote “Yes”. If an offer is placed on the 3rd space, the player has agreed to Veto the current Proposal. The last space is used for offers that have multiple conditions and can’t be conducted on one single space, say or instance offering the Secretary General players a bribe that he agrees to move Trade Sanction and Peacekeeping into the Proposal, or that he include Trade Sanctions and ensure that the Proposal passes.
After the Voting process has been tallied and the Proposal either passes or is voted down, players will then determine whether or not they can collect any bribes offered to them during the Negotiation Phase. For each offer that was carried through by the receiving player, regardless of the outcome of the Vote, that player receives the Influence tokens given for that offer. If however, the receiving player did not follow through with his end of the bargain, these Influence tokens are returned to the player that originally offered them (noted by their player token placed along with the Influence tokens).
4.) Influence Phase – After the Voting phase has ended, players will determine how much Influence they may have gained or lost during the current Round according to the Issue Draw tokens behind their player screen. If the Proposal was either Vetoed or did not pass because it could not gain a majority of “Yes” votes by players, then the Issue Draw tokens are simply disregarded and no Influence is scored. If however, the Proposal did pass with a majority of “Yes” votes, then all players would score Influence according to the Issue Draw tokens behind their player screens.
In a later Round in the game, a Proposal has passed that includes Humanitarian Concerns and Diplomatic Sanctions.
Player C currently has from left to right: a Diplomatic Sanction, a Trade Sanction, another Diplomatic Sanction, a Peacekeeping Issue, a Trade Sanction, and a Humanitarian Concern. Therefore, after the current Proposal shown above passes, he would score 2 Influence (6 total Influence for his Diplomatic Sanctions minus the 4 lost Influence from his Humanitarian Concerns).
After Influence has been determined, focus moves to the Secret Agenda section of the main game board. Each of the 6 different types of Secret Agendas are represented on the track, with green arrows on the left space of each type, and red arrows along the right space of each type.
Any Issue marker that was part of a passed Proposal, will be placed face up on the leftmost empty space that corresponds to the Secret Agenda icon on the marker. Any Issue marker that was either part of a failed Proposal, or a marker that was left out of the Proposal altogether, will be placed face down on the rightmost empty space that corresponds to the Secret Agenda icon on the marker.
At the end of the game, players will look at the Secret Agenda tokens which they drew during setup. Players will score bonus Influence according to the Secret Agenda track on the game board. Influence for a particular Secret Agenda is scored according to the rightmost, flipped up token representing that type on the track.
Player C’s Secret Agenda throughout the game was Power. At the end of the game, according to the Secret Agenda section of the game board, Player C would score a total of 6 Influence since the rightmost Power icon is on the 3rd space of its individual track. Player A with a Secret Agenda of Peace would have scored 10 Influence, and Player B with a Secret Agenda of Justice would have scored only 1 Influence.
A game of Article 27 last until all players have had 1 turn as the Secretary General player (in a 3-player game, each player gets 2 turns). When the last player has had their Secretary General turn, the game ends and players will calculate their total number of Influence to determine who was the most successful member of the U.N. Security Council. Players will total the amount of Influence behind their player screens collected throughout the game as well as any Secret Agenda bonus Influence collected at the end of the game.
The member with the highest amount of Influence wins.
Article 27 is a pure negotiation game where players must balance the Influence they spend in bribes against their potential in return. I’ve personally preferred the 3-player game a bit more since each player has two separate turns as the Security General. Players have a potential advantage to score more Influence during these turns, and as such, one poor Security General turn can potentially put a player in a hole. I’ve enjoyed the balance of each player having two chances in this position, although there is enjoyment in having more chaotic bribery in a 4, 5, or 6 player game.
The game forces players to make tough decisions and think creatively, especially with being able to set any number of conditions on a specific deal with the Security General player. Players can Veto any set Proposal, but must do so at a pretty significant price. So it’s usually a better option of trying to minimize your losses and bargain something of advantage to you out of any particular Proposal, even if it’s just getting a Secret Agenda icon you need on the end-game track.
As with many negotiation games, the make-up of the players involved is key in how successful the game may be for your group. The core of the game is the negotiation aspect between players and the Security General (and even amongst themselves in some cases), so having a group of people that enjoys table-talk and light-hearted (or even heated) communication amongst themselves when playing is probably better for what the game requires. There’s enough randomness in the drawing of the Issue Draw tokens and the Issue Markers involved in each potential Proposal that most of the strategy involved in a game of Article 27 will come out of the negotiations each round, and how to bargain your way around potential Influence or loss of Influence. Which in a game all about negotiation, is how it should be.