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Filibuster

You can’t really allow a policy to pass that would put a rollercoaster in every national park, can you? As senators you must band together to launch a filibuster and block absurd policies from passing.

From Biplane Games, Filibuster is a semi-cooperative game in which players are working together to block policies, but only one player will ultimately emerge victorious with the most influence.

Gameplay

You start the game by shuffling the policy deck and dealing seven policy cards face down on the table. Players are working together to block these policies. If you fail to block four policies, everyone loses the game. If you succeed in blocking four policies, after you have gone through all seven policies, the player with the most influence is the winner.

One player is the minority leader and the other players are the supporting senators. Everyone starts the game with four action cards and two influence tokens.

Each round is one filibuster, with players attempting to advance the time tracker a set amount of time in order to block the current policy. The leader draws a card from the time deck and resolves its effect. This may cause players to draw or discard cards, or force players to spend influence to stop the filibuster from ending. Sometimes it will simply end the filibuster outright. If the filibuster is still in progress, the leader may then play one red-bordered action card. These advance the time track a certain amount of time. If he does not have a red-bordered card, he may spend one influence token to advance the time track one hour. Then it is one of the supporting player’s turns.

On his turn, a supporting player starts by drawing a card. He then chooses to either play a blue-bordered action card, earning the influence shown on it (these card also have special abilities such as allowing you to look at the top two cards of the time deck and return one to the top and place the other at the bottom, or letting everyone draw an action card) or to pass a red-bordered action card to the leader, earning the influence shown on the card. Alternatively, the supporting player may simply choose to draw a second action card. After a supporting player finishes his turn, the leader takes another turn before the next supporting player goes.

The filibuster ends when a card from the time deck ends it, the time tracker reaches twenty-four hours, or there are no more time cards to draw. If the time tracker is equal or higher than the current difficulty level, the policy is blocked, and the difficulty level is increased for the next round. All players then receive the award for blocking it as shown on the policy card and the leader earns influence points equal to the current position on the time track. If players fail to block it, however, they all receive the penalty shown on the card.

Next, you reset the time track, if you have less than four cards you draw up, the next policy card is revealed, and players move onto the election phase to see who will be the leader for the next round. A sand timer is started and players only have until the timer runs out to cast their votes. Players may offer trades and make deals. Based on the number of players, you need a certain number of votes to win the role of leader. If no one gets enough votes, the player who was the leader during the last round keeps the position, however there is a penalty for failing to elect someone: the leader must pay a certain amount of influence as shown on the current policy card and everyone will start the next filibuster with only one card in hand.

Filibuster Components

Review

Filibuster is a combination of humor and interesting gameplay, which isn’t always that common to find. There are lots of jokes spread throughout the cards, but the semi-cooperative gameplay is also challenging. Players always have to consider exactly how much influence they can risk or can afford to give others; they have to weigh the costs of failing the policies or the elections, while also trying to push themselves just a little bit ahead of their opponents.

There’s a real balance between helping each other out, trying to block the policy, while also trying to gain the most influence or ensure the leader doesn’t get too much at the end of a round. This also comes into play during the election phase, when players are allowed to make deals, debate, and trade all against a running timer.

The game components are well made. The cards are thick and sturdy and the artwork is bright, colorful, and a bit cartoony. There’s a fun sense of humor in the game that makes it enjoyable to read the cards and see what comes up next on them.

Many politically-themed games tend to lean heavily towards one political party or the other, making jokes at the expense of the side it doesn’t like. This can make the game alienating to players, something that gaming really isn’t supposed to be about. However, in Filibuster we appreciated the fact that for the most part the humor is general and unrelated to any real-world politics, such as a ‘dinosaur DNA splicing program’ or ‘replace press corps with adorable puppy corps’. There are one or two policy cards that are a bit pointed at current events, but they’re pretty mild and would be easy to remove them if you really wished to. It’s not a theme that’s likely to appeal to families, or even all players, but it is one you don’t see that often and it does fit quite well with the gameplay.

Filibuster has fast turns and gameplay that is pretty easy to get the hang of (though it may take a round or two to figure out the best strategies to take). There is a ton of player interaction, which is where the fun of the game truly comes through. On the surface it’s a very friendly cooperative game, but the competitiveness at its heart is tense, and the game balances these two extremes quite cleverly.

Pros: Clever approach to semi-cooperative genre, good artwork and components

Cons: Theme may be a little off-putting for some players

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.