Most people will likely fall into two categories, they’re either glued to their TV screens every Wednesday to analyse the to and fro of Prime Minister’s Questions or (and this is probably the more likely of the two) they believe that all politicians are the same and think that they could do a better job if they were in charge.
Whichever description best suits you, it’s likely that Democracy 3 from Positech Games will allow you some escapism from the humdrum of Labour leadership battles and Brexit negotiations, as the third instalment of the indie’s government simulation series challenges players to run a country and pass the legislation that will build a utopia.
Building on the complexities that the series is renowned for, Democracy 3 added new challenges and a raft of new features; however, the game still lacked in one crucial area – media spin and vote grabbing via manifesto promises; however, this has been amended with the Electioneering DLC.
Applied to the game like any of the other numerous mods for the game, Electioneering can be toggled on or off from the main menu before a new game is created.
These additions add an interesting layer to a game that can sometimes seem unwelcoming to the untrained eye; it’s main achievement is achieving this without losing the finely poised balance required to make the main game tick over.
In a world where personality and media spin is arguably more important to an electorate that policy plans and legislative measures the additions offered by Electioneering feel all the more poignant.
The new features are split into actions that can be taken at any time during your tenure as leader and those that can only be used in the direct run up to an election, with speeches available three turns before an election and manifesto pledges unlocked in the turn before your digital electorate decide your fate.
Maintaining the simple UI that makes such a complex game accessible, all of the new menus and options are clearly marked and it’s relatively easy to get your head around the effect speeches, manifesto pledges, and media stunts will have on your overall popularity with voters.
Most of the new features in the Electioneering DLC can be viewed from a dedicated window, which holds the following tabs:
- Parties: This outlines the membership and activist numbers of both your party and your main rivals, the more popular you are the more activists you have, more activists mean more campaigning at election time.
- Manifesto: This tab is only available the turn before an election and is perhaps the addition in Electioneering that holds the longest term consequence. If you are currently unpopular with a certain subset of the electorate (most likely the capitalists), you can make a manifesto pledge in a last ditch attempt to win some voters over – this can include increasing GDP, or committing a certain amount of resource to a particular policy area. You have until the next election to meet your manifesto pledges so it pays to not promise the world, as you can lose support the next time voters go to the polls if you have not met your manifesto pledge. It’s important to remember the balance prominent in Democracy games, as a manifesto pledge might impress some of the electorate, but it might end up losing support from an opposite group.
- Speeches: Another tab only available close to elections, speeches can be used up to three turns before an election to try and canvas support from a particular group of voters. Speeches are laid out by opposing voter groups and the effect a particular speech will have will be shown via green arrows for positive and red arrows for negative. Speeches are a direct balancing act, as speeches that are popular with one group is directly unpopular with an opposing group (for example a speech popular with liberals will be unpopular with conservatives). Hovering over the images of the voter group in the speeches tab will outline how happy that group is with your government and will show their membership numbers – considering these two figures makes it quite easy to end up with positive speeches and this feature can offer a crucial last minute boost to crucial voter groups in the run up to an election.
- Fundraising: The fundraising tab shows how your party and your opposition are being funded, with wealthy party donors directly altering their donations based on how your policies affect their sympathies. It’s the shadier side of politics, but the concept that the opinions of an unelected wealthy elite influence the policies of political parties is scarily accurate. Much like the ‘Parties’ tab, fundraising can have a serious affect come election time, as a part without funding will struggle to canvas support from floating voters.
- Perceptions: The Perceptions can be accessed at any time and offers media stunts that can immediately address some of the concerns that the electorate may have about your leadership, for example your PR team can organise a trip to a food bank or care home to increase how compassionate you appear to an electorate. Each media stunt costs political capital, however it’s often worth it for an immediate swing of opinion. The perceptions tab outlines the likelihood of a media stunt having the required outcome, however none of the media stunts are sure things and they can backfire, only making you look less compassionate, less trustworthy, and like an even weaker leader. This is a nice touch that adds another layer of realism to the political simulator and it is undeniable that some media stunts are more successful than others (you just have to think about Labour’s “Ed Stone” during the 2015 General Election to see an example of this). The real shame of the perceptions tab is how limited they are, new media stunts do not become available after each election, which means that once you’ve attempted all of the stunts (ten in total) you cannot perform anymore stunts for quick opinion changes.
These tabs add just enough flavour to give Democracy 3 a new lease of life and add a solid few hours of playability. They don’t completely replace the need for policy consideration of budget management, if you do a bad job during the rest of a game no amount of speeches, manifesto pledges, or media stunts will win you an election, however if you’ve needed to pass some unpopular policies just before an election these options can help soften the blow to popularity.
Ultimately the Democracy 3: Electioneering DLC is like many of the other mods available for the title, it offers a fresh angle (in this case making an election campaign a lot more comparable to the real thing), without actually altering the core mechanics of the game.
For the price of £5.92 this DLC adds just enough play time to make the purchase worthwhile and it is likely that Democracy’s dedicated fan base will not begrudge the pricepoint from a committed indie developer that commits a lot of time keeping these games fresh.