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Votes for Women Review

Review of: Votes for Women
Board Game Review by::
Brandon Bryson

Reviewed by:
On Mar 26, 2024
Last modified:Mar 26, 2024


We review Votes for Women, a historical game published by Fort Circle Games. Votes for Women puts players in the shoes of activists fighting for women's suffrage.

Votes for WomenImagine a society calling itself democratic and not allowing over half of its population to vote. It’s an outright injustice, and yet living within that historical period may have yielded a very different attachment to the idea. It was how things were. The founding document, considered infallible by many, was (and still is) steeped in blind bigotry and antiquated practices. Its influence seeped into the core of our existence.

Even today we’re constantly reminded of the struggles of the oppressed trying to gain a foothold. To live. To breathe. To be free. Votes for Women revisits the suffrage movement’s struggle to carve out space for education, action, and change. It’s designed by activist Tory Brown and utilizes a card-driven system to simulate the tug-of-war struggle of the democratic process. It’s steeped in history and yet it speaks directly to the conflicts of the present.

Gameplay Overview:

Votes for Women allows players to take on the role of the women’s suffrage movement or the political opposition. It can be played solo or co-op against a deck of cards called the Oppobot or can be played competitively. The historical scope ranges from 1848 to 1920 and progresses over six rounds of play. Suffragettes seek to gain congressional support and votes from thirty-six states, while the Opposition seeks to curtail congressional support and lockdown dissent in thirteen states.

The main board features six regions within the US and their individual states. Players take turns playing a single card which provides them with options to swing support to their cause. These may provide options to increase influence in a particular region, specific states, or even powerful effects that benefit the current round or end game voting. Each round sees six cards from a hand of seven being played. The final card carries forward to the next round.

Votes for Women Components
Historical documents to enhance the setting? Yes please!

Each round is broken into four phases, though the first and fourth are simple steps requiring card redraw and updating the round marker. Even the second phase is rather simple, as players bid using their buttons (a currency suggesting political support) to gain one of three strategy cards from a face-up market. These cards are very powerful and can be played for free either before or after a card is played.

The bulk of the strategy happens during card play in phase three: operations. A card can be played for its text event, can be discarded to campaign in a region where its campaign pieces are located, or can be discarded to either organize or lobby. Organizing is how players gain more buttons, which are used to mitigate dice rolls and bid on strategy cards. Lobbying allows players to attempt to gain support from congress by rolling two dice. They succeed for each six rolled.

Campaigning is a major element of the gameplay. There are individual campaigner pieces that can be shifted to regions of the map to boost support in individual states. Before congress gains its sixth support token, thus ratifying the 19th Amendment, each state is a hotbed of shifting allegiances. The suffragettes may rally the cry to their cause in the Northeast, only to head to the West and leave the region wide open to the opposition’s wily ways.

Votes for Women State
State cards are gained by the first side to have four presence in the state.

Card events add specific amounts of cubes to states. Campaigning adds cubes based on dice rolls. There can only be one side’s cubes in a state at a time, so when a single opposition cube is supplanted by three suffrage cubes, it takes one suffrage cube to remove the existing opposition cube before the shift to the other side happens. In this example, the suffrage movement would gain two cubes in that state.

Once congressional support is gained, the landscape changes. Any states with four cubes of support, when this happens, have allied with that cause. Suffragettes add green checkmark tokens to states that support them, whereas the opposition adds red X tokens. From this point forward, whenever a state gains four cubes of either cause, they immediately ally with them and cannot be flipped. Whichever side adds all their checkmarks or x’s to the board wins. If this doesn’t happen by the end of the sixth round, a special voting finale happens featuring dice rolls for both sides, state by state.

Votes for Women Gameplay
After congress gets its act together, the battle becomes hyper focused.

Game Experience:

Votes for Women is categorized as a war game and rightly so. Each decision matters as players try to gain support throughout the country. There’s a very real tug-of-war element on display as players gain more campaigners and cover more ground. This is also apparent in the battle for congressional support, which is a necessary element for the suffrage movement to overcome before the end of the sixth round.

Each round is further intensified by types of cards you’ve drawn and the buttons you have in your supply. Buttons provide re-roll opportunities, but only if you reroll all dice again, and yet using them without consideration leaves you open to losing ground when the opposition wins bids on strategy cards. It’s also worth noting that certain cards in each deck interact with each other based on which is played first. Politics is a dirty game indeed.

Votes for Women Cards
Certain cards can stay in place for a single round, the entire game, and also as an end game boost.

This design does a lot to enhance this historical period. Not only does each card feature flavor text that enhances understanding, but the game also comes with a historical reference guide and copies of documents featured in the struggle showcasing both sides. There’s a lot of consideration and attention to detail here. It immediately calls to mind Freedom: The Underground Railroad, though both puzzles are driven differently.

I prefer Votes for Women as a solo or co-op experience. Playing as the opposition feels like an attempt at revisionist history and it’s much more exciting to team up against the bot. Thankfully the Oppobot solo system is excellent and very easy to navigate. It asks players to draw a card, roll some dice to determine locations on occasion, and simplifies the strategy phase. It’s an effective system and provides an in-depth experience whichever way you choose to play.

Votes for Women Checks
Sigh. Why would a “democracy” want to suppress its people?

While there is a lot of strategy at play, there are also a lot of tactical decisions that must be made. Thankfully these realms are not undercut by the roll of dice thanks to mitigation options. That said, the dice mitigation isn’t as robust as I’d like and on occasion rolling can be a detriment to gaining ground. This is more evident against the Oppobot as it gains strategy cards more often due to not utilizing buttons at all and rather rolling a die for its bid.

The end game can also be a bit lackluster when having outcomes based on dice rolls, but these end moments are not without tension when players learn the system and find ways to keep mitigation available. It’s also nice that this end game also simulates the state vote on a macro level, thus keeping the system out of the weeds of additional mechanisms.

Final Thoughts:

Votes for Women is an incredibly clean system that provides an excellent historical simulation. It’s not a detailed simulation, but one that remains challenging and hard to master. Every single cube counts and it’s brutal to see support erode as the opposition attempts to spread their uninspiring gospel to minimize their fellow citizens. No matter though, even in a game where the opposition comes out on top, that’s just one way that the story could’ve been told and thankfully we’re living in a world with this movement coming out on top. Here’s to a quality game design filled with the fighting spirit of a democracy. And here’s to many more movements that lift the oppressed out of the darkness and into the glorious sunlight.

Final Score: 4.5 stars – Uses a historical lens to bring us an outstanding solo or co-op political battle that’s both tense and topical.

4.5 StarsHits:
• Simulation of struggle
• Historical insight
• Solo and co-op modes

• Playing as the opposition
• Minimal dice mitigation

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