Follow TV Tropes


Political Strategy Game

Go To

Owing to the Strategy Games' historical origins in War Gaming, most of them revolve around territorial or resource conflict, even when combat is not the sole focus (e.g. in settlement Simulation Games and 4X). By contrast, games that simulate political conflict over influence and/or ideology (usually in the context of an occidental liberal-capitalist democracy) are few and far in-between, with two subgenres generally distinguished: in an Electoral Game, players engage in political battle to come to power (whether through election or revolution), while in a Legislative Game, they already are in power and negotiate policies and spin intrigues to remain there. Both kinds typically have following gameplay features:


  • Political Ideologies are a form of Character Alignment and/or Karma Meter comprised of (often contradictory) scoring criteria, usually affecting either how many resources (see below) the player gets or how close they are to winning (or both). Because most political strategies take place in Western(-inspired) settings, specific ideologies are typically based on existing and historical Western political movements.
  • Popular support is a indicator of how much sway a given player holds within the simulated constituency. It has different gameplay functions in Electoral and Legislative Games: the former usually tie it to the victory condition (the player with the most support wins), while in the latter, they function more like Hit Points (if your support drops below certain threshold as a result of your or other players' actions, you lose).
  • Advertisement:
  • Political capital are resources that the players spend to enact their political agenda. Some games have only one generic resource, while others subdivide it into multiple types, with different in-game actions requiring different amounts of different resources. Most common resource types are Money (material resource) and Prestige (immaterial); sometimes, Force (training and equipment needed for direct, violent action) and Media (control over information itself) are distinguished, as well. Different resource types may be associated with particular ideologies, e.g. in how you obtain them or which flavor of actions you can spend them on.
  • Political actions are the main Gameplay Mechanic available to players:
  • Current issues are a form of Random Events designed to challenge the players' in-game ideology, ideally by pitting it against their pressing practical concerns (or against other players'). Taking a stance on a current issue (in word or in deed) typically results in the player's political capital and/or popular support shifting up or down, depending on the specific design.
  • In multiplayer games, players are typically allowed to trade political capital at any point, but not ideology (however it is modeled in the game) or popular support. Furthermore, they are fully expected to form temporary coalitions, which may or may not have special mechanics attached to them, so political strategy typically sits in the Dynamic Alliances section of the Sliding Scale of Cooperation vs. Competition. Combined with ideologies-as-alignments, this usually facilitates some amount of role-playing among players.

Ultimately, political strategies are about managing the conflict of interest: your power (resource) comes from representing the interests of others, whether they are individual voter demographics, special interests like domestic lobbies and foreign NGOs, or rival players, all of whom impose contradictory restrictions on how you can spend that power. The tension comes from maneuvering around these restrictions to maintain existing support while also expanding it.


    open/close all folders 

    Browser Games 
  • Model US Gov (2014–ongoing) is an ongoing Forum Role-Play hosted on Reddit, which simulates multiple branches of a fictionalized United States Government.
  • Clout was a satirical browser-based MMO game where players assumed the role of members of a fictionalized US Congress proposing and voting on bills, while also engaging in Skullduggery (up to and including assassinations of other players) — thus, it can be seen as an thematic precursor to The Partisans. Each player belonged to one of five parties (Conservative, Libertarian, Liberal, Socialist, or Green), which determined their overall voting priorities. Players also had a Constituent Support score, which determined whether they were re-elected (remained in the game) at the end of every Real Life month and could be raised by voting with the party, lowered by voting against it, and lowered drastically by having their Skullduggery exposed by other players. The game had two types of political capital: money was used to buy bonus items and fund Subterfuge operations (including Skullduggery), while clout was used to propose bills and to vote for and against it. Clout was apparently shut down in 2017, with no known plans to bring it back.
  • The Campaign Trail simulates a historical American presidential campaign, with several dates available. The player must take a Presidential candidate and then choose a Vice-Presidential candidate setting the tone of the campaign, along with advantages in some states. The campaign proper allows the player to visit a state and react to events such as strikes, riots, or foreign wars. Several issues are available, depending of the year, including the annexation of Texas, the Transcontinental Railway, slavery, civil rights, gun rights or the Gold Standard.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Republic of Rome (1990) simulates the senatorial politics of the pre-Imperial Rome. There are no hard-coded ideologiesnote , but any public promises and deals made by players are mechanically binding. Instead of a party, each player controls a faction of named senators, who also constitute their political capital. Each senator has two popular support ratings, Influencenote  and Popularitynote , as well as Oratory and Military ratings, with the most important being Influencenote . Other political capital includes Talents (money, either belonging to senators, or to the faction), votes (see below), and loyalties of veteran legions (mainly for players who pull a Caesar). While there is a wargame dimension to ROR, it is very formulaic and streamlined and serves mainly as a means for individual senators to gain popular support away from Rome. The heart of the game are the senate sessions, where players convert their senators' Oratory skill, loyal equites, and talents into votes, which are then used to support or oppose proposals, such as senator appointments as consuls, provincial governors, and generals leading legions to warsnote . Another important part of a senate session are the prosecutions, where a vote decides whether senators are fined or even executed for corruption or anything they did while in office on the previous turn (if convicted, a senator can try to use their Popularity to rouse the rabble to his defensenote ). Interestingly, while there are "laws" in the game, which tweak its basic mechanics when played, they only need to be voted upon with optional rules, otherwise they take hold automatically. Lastly, at any time during a senate session, players can attempt to assassinate another's senator, though the punishment for it, if caught, is severe. The game ends when a) a senator pulls a Caesar and successfully takes Rome with his loyal veteran legions, b) a senator gains 21 Influence and gets voted in as Consul for Lifenote , c) the Random Event deck runs empty (in which case the faction with the most total Influence wins), or d) the republic collapses either because it is fighting too many wars simultaneously, can't pay for its expenses, or the civil unrest results in a revolution (in which case all players lose).
  • The Partisans (2019) is a board game that originated from Extra Credits's "Extra Politics" mini-series and was Kickstarted in August 2018. It simulates the workings of a US Congress-like parliament: each player chooses an ideology and draws a random lobby to give them political capital (PC) tokens. Each turn, players put together new laws/bills out of randomized "amendment" cards, which can enact the interests of their ideology (giving them victory points if passed) or lobby (giving them extra PC), then spend PC to play "political action" cards to sabotage other players and to vote for or against the bill. Players can trade any resource except victory points at any time. Each bill passed alters the government priorities, and at the end of the game, players receive additional victory points based on how closely said priorities match their chosen ideology.
  • SHASN note  (TBR 2020) is another Kickstarted board game, inspired by The Partisans, but notable for being setting-agnostic, with the same mechanics applied to different time periods from The Roman Republic, through modern-day US and India, to 20 Minutes into the Future. Unlike The Partisans, it is an Electoral Game and allows players to dynamically shift their ideology. On their turn, each player draws an "ideology card" with a setting-appropriate policy question, with their answer determining their ideological standing and which resources they receive. The game has four types of political capital (Funds, Media, Clout, and Trust) and four corresponding ideologies (Capitalist, Showman, Supremo, and Idealist). Resources can be used to secure votes in one of nine regions on the board, or to purchase Conspiracy and Headline cards to sabotage other players. Having certain levels in any ideology, meanwhile, unlocks powerful special abilities. The goal of the game is to secure majority votes in the most regions: when majority is formed in all nine regions, the game ends and the player with the most voters wins. Two unique twists are Coalitions and Gerrymandering: two players can form a Coalition to have a joint majority in a region, protecting their voters from others' Gerrymandering, which allows a player who has an individual majority in a region to arbitrarily shift voters (their own or the others'!) across all neighboring regions, unless they also form a majority (individual or coalition). Players can trade resources and Conspiracy cards at any time during their turn (also, players forming a coalition must exchange one card of their respective dominant ideologies, as the "ideological cost of compromise").

    Video Games 
  • Presidential Election (1980) was a type-in game by Ralph G. White for Atari 2600 about running for US presidency. The player can decide whether their presidential candidate is the incumbent or the challenger, Democrat or Republican, and shape their ideology by setting relative priorities of six current political issues (unemployment, inflation, energy, social adjustments, defense, and foreign affairs). They then have nine months to tour the six US regions, where they can either spend the main resource (money) to campaign for popular support, or conversely raise funds. At the end of each in-game months, they are given their current financial status and poll ratings, and are confronted by a random political event which they have to take a stance on according to their chosen ideology. The game ends after nine months with you either being elected into office or losing the race.
  • This is a major element of the Tropico series (2001–ongoing) of Settlement Simulations: in most installments, the population of the eponymous fictional Banana Republic is divided into several factions, such as Communists, Religious, Intellectuals, Capitalists, Militarists, Environmentalists, etc. A big part of the game is finding ways to placate these factions, by constructing buildings and enacting policies (called "edicts") favored by their respective ideologies, while maintaining enough support to keep you in power. Consistently favoring a certain faction causes its numbers to swell at the expense of the others, securing your position but also making you more dependent on that faction. Your standing with the factions can also affect your foreign relations: for example, having better relations with the Communists than other factions strengthens your relationship with the Soviet Union but weakens your relationship with the United States.
  • Republic: The Revolution (2003) puts you in the shoes of a young activist from a fictional post-Soviet Eastern European republic who forms his own political party to topple the corrupt and reactionary government. To do so, he recruits additional activists from all walks of life and assigns them (and himself) to carry out "actions" in the game worldnote , e.g. investigating a city district (or spreading misinformation), campaigning for popular support of his cause (or sabotaging that of rival parties), or even attacking other parties' functionaries (or protecting his own). Having popular support in a district over time nets you different amounts of three types of political capital (Force, Influence, and Wealth), which correspond to three core ideologiesnote  and which you spend to launch actions, as well as story eventsnote . The game has three ideology-based endings: a Military Coup (Force), a Velvet Revolution (Influence), or a forced resignation of the incumbent President Evil, followed by his assassination (Wealth).
  • In the Democracy series (2005–ongoing), you take on the role of a democratically elected leader and can influence your country and, more importantly, your standing among various demographics by adjusting various policies — and thus your chances of getting reelected at the end of your term.ds, your own ambitions, and the requirements and limitations of your current government make up much of the game's challenge and appeal.
  • A lot of Paradox Interactive's games include sophisticated simulations of historical politics:
    • Victoria: An Empire Under the Sun (2003) and its sequel (2010) place a lot of emphasis on your nation's internal politics. Every unit of population ("pop") in your empire has its own needs based on its class and profession, as well as a set of issues it prioritizes that determine which political parties it finds the most attractive. A combination of government type and the political party in power determines the sorts of actions your government can take (passing reforms, setting tax rates, building new factories, etc.); some governments allow for the ruler to appoint and dismiss ruling parties at a whim, while others hold regular elections, with votes being cast according to voter eligibility rules that may give more weight to certain classes or lock others out entirely. Pops who feel that their needs aren't being met or that their issues aren't getting enough attention are likely to radicalize, triggering negative events that will affect the national economy, and may (read: often will) spill over into a full-on revolt to overthrow the current government. Balancing your people's nee
    • The Crusader Kings series (2004–ongoing) features political strategy of a very different mold than the rest: instead of a simulating republican politics, it concerns Medieval feudal and dynastic power strugglesnote . As such, religions replace ideologies as pseudo-alignments that restrict available succession laws (in regards to order of succession and gender) and government forms (feudal, theocratic, etc.); instead of popular support, your power is measured both by the landed titles held by members of your dynasty (tiered into baron, count, duke, king, and emperor) and by the Relationship Values with your liege, peers, and vassals; and the primary political capital types are Prestige (which you gain gradually from holding noble titles or in large chunks from winning wars or random events, and can spend on political maneuvering) and Piety (gained mainly from fighting religious wars and random events, and spent on matters of faith), plus taxes and levies for economic and military actions, respectively. The core mechanics are arranged marriages, claiming and bestowing titles, adjusting laws within your own holdings, negotiating alliances, and declaring and fighting wars; special actions include all manner of political intrigue, including conspiracies and assassinations (which unhappy vassals can use against the player, too).
    • Stellaris (2016) features this in its political system. Unless you're playing as a Hive Mind or an Artificial Intelligence, you will have to manage various political factions in your society. These factions correspond to the eight ethics that you can organize your society under, each of which stands opposed to another one: egalitarian or authoritarian, xenophilic or xenophobic, pacifist or militaristic, and materialist or spiritualist. You choose your ethics at the start of the game (either three moderate ethics, or one moderate and one fanatical ethic), which initially inform the dominant political factions in your star empire, but this can change over time as your star nation grows and various events cause your people to change their outlook. Ironically, managing factions is typically easier in a democracy, as regular elections can allow a popular but disaffected faction to enter power, while under a dictatorship or a monarchy you have to maintain a constant balancing act with those factions that aren't in power lest they rebel (or force you to spend political capital suppressing them).


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: