In all the games, you take on the role of a President/Prime Minister of a democratic country, and must manage it through introducing or modifying policies in the seven areas of tax, economy, welfare, foreign policy, transport, law and order and public services. Each turn also randomly introduces dilemmas to be resolved.
Both your policies and the way you resolve dilemmas affects your standing with the varying factions of the electorate, allowing you to win re-elections if it is high enough with the majority. You'll also make two promises before each election for what you intend to achieve in your next term - flagging numbers can be boosted through bold visions, but failing to live up to them in turn raises voters' cynicism, so popular leaders are wise not to promise too much. The game's difficulty level is customizable; the higher it is set, the more difficult it is to maintain your popularity through major policy reforms and elections.
This game provides examples of:
- All Nations Are Superpowers: Mid-sized nations such as Australia and Canada, are just as able as the United States to equip an "overwhelming force" military, or to build a space station.
- Anarchy Is Chaos: Without police, the country is overrun by gangs and vigilante mobs.
- Corrupt Politician: In Africa, you can enact policies that subvert democracy. Mechanically, this doesn't directly affect elections (there's no "stuffing ballot boxes" policy), though you can extend term lengths and eliminate term limits. Instead, reducing the Democracy value means taking measures that eliminate checks and balances on your regime, allowing you more political capital (to force through more law changes) per turn.
- Fake Balance: In a debt crisis, the game is unwinnable. When the economy is strong and debt is low, the game is ridiculously easy.
- Green Aesop: High GDP screws up the environment.
- Nintendo Hard: While by no means impossible, the game more or less accurately reflects just how difficult it is to manage a democratic nation in most cases. Don't feel bad if your first few playthroughs end in defeat or assassination.
- No Poverty: Poverty can be eliminated.
- Patriotic Fervor: The Patriots, who actively support policies in favor of your nation's military and acts directed against immigrants even if it harms foreign relations.
- Permanent Elected Official: Zig-zagged. While the game has no midterm discharge procedures (such as impeachment or vote of no confidence) the player needs to win elections, and some countries have a definite term limit.
- Random Event: Events and dilemmas occur nearly every turn.
- Ruler Protagonist: The player is Head of State and/or Head of Government.
- Think of the Children!: Parents fear asthma, teacher shortages and overcrowded hospitals.
- Vigilante Man: Vigilante Mobs often appear, if the police force is too small.
- War Hawk: The Patriot voter group supports military spending.
- We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future: Maxing out the Health variable is not that hard.
- Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: A Socialist assassination is written from the perspective of the socialists themselves.