While going through the list of events to possibly do while at Origins, I noticed Campaign Trail was on the list.  I had seen Campaign Trail on Kickstarter earlier in the year and was interested in the theme.  I really wanted to try it out and so I signed us up for it.

Campaign Trail is basically an area control game where you are running for President of the United States.  We were playing a 6 player game.  This was the first surprise of the game as we had to play in teams of two.  Instead of controlling the same thing as a team, we each were either the President or the Vice President running for each party.  Grant and I were the Libertarians and I was the Presidential candidate while Grant was the VP candidate. We were going against the Republicans and Democrats.  We were told there is a Tea Party in the works for a future expansion.

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At the beginning of the game we all started in specific states based on a predetermined set up.  Once we got our hands of cards we could then choose one of those cards that contained a state and choose that state as our “home” state.  All parties started with the same number of Electoral Votes.  To win the game, you simply needed the most Electoral Votes at the end of the game.  We also got a random character card that each had their own special power and a disadvantage for something in the game.  My character was good at campaigning….I could place 8 voters instead of 6 but I was horrible at debating, meaning I could not debate on 4 of the 8 topics.  Grant was the squeaky clean candidate and his power was no one could target him for negative actions but it was more difficult to raise funds. With that, we were ready to play.

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The way turn order works is each player on your team plays one card and then it goes to the next team.  Which order you decide to play in was determined by your team.  We chose to have the VP candidate play first (as he was trying to get voters registered and campaign funds raised so that the President could then campaign and place 8 voters vs. the normal 6).  At the end of the round who ever had the most Electoral Votes went first for the next round.

When you played a card you had many actions you could take with a single card.  You could Fundraise for cash, Advertise for a new single voter added in every red state listed on your card, Campaign by putting 6 voters out in any blue states that were on your card, Travel to other states, use the special event, or Register a certain amount of voters.  You have to have registered voters in order to put them out on the map.  You also have icons at the bottom of your card that are used for the debates.

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So, you continue to play cards on your turn then draw a card at the end of your turn up to the maximum hand size of 5 cards.  The game is divided into 3 separate “months” each with the same amount of cards.  Once the deck runs out, there will be a debate.  The first debate was only for the Presidential candidates, after the second month then the Vice Presidential candidates would get to debate.  When the third month ends that is the end of the game and no debate is held…..it’s Election day.

The debate rounds are very interesting.  There is a set of 8 different icons that are going to be debated.  Players play cards based on those icons showing the voters who is best in debating those subjects.  Each topic will move up and down on a chart showing how many voters you were able to persuade during your debate.

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In this particular game the Democrats with 220 Electoral Votes came out with victory while the Independents (us), with only 180, were able to come in second.  The scoring track was really nice also.  Each state has a tile based on how many electoral votes that state has.  When a party over takes a state, by having more voters than anyone else, you simply move the state from one track to the other.  This got changed fairly often.  I could see an issue in the future of the track wearing out quickly but it is a smart and unique design.

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Overall the game was really enjoyable.  I liked the different stages of the game to change things up.  I liked the team element where we were on the same team but didn’t control the same things.  I like the multi-use cards and deciding what card to use for what action.  I liked the easy to read victory point tracker.  There were a couple things I was not crazy about.  The character disadvantages did not seem evenly balanced.  My character that was not allowed to debate on 4 of the 8 topics killed us in the first debate and most likely was one of the major reasons we came in second as we scored no votes that round as I had kept the wrong cards to properly debate.  Also changing the Electoral votes could seem “chorie” every turn.

I would definitely like to play this again.

Stay tuned up next is my summary of our demo experience with Mystic Vale, the new Card Crafting Game by AEG.

-Tim