Gaffes & Promises – Three rounds is a long time in politics

The lead up to the 2013 Australian Federal Election was one of the most interesting periods of Australian politics in recent times. At least, games designer Alex Vilagosh thinks so. While some people may have hated the soap opera nature of the 2013 election, others loved it. Alex enjoyed it so much he decided it was deserving of a card game that would celebrate the kind of wacky characters and odd events that nobody could have made up if they tried.

¬† ¬†Gaffes and Promises is a lovely little card-drafting game wherein players take control of one of the four major political parties, namely Labor, Liberal/National, Greens and the Palmer United Party. Their objective it to gain as many votes as possible from the people, represented in the four demographic categories of families, pensioners, big business and students. There are three rounds, each filled with political wrangling and wangling, represented by three kinds of event cards, two of which lend the game it’s name.

Gaffe&Promises01Promise cards represent the things you and your party will say to convince people to give you their vote, and are usually aimed at a specific demographic. Unfortunately, as often happens, a promise that appeals to one demographic will illicit a negative reaction from another. Students may celebrate your decision to legalise same sex marriage, but you will lose the votes of the traditionalists among the pensioners. Full paid parental leave will take a huge burden from many in the family demographic, but will also upset those in big business.

Gaffe cards represent those unintended actions which, while some of us in the public may have found them hilarious, tend to cause those who made them kick themselves afterwards. Those could include uttering the phrase “Suppository of all wisdom”, taking a publicity photo in front of a picture of Hitler or asserting that “Asylum seekers cause traffic congestion.” Gaffes will cause a loss of votes from a certain demographic, and are great to play on your opponent. As an aside, I found it interesting to note that the vast majority of these cards showed gaffes from the Liberal party or Tony himself, which seems like a fairly accurate representation of the reality.

A third type of card represents public relation events, such as press conferences and newspaper endorsements. These are the opposite to gaffes in game terms, garnering votes from some demographics while not losing any from others.

The game itself is a lot of fun. The simplicity of the game play makes it accessible to anyone, as it is targeted at those with an interest in the political world rather than just gamers. While some might say that politics is boring, anyone who followed the 2013 election would disagree, and the game represents that. Watching your friends/political enemies work on a specific demographic and then ruining their chances with a well placed gaffe or two can be priceless, reflecting, I imagine, the savage joy an actual pollie would feel when watching their opponent ruin their own campaign chances.

Gaffe&Promises02An equal share of fun comes with simply reading the cards and realising they all really happened. Having played a few matches, my friends and I then dissolved into talking about the various cards. Asking the stories behind the ones we had missed and filling each other in on the stories. I believe at one point a smart phone came out and we watched a few youtube clips of politicians embarrassing themselves.

Basing a card game on a political election is not an idea that would occur to many of us, but I am glad it occurred to someone. I even think the idea could be applied to other political contexts. Compared to Australian election campaigns the American campaigns are not only much longer but usually filled with a lot more crazies as well. Perhaps the formula could be applied there. Perhaps even an adult only version featuring Silvio Berlusconi and his ‘Bunga bunga’ parties. Perhaps even a sequel the the original game, where the player is now in power and has to juggle the praise of keeping promises and the bad press from breaking them.

Whether there is more to come or this is a one time thing, it is definitely worth checking out. Visit the site at to start the fun.

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