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Design Notes – POLITIKO: India


So, we’ve been working on a game called POLITIKO: India. It’s a card game about AADHAR mix-ups, Third / Fourth / Fifth Fronts, and general fraudulent activity in Indian politics.

NO 1: What the hell do we know about Indian politics??

Before coming here we knew about Congress and Shiv Sena and people known as Dalits — so: pretty much nothing.

We asked some really idiotic questions, and our fellow residents gave us some illuminating answers. Now we know about the TDP and Narendra Modi and the fact that quite a few Indian politicians have criminal cases pending against them. So: still not enough.

We’re making the game anyway.

NO 2: The demographics of India

In POLITIKO, to win a player has to collect VOTER cards. There are 60 of them in our POLITIKO: India deck, identified along location (say, URBAN), class (MIDDLE CLASS), political-ideological (LIBERAL), and identity (SIKH) lines. We tried out many different axes before settling on the above four. They are mechanically relevant — meaning that some player actions will only affect urban upper-class voters, or conservatives, or OBCs.

For us, the way these cards are themed should reflect two separate (and sometimes mutually exclusive) things: one, how the citizens of India see themselves; two, how party strategists view voting blocks. We’re reasonably confident that we nailed the latter. The former? Well, abstracting the vast mess of 1.2 billion people into a few dozen cards will make no one happy …


NO 3: Coalition politics

We’ve been told that in India — big, decentralised, and disparate — coalitions are necessary for government. We’ve designed the game around this reality. Every PARTY in POLITIKO: India has a limit to how many VOTER cards they may acquire; small parties have lower limits (3 VOTERS) than the BJP- or Congress-equivalents (7 VOTERS). However, because you need 12 VOTERS to win, no one wins alone; the national organisations need the regional ones to succeed.

This is a departure from the Malaysian version of POLITIKO, in which it is very possible to win on your own. This is true for Malaysian politics.

In both cases we’ve tried to represent the “flavour” of the context in gameplay. We really think that such narrative elements should be communicated through the bedrock of mechanics, rather than the veneer of text; this way, players can be prompted to tell themselves the stories we’d like them to experience — active participants, instead of passive listeners/readers.