Friday, November 15, 2013

Article 27 Review

Article 27: The UN Security Council Game
  • Designed by Dan Baden
  • Published by Stronghold Gales
  • For 3-6 players, ages 10+ though I recommend 4 or 5 player games, with the occasional 6.
  • Playtime is around 7 minutes per player. (5 for each negotiation round plus bookkeeping)
Have you ever wanted to find out how you'd do in international politics?  Do you think you can convince your friends to do what you want even if it's not in their best interest?  Do you like negotiation and frantic back and forth?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, then Article 27 just might be the game you're looking for.

Player board after drawing issue tokens for the round.
At the start of the game, each player is given a secret objective such as Power or Social Justice.  At the end, that objective will score points based on how many times it is part of a successful bill during the game.  In each round, one player is the Secretary General, which means they are in charge of crafting a bill and maintaining order to some degree.  Each player will draw 5 tokens and place them (in order) on their player board.  If the color is part of a successful bill, then the player will gain, or lose, points based on the position.  Once all players have drawn their tokens, the Secretary General places an bill on the table, bangs the gavel, and starts a 5 minute timer.

Most of the components in the game.
This is were the madness kicks in.  Players have at most 5 minutes to bribe others to do what they want.  Some bribes can be simple, such as, "I'll pay you 1 to put red in the bill." or "I'll pay you two to take blue out."  Other bribes can get much more complicated like "I'll pay you 4 to put yellow and blue in, take green out, and you only get it if the bill passes."  Typically the complex bribes don't work, but they can be worth trying.  Only the Secretary General may alter the bill, so those are all examples of a bribe to the SG.  A player could bribe someone by saying "I'll pay you two to vote 'yes' on the bill." or even, "I'll pay you 2 to veto."  Your own creativity is your only limitation in how you bribe others.

The rest of the components in the game
At the end of 5 minutes, or when the Secretary General stops negotiations, all players vote on the bill.  A player has 3 options - 1) Approve 2) Abstain 3)Veto.  If any player vetoes, they pay 5, and the bill fails.  If there is no veto, then a majority of the table must approve in order for the bill to pass.  If a bill is approved, then the Secretary General takes 5 points, all players take points equal to the sum of their positive and negative tokens, and the issues that were part of the successful bill are placed face up in the proper row, while issues left on the table are placed face down.

This process repeats until every player has had a chance to be the Secretary General once, twice in a 3 player game.  Then players reveal their secret agenda, take points for it, and reveal their total score.  High score wins.

The artwork on the 6 country boards
Since Article 27 is a negotiation game, there is a great deal of interaction. Most of the interaction is with the Secretary General, but when you get a bill you really like, you have to make sure that no one is going to veto it, so you have to gauge other players and perhaps bribe them to make that happen.  Article 27 is founded on negotiation and interaction.  Without it, the game is rather dull.

Article 27 does a decent job of incorporating it's theme into the game.  I rarely feel like I'm a country negotiating with other countries, but the theme is there for people who want it.  Some people will start talking in accents, which is often hilariously bad, but it adds to the game.

The final issue board.
Money gets 3 points, Prestige gets 6 points,
Justice gets 10 points, Peace gets 6 points,
Innovation gets 6 points, and Power gets 6 points.
Very simple components here.  Everyone has an approve and reject token and 6 country tokens.  The issue tokens are well done, though white on yellow was not the best call, so I had my sister use a sharpie to outline the pictures.  The player boards are well designed, though I wish that the screens were less prone to coming undone.  All the components are good quality, the artwork is well done, even if not to everyone's taste.  The gavel sends it over the top though.  It has to be one of the better components in any game.

Learning Curve
I think that Article 27 is the kind of game where you need to play it, or at least see it played before you truly grasp what is going on.  It's not that the game is overly complicated, it's that the game has several things going on that everyone needs to track.  It helps immensely if someone has played it before.

I've played Article 27 13 times in the past several months.  However, it's been played less often.  I'm always up for this, but not everyone else enjoys it.  I think that might be because you're essentially playing the same thing every time.  Sure the secret agendas change, and the way issues come up, and the tokens you draw, but really the game is fundamentally the same every time.  I don't think that being the same is a terrible thing, but I wonder how much more I can really play it.

Why I like Article 27
Negotiation is fun for me.  Having to compromise, yet knowing when to flex your veto muscle is a great challenge.  You have to read people, try to figure out who wants what, and you have to maximize your points.

Why I don't like Article 27
The lack of variety as mentioned in replayability doesn't help.  If people aren't engaged, the game can fall flat.  It does take a group who's willing to work together but also mess with each other to bring out the fun in the game.

A Screenshot of the free timer app from Stronghold Games.
It also makes gavel noises at the start as well as every minute.
I like Article 27, but I can't love it.  It's a solid game, but after the first 10 or so plays, the shine is gone.  I'll still play it any chance I get, but I'm not actively seeking it out.  If you're into negotiation, this is a great game to try.  I'm happy I own it, I think it fills that negotiation niche in my collection.  I'd love an expansion, but I have no idea what you'd do in an expansion for this game.

Would it be a good game for Tabletop?
Perhaps.  BGG's Gamenight played this, and I enjoyed watching that.  I'm not sure Tabletop would be right since they edit a lot for time.


  1. Article 27 is the kind of game that works well when there's a rotating group. If the players tend to change every week, there's a lot more variability in how they interact and the outcome of the game in general. With the same 3-5 players, you get to know everyone's strategy and how they'll bribe to get what they want. That being said, I've had a blast playing this game and I think it's a great way to start off a game night because it plays quickly and with a great degree of energy. (I definitely agree with the white on yellow for the pieces!)

    1. Group variety is definitely a key to Article 27. It's no fun to pull out the Veto bluff if everyone knows you won't follow through. Still, it's great to have people who know the game well play it to the full bluffing and negotiating potential in the game.