Votes for Women (Digital Eyes)

Release Date: 2022Players: 1-4
Designer: Tory BrownLength: 60-75 minutes
Artist: Brigette Indelicato, Marc Rodrigue (II)Age: 12+
Publisher: Fort Circle GamesComplexity: 2.5 / 5
Plastic (by weight): n/aAir (by volume): n/a

The Women’s Suffrage Movement in the US started small, very small in fact, in a tiny hamlet in New York State. Over time, it spread from state to state across the whole country as its following grew. Their fight for equal rights culminated in the ratification of the 19th Amendment after a seventy-year battle. However, while this monumental achievement was a vital step, it did not guarantee every woman access to the ballot. The story continues to this day across the globe and the fight is still fought to achieve Votes for Women by Tory Brown from Fort Circle Games.

I mean, it’s a challenge to live up to a story as important as that of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, whether that’s in the USA, UK or anywhere else in the world. The struggle to finally establish and enshrine in law a fundamental right for half of the world’s population was never going to be easy. Navigating politics, both within the Movement itself and in the country as a whole is always a tightrope. So when a game proclaims that it allows players to follow in the footsteps of these amazing women and relive the fight that went on, it’s important to take note and see what it is all about.

Votes for Women’s History

I haven’t played Votes for Women solo, so I can’t comment on how it feels to play against the so-called Oppobot, but to me, these types of games are best at the two-player count. Sure, everyone wants to be on the right side of history and represent the Suffragettes. Nobody is ever happy to try and squash the Movement that was not only epic in scale, but so very vital in history.

Yet, when two human players pit their wits, and their decks of cards, against each other, history seems to really come to life for me. Both sides can share actively their experiences during and after the game, which isn’t possible with an automa opponent. It’s so much more interesting to discuss how it felt to finally win the vote or how awful it was being the one that stopped the Movement. After all, Votes for Women is definitely the type of game that encourages discussion and makes players want to learn more about the real-life historical events that took place.

Every card in the game has a short paragraph describing what happened. They make you wonder who these people were that are depicted. You only get a glimpse, a mere snapshot, of the person’s life, their goal and hopes in life, but it’s just enough to make you really curious and want to find out more for yourself.

some of the cards from Votes for Women
some of the cards from Votes for Women (photo courtesy of Fort Circle Games)

Card-Driven Votes

As a card-driven game, there is a certain amount of randomness. However, as each deck is divided into three eras, which create the timeline, you have a rough idea of what cards you will draw next. You can never be sure, but you are also never completely surprised, except maybe in your first game.

The effects in each deck are also designed in such a way that wonderfully emulates the slow beginning of the Suffragette Movement that gets more and more momentum as time goes on. Meanwhile, the Opposition starts rather strong and then peters out later in the game. In fact, the decks are so wonderfully designed that timing is very important. You don’t necessarily want to overstretch yourself as the Suffragettes early on, while also ensuring that the Movement starts to spread. It’s such an incredible tightrope act that is very hard to execute to perfection.

There is further randomness in the form of dice rolls. Dice rolls are often considered to be too unpredictable and to create too much chaos, but I think Votes for Women uses dice to perfection. In a game like this, there does need to be a certain amount of luck. In reality, best-laid plans don’t always work out as intended. However, the better prepared you are, the more likely they succeed. The same is true in this game. Make sure you have plenty of buttons to be able to reroll your dice and improve your chances.

Speaking of buttons, they are really crucial. They allow you to not only influence your luck, but also steer historical decisions in the direction you want them to go. They are another thing you have to consider carefully in the game, which adds to the richness of Votes for Women.

Women on the Move

The game is surprisingly easy to learn. In fact, it sort of teaches itself as you play. Everyone plays a specific card as their first card, which is a way of introducing you to how card-driven games work while also completing the setup. At the beginning, there is very little you can do, other than play cards for their event. After a while, you will have gained some buttons, which then allow you to play cards as actions instead. It really starts quite slowly and eases you in very nicely.

As the game progresses, the tension increases. While the Opposition player will feel their influence ceaselessly draining from the board, the Suffragette Movement can see signs of a huge swing in their favour. Yet, it’s not quite enough to force a vote. It’s close though and that’s where the tension is. Both players frantically try to pull the advantage back in their direction. As one makes sweeping gains, the other undoes them on their turn. It’s a constant see-saw.

As the game gets closer to the end, panic starts to set in. A good number of states will probably have cast their vote already. While the Suffragette player has a bigger mountain to climb, the Opposition can never be sure that they will win. In most of the games I have played, it came down to the very last card. Up until then, it was always much too close to choose who would come out the victor.

The only thing I’m not sure about in Votes for Women is when the game gets to Final Voting. That’s when influence is added to dice rolls to decide which way each state voted. It feels a little too much of an anti-climax to me, but maybe that’s how history actually went.

the US map from Votes for Women with regions colour coded
the US map from Votes for Women with regions colour coded (photo courtesy of Fort Circle Games)

Women Have My Vote

I only played Votes for Women online, so I can’t comment on component quality. However, I have noticed that knowing where the various US states are isn’t always easy. I believe the second printing comes with a useful player aid that addresses this. Saying that, while it slowed down the game for me a tiny bit, it didn’t detract for the amazingly wonderful experience I had playing it.

In fact, while in theory the game should get boring quite quickly, because the cards are the same every time and the map doesn’t change, in reality, Votes for Women has the opposite effect. The more you play it, the more excited you get about it. Not only do you want to play again on the same side, but eventually you want to try playing as the other side in the conflict. You also think the next game you will be better at controlling your dice luck. Either way, you are always looking forward to playing again. As a game that takes around an hour to play, once you’re more familiar with it, having several games in the same evening is actually very doable.

So if you ask me, I strongly recommend you take a closer look at Votes for Women. Maybe try it online first on the Rally the Troops website. It’s a really great implementation of the game. Then, if you do like it, and I think you definitely will, then get yourself a physical copy. I reckon actually having the map in front of you and facing off with the Opposition will create an even more engrossing experience than playing online. So, yes, please cast your Votes for Women.

Useful Links

Videos

Transparency Facts

I feel that this review reflects my own, independent and honest opinion, but the facts below allow you to decide whether you think that I was influenced in any way.

  • I played a friend’s copy of the game.
  • At the time of writing, neither the designers, nor the publisher, nor anyone linked to the game supported me financially or by payment in kind.

Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (https://www.youtube.com/audiolibrary/)

Music: “Wounded Heart” by AShamaluevMusic.
Website: https://www.ashamaluevmusic.com

Music: “Memorials” by AShamaluevMusic.
Website: https://www.ashamaluevmusic.com

Music: “Wonder” by AShamaluevMusic.
Website: https://www.ashamaluevmusic.com

Playlist

These are the songs I listened to while I was writing this review: