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The Politics of Cannibals Board Game Review

How to Play | My Thoughts | Final Verdict | Comments

How to Play

The object of The Politics of Cannibals is to win over the most villagers in order to be declared the next chief. Players win over voters based on their political platform. Each players political platform consists of seven face up and one face down card. During the game players can add cards or change cards within their platform. Each villager (tile) has two colors featured on it. These are the two issues that are important to this particular villager. The color in the center of the tile is the tiles dominant color.

All of the cards are shuffled. Based on the number of players, some cards are removed from the deck:

  • 3 Players: 36 cards
  • 4 Players: 18 cards
  • 5 Players: 5 cards

Each player is then dealt 10 cards and takes three tiles randomly from the bag. Players create their starting platform by playing four of their cards face up in front of themselves. The players select between one to three of their tiles to be added to the game board. The tiles players choose not to add are removed from the game. Any leader tile drawn has to be discarded without telling the other players. Once everyone is finished they reveal their starting platform and the tiles they chose to keep are placed onto the game board based on their dominant color.

Politics of Cannibals Gameplay
The two tiles with orange in the center are placed in the warfare section since that is their dominant color. The green tile is placed in the farming section due to it being the dominant color.

During a player’s turn they can do one of the following five actions:

  • Add a card to your platform
  • Draw a card and tile
  • Discard a card and place a tile in the pot
  • Discard a card, remove one tile from the pot for the rest of the game, draw two tiles and keep one of them
  • Discard a card and return a tile from the pot to the game board that has the same dominant color as the card that was discarded

Add a Card to Your Platform

A player may take one card from their hand and add it to their set of platform cards. If the player already has seven cards face up in their platform, they must discard one of them to play the new card.

Two additional options could be performed with this action.

Once during the game a player may play one card face down to their platform instead of face up. Once this card is placed it cannot be changed.

If the player has not played their face down card yet, the player is allowed to challenge one of the other players. In order to challenge a player you must discard an additional card of the color of the card you already played. If you discard the extra card, the player to your left or right must then discard a card of the same color from their platform. If the player to your left or right does not have the color in their platform you may move onto the next player and make them lose one card of the color you played. The player who lost the card is able to immediately play a card from their hand to replace the card they lost (does not count as their turn).

Draw a Card and Tile

With this action a player draws one card and one tile. If the player already has six cards in their hand, they are unable to perform this action. The tile drawn is automatically added to the section of the game board that is the same color as the dominant color of the tile.

If a player draws a leader tile during this step, special steps are taken. If no leader of the same color has been revealed yet, each player counts up the number of cards in their platform that match the tiles color. Whoever has the most cards of the color gets to take the leader tile which is worth one point at the end of the game and will be used when breaking ties related to its’ color. If there is a tie for the lead no one takes the tile.

Politics of Cannibals Leader Tiles
Pictured are the various leader tiles in the game. The black tile is the chef tile.

If a leader of the same color has already been revealed, the current player with the most cards of the color is determined again. If it is the same player as before, nothing happens and the tile drawn is discarded. If there is a new majority leader, the leader tile goes to the new majority leader. The prior owner of the leader tile loses one card of the leader’s color from their platform. This player is allowed to immediately replace the lost card with a new card (does not count as their turn). If there is a tie, the prior majority leader loses the tile and the card from their platform but the other player does not get the leader tile.

If a player draws the chef tile (tile with black border) they get the option to remove up to three tiles from the game board. They must discard one card from their hand for each tile they would like to remove.

Place Tiles in the Pot

A player may discard one card of any color from their hand to place a tile of any color into the pot (player’s choice). There may not be more tiles in the pot than there are players in the game. If a tile is in the pot at the end of the game, they do not cast a vote.

Feast on a Tile in the Pot

This action can only be performed if there is a tile in the pot. By discarding a card (of any color) a player may remove one tile in the pot from the game permanently. The player also gets to draw two tiles. One tile must be played to the game board while the other is discarded.

Save Someone From the Pot

In order to save someone from the pot, a player must discard a card of the same color as the dominant color of the tile that they would like to rescue.

Politics of Cannibals Pot
If a player would like to place one of the tiles from the warfare or farming sections into the pot, they must discard a card of any color. If a player wants to permanently remove one of the tiles in the pot, they can discard a card of any color. If they want to move a tile from the pot back to the game board they must discard a gray card to move the tile on the left or a red card for the tile on the right.

Counting Up the Votes

When the last card is drawn and the corresponding tile is placed on the board, the game ends. All of the tiles on the board that are not in the pot are eligible to vote. Before counting votes all of the tiles are shuffled face down and each player gets to select one tile at random that doesn’t get to vote.

As mentioned earlier each tile has two colors on it. Each tile votes for the player who has the most combined cards of the two colors shown on the tile. The player must have one card of both colors on the tile in order to win that vote. If there is a tie between two or more players, the player who received the leader tile of current tile’s dominant color gets to break the tie. This player chooses which tied player to give the tile to which could include themself. If no one controls the leader tile of the dominant color, whoever has the most cards of the dominant color wins the tie. If there is still a tie, the tile is removed from the game.

Politics of Cannibals Scoring
The first tile features green and yellow. The right player will win the tile since they have five yellow and green cards while the left player only has two. The second tile would be won by the left player (5 cards to 2). The third tile would go to the right player because the left player doesn’t have a gray card. If there was a tie, whoever had control over the gray leader tile would get to choose who got the tile. Finally neither player would win the last tile since neither has a card of both colors.

Each tile won is worth one point and each leader tile won during the game is also worth one point. Whoever has the most points wins the game.

My Thoughts

The Politics of Cannibals. A political game featured around cannibalism. Every so often you run into a game and wonder what went through the minds of the people who developed the game. Politics of Cannibals is definitely one of those games. The idea for the game was so weird though that when I found it on clearance I had to try it.

When you talk about Politics of Cannibals, the first thing you have to discuss is the theme. The theme is very strange and I could honestly say that I never thought I would play a game with a theme of cannibalism. Being a taboo topic, people’s reaction to the theme is likely to vary quite a bit. Some people won’t have much of an issue with it while other people will be offended by the idea. After playing the game I have to say that I am somewhere in the middle. I think the theme idea is pretty stupid but is kind of harmless at the same time. The game doesn’t take the theme very seriously even joking that the last person to taste human flesh gets to go first. People would be justified being offended by the theme though and you could make the case that the theme is kind of racist.

Delving into the history of the game, the decision to go with the cannibal theme puzzles me. The game just feels like a game that was complete and someone decided to add cannibalism to it. The theme only plays a small role in the game and another theme could have easily been chosen. According to Board Game Geek the game was originally going to be about the U.S. political system. If this is true I don’t know why the developers changed their minds. This game would have worked great as a representation of the U.S. political system. It would have worked better with the game mechanics and it could have been humorous making fun of U.S. politics.

With the theme out of the way, let’s talk about the gameplay. As a whole The Politics of Cannibals is an average game. It does some things well while other things could have used some more work. I would probably classify it as a light to moderate strategy game. At first the game might seem complicated. The game takes a little while to get the hang of due to having five options on every turn. For a while our group had to keep referencing the rules in order to remember the different options available. After a couple rounds the game becomes quite a bit easier and the game moves much faster.

Being a lighter strategy game I was surprised by the length of the game. I thought the game would last at least an hour. The Politics of Cannibals is more like a 30-45 minute game. Once you are familiar with the game I would wager more on the shorter end of that spectrum. The game ends up feeling like a longer filler game.

In most board games it is pretty easy to discover the various valid strategies to implement. In Politics of Cannibals there doesn’t really seem to be any set strategies that you can implement. The good news is that this means that every game is likely to be different since players can’t just keep using the same strategy game after game. For people that like games with definite strategies though, this will drive them nuts.

Since there are no guaranteed successful strategies, you need to always be willing to change your strategy. Since you usually have to change your strategy at some point, it kind of seems like your early moves are kind of pointless. Your later moves seem to impact the final outcome significantly more. You need to be flexible in your strategy if you want to win. If you have a player that suffers from analysis paralysis and is always looking for the best strategy they could drag down the game if you are always waiting for them to analyze all of their options.

Some other quick thoughts I had on the gameplay include:

  • The chef tiles are kind of overpowered. While it is costly to discard one card for each tile you want to get rid of, this tile allows a player to totally decimate another player.
  • The rule where you can challenge another opponent forcing them to get rid of a platform card is kind of stupid in my opinion. It is too costly to use and pretty much no one used it in the game I played. Since the player who has to discard a card from their platform also gets to immediately play a new card, it is more of a nuisance than a game changing move.
  • The rule at the end of the game where every player gets to randomly remove a tile from the vote seems to just add unnecessary randomness to the game. For example in the game I played I ended up losing three vote tiles that I would have won. I could see this rule totally changing the outcome of a game just based on random draw. In the game I played I was far enough ahead that it ended up not affecting the outcome but it could have.

The components are pretty average. The artwork is okay. Some people may find the artwork to be a little racist since it does rely on stereotypes. The drawings are not bad but all of the artwork looks like it is washed out and much lighter than it should have been. The game also did a poor job choosing the colors. The yellow and green colors in particular look very similar and are very easy to mix up. If you are either color blind or have trouble distinguishing between colors, you may have quite a bit of trouble with The Politics of Cannibals.

I also think the instructions could have been written better. The instructions are easy enough to follow but they could have been written in a more concise manner. In their current form you need to read the rules carefully in order to understand them correctly.

The other issues I have with the game’s components most likely come down to the game being a low budget game. Due to the inexperience/small budget the components are just lacking the overall polish of other games. This lack of polish was evident with my copy. I bought the game new (on clearance) and the board was moderately warped when I first opened the box.

Final Verdict

The Politics of Cannibals is an interesting game. I think the theme was a poor choice since some people will find it offensive and it doesn’t really add anything to the game. The gameplay is not bad though. The game is fun to play but it just feels like something is missing. The game could have probably used a little more strategy and the early game could have had more impact on the final outcome. The components could also have used some work.

If you find the theme to be questionable or the gameplay doesn’t peak your interest I would pass on Politics of Cannibals. If you can find the game for cheap though and the gameplay sounds at least a little interesting you may enjoy Politics of Cannibals.

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