I will leave the review of Junta as a board game to the existing content on its product page. It’s an accurate and yet soulless description of a game that Ealing might once have considered filming under the title ‘Carry on Dictator’. It is a game that is literally crying out for you to drop every Godfather, Apocalypse Now and faux Fast-Show channel 9 soundbite that you can cram into the time available.
The object of Junta is to end up as the player with the fattest Swiss bank account, and the easiest way to achieve this is to be the Presidente de Republica de las Bananas, who gets to set the budget every turn, and, unless terminally stupid, stuff their own pockets doing so.
The remaining players – all also intent on stuffing their own pockets - are basically there to find a way on any given turn to assassinate, depose or oust through armed insurrection the current incumbent of the post and install themselves as Presidente.
What’s not to love?
This year my friends and I decided to go the whole hog and add a little fancy dress to really set the mood. The accompanying election banner will of course convey my magnificence, and the other attendees were suitably impressive, including a striking Orange gentleman who was loudly proclaiming that it was time to make Bananas great again. If he worked in a field other than education, I would post the pictures, but this is not a game that fits in the Politically Correct category and thus, sadly, he must remain anonymous.
As the only player that knew the rules, it fell to me to lead the players through the first few turns, and their appreciation was heart-warming. Assassinated twice by turn three, I was gladdened to see my charges learning the fundamentals so quickly. I’m still not entirely certain whether this was a tactical move against the experienced player, or a reaction to my dreadful fake accent.
An inexplicable lapse of discipline on my part had led me to help elect our host as first President, and by the fifth turn, it had become obvious that his time diverting the foreign aid budget needed to be brought to a swift end. A brief conversation away from the table brought first one conspirator, and then a second. The critical issue was what assets we had on the table and in our coup event cards, and whether these would be enough to overcome the president and his current ally.
At that point, I could bring one army brigade of the three, and the first co-conspirator had the second army brigade. On their own they would not be enough, so we invited the internal security minister to our dialogue. Whilst he had nothing on the board other than the police (his default units), it turned out that he was holding strikers and student cards in his hand, and had the influence cards in play to deploy them.
In a shocking act of treachery, we created a plan for the following turn. I would approach the President as a friendly asset and request the Air Force role. I would choose my HQ as my location for the turn and start the coup as First Rebel.
Because any player may only hold one of the three Generalships, the conspirators knew that we would end up with at least two of them, on the assumption that the President’s ally would get the third. The trap was set.
The following turn arrived, and the President granted me the Air Force role, giving his ally the Navy and one Generalship. The co-conspirators were duly given the other two Generalships, and the Ministry of Internal Security.
When the time came, I denounced the [Capitalist Dog! / ’Chris Waddle!’ ], and started the Coup from my HQ.
Oh, The Coup!
A Coup in Junta is a short six turn war game (plus a bonus turn at the start for the Rebels). Each player can only move one stack in each turn (even if they have several), so some careful planning is required to reach and seize the objectives in the time available.
The game favours the President, particularly since any of the five target locations is considered under Presidential control if either empty, or any one unit loyal to the President is still in place when the Coup ends. In a further nod to the sheer treachery encouraged by the game, loyalists and rebels can change sides at any time during the Coup, even after the fighting is over (the infamous ‘choosing sides’ rule).
Thus, the rebel army brigades began their march on their targets within the capital, whilst the loyalist brigade moved toward their nearest target. The Loyalist Navy began its bombardment of the nearest Rebel stack.
As the fight progressed the Rebels threw in their students and strikers, but were hindered by the usual problem that we had more stacks than players that could move them (control can be transferred but this has its own nuances – remember ‘choosing sides’?). The Loyalists were not without allies either, and more units were piled into the fray from their Coup event cards. What looked like an easy win for the Rebels turned into a tough fight for control, centred on the Presidential Palace. Airstrikes, even with a few snake-eye dice rolls, proved to be key to breaking the palace.
Finally, the Rebels triumphed on the field, and all minds turned to the ‘choosing sides’ moment. My private offer to the President to keep him in power for a mere $7M fell on deaf ears, and hence I was saved from betraying my co-traitors.
An election round amongst the Rebels resulted in my appointment as the second President of the session, at which point I was duty-bound to reinforce the basic point of the game.
Jeelez had been a staunch Rebel and conspirator. Unfortunately, at the end of the Coup he had a quite tidy stack of cash on the table, not safely banked in Switzerland. As the newly elected President immediately after a Coup, it is in my gift to send ‘somebody’ to the firing squad and basically nick their cash. I sent flowers to Mrs Jeelez.
At this point, all the pieces had fallen into place and as the new President, I proposed the new budget in a much more enlightened fashion that coincidentally massively favoured me. However, it turned out that Jeelez’s newly promoted relative had a vote of no confidence card, and after a quick vote of my less-than-admiring peers, my Presidency turned out to be one of the shortest ever seen.
Viva Presidente Jeelez
By this time, we are getting into the end game, and Jeelez and the (former) first President are becoming as thick as thieves. Two more turns progress, and I once again turn to the first conspirator Riccardo to see if we can manage another Coup.
Sadly the stars and cards are not aligned, and we decide that we don’t have the strength. We are reduced to a few unsuccessful assassination attempts as the game draws to a close.
So, who won Junta?
Well, on the assassinated and deposed board I was leagues ahead. Unfortunately, my retirement in Switzerland will be somewhat overshadowed by that of the first President, who managed to stash a healthy sum whilst in power and then top it up with very favourable sums from Presidente Jeelez. I can only assume that there was some bad blood there.
Hopefully, this brief tale has given you something of the flavour of Junta, and the sheer fun of constantly trying to assassinate and undermine each other. It is really not a game that can be taken seriously, and that may be the crux of its appeal.
In each and every turn, the assassination phase comes around, and then the alligator grins come out.