It's time to hone your underhanded tactics and channel your inner villain, as we head back to the island of Republica de las bananas for more deceitful and devilish behaviour. The original Junta, designed by Vincent Tsao and released back in 1978 by Creative War Games, is a franchise that's been around a while and now with this more compact adaptation for the modern day, can Las Cartas live up to its older brother's roots?
Trust me, I'm a politician!
Junta: Las Cartas has now been streamlined into a card game format,with emphasis on a more single-minded approach to the wheeling's and dealings of a government. One player is assigned to be El Presidente, with the others acting as the backroom staff from members of the most powerful families on the island. It's the president's sole job to keep his fellows players happy, but at the same time skimming wealth straight out of the pockets of those he leads.
Junta provides players with basic strategy choices in determining how best to amass there money and of course, keeping it away from the grubby paws of others. Like most games, luck plays its part in being successful but timing on power cards is also needed. The box is nice and compact, easy to pop in a bag or suitcase to help pass a rainy day on holiday and the set-up time is quic due to lack of too many game components and pieces.
Rules of Engagement
At the beginning of each round, foreign aid funds are made available. It's the president's job to dish out this income as they see fit to the rest of the players. They pass the money cards face down to each person and state the amount they are giving, but in a twist can 'embellish' the truth of what's actually been rewarded.
It's then up to the group to decide individually if El Presidente is being fair with each of their personal handouts or has greed taken firmly over. What then follows are two rounds of votes using different cards that every player is dealt randomly at the start of play, and can acquire over the course of the game. The various cards have values for voting and staging coups, with some also granting the player special abilities to gain an edge over the competition.Each player uses a card to cast a vote for or against the current regime.
After the first round of votes, sensing that things might not be going their way, the president can choose to use their money to bribe support from his constitutions. A second round of voting commences and a final tally is made. A larger score for the president sees them stay in power for another round, but if the against score is higher, then a coup is in effect......viva la revolution!
A secondary set of numbers on the cards and a subsequent round are then used to determine if that coup is successful or not. If the president wins, then they keep their money along with those who backed them. But if the coup is successful, the renegades profit and a new leader is crowned for the next round. Each round finishes with players being able to bank any money they've acquired from that round into a bank account for safe keeping. The game ends when the foreign aid money can no longer be dished out and the player with the most money is classed the winner.
The whole concept of having Junta: Las Cartas as a card game certainly lends itself to a more smoother and faster playing experience. The original felt long-winded in places, where as this has rectified that issue. The rules are pretty straightforward and each of the cards is clearly laid out with there voting and coup values and any abilities that they provide too.
The game doesn't get too bogged down with lots of card types, limiting itself to three main areas: influence cards which are mainly used for the voting process, building cards that provide permanent effects for the player with bonuses and finally intervention cards that have a one time action in swaying votes or filling your coffers with more money, whilst hindering others.
Each type of card is coloured coded for ease of use and provide the kind of abilities you'd expect from a 'backstab your nearest and dearest' game, including being able to Steal money and cards from another player, destroy buildings they may have played and being able to re-assign cards too. Enough to fulfil your basic low down behaviour desires.
Junta: Las Cartas Conclusion
The game runs well enough with plenty of finger pointing and fun arguments, but in condensing the original Junta down, it feels like your only really playing part of that game. Everything revolves around whether you're content with your money payout each round and either being happy to follow along with the leader, or trying to snatch power for yourself.
It seems somewhat incomplete and to some players, having the same strict, limited layout every round might feel repetitive after a while. It's a tough one to call as Junta: Las Cartas can be plenty of fun, as you try to get one up over on your friends by stealing their money or sabotaging their choices, whilst the artwork on the cards is refreshing and adds character to the game.
It is probably a safer choice for more of the casual gamers within your friends. For people looking at more substance in their playing experience, this may fall flat. It's one of those good selections to start a game night or finish one off as the play time isn't too high at around 45 minutes and it caters for 3-6 players, which is a healthy number. It's not too taxing, which can be a blessing or a curse depending on your group of players.
Junta: Las Cartas won't be breaking any new ground within the gaming industry, but on the flip side it does have a cheeky lure and with the option to turn on your comrades in a somewhat safe environment, its appeal is still there.