The Majority 2, is a two-player card game from Muneyuki Yokouchi that was published in Japan in 2011 and is soon to be on Kickstarter in effort to bring it to the USA. In the Majority 2, players are competing to take power of the underworld through political machinations to gain representatives of the various factions to speak on their behalf. While most of the factions consist of evil beings, that is where their commonality with real world politicians comes to an end, as their ranks are filled with Dragons, Witches, Devils, Reapers, and the somewhat out-of-place Angles. The player best able to harness these dark forces will be the victor!
At the start of the game, both players receive 3 coins, four cards face-down, and determine a starting player. The starting player receives a six-card hand and then play begins.
A game turn proceeds as follows:
1# Get Financial Aid
All coins that are in front of the player are turned up, meaning they are available to be used this round.
2# Exchange Hand With Reserve
The active player may opt to exchange the entire hand with his reserve if he wishes. This is an all or nothing situation, so choose wisely.
If there are still cards in the hand at this point, a player may choose to draw from the top of the deck and add cards to the hand. When drawing, the player takes a number of cards equal to half his opponent’s factions (rounded up) +2. If there are no cards in the hand, a player must draw.
4# Free Play
At this point a player may choose to place a card into play without paying any cost but must forego activating it ability for the privilege of not paying a cost.
* Note: When I refer to placing a card in play, it means to add it to one of three columns that a player may form in front of his play area. A column may be added to until it contains five cards, at which point it becomes a faction, a representative is selected from it, and the remainder are discarded. When a player forms a faction, he selects a card to be his representative and adds its rhetoric(stars) to his point total at the end of the game.
5# Standard Play
Now a player may play as many cards from his hand as he wishes, and has coins enough to afford. When paying the coin cost for a card, turn face-down the number of coins needed to cover its cost. The only other restriction is that cards of the Noble and Veteran ranks have an additional cost, which is in actuality more of a condition that must be met prior to playing them. When a card is played in this fashion, the player immediately resolves its ability.
6# Give Hand to Opponent
When a player either cannot, or does not wish to play anymore cards, the player passes the hand to the other player who then carries out a turn following the same sequence. If at this time the player who would be receiving the hand has five factions in play, the game ends. Players compare the rhetoric(stars) on their representatives and the number of coins they have in play, whether face-up or face-down, and the player with the highest total wins.
After five or so games of The Majority 2, I have concluded that I have very mixed feelings about this game. I am not a fan of the visual presentation, simplistic anime art, nor the semi tacked on theme of underworld politics. However, I understand that to some extent these are very subjective points and fully recognize that some may love both of these, and thus I choose to judge The Majority 2 on the mechanics of the game. The internal guts of this game are very well designed. I really like the use of the common hand between players, as it forces them to make some interesting choices, like whether to swap it out with their reserve or not. The way that the coins are gained face-down and flipped face-up to show they are available is done in a very smooth manner. The way a turn is structured to force players into playing their free card first without its ability makes for some tough choices. I even like the way the draw phase is after the exchange phase to make it a bit of a gamble whether or not to take on extra cards that may be left in the hand as it is passed to your opponent. So, right down on the most inside level, I find the Majority 2, to be a built upon a strong mechanical foundation. Sadly, it is the stuff around that foundation that forces me to give it the relatively low rating of 5.75.
As I said, the very core mechanics are sound, but it is the next tier out that is where the problems begin. For example, some of the higher level members of the various factions are not even remotely close in strength. They are supposed to be the same rank, and I understand that for them to represent different factions their powers cannot be identical, but a couple of them are essentially game winners if you manage to play them with their abilities. However, others of the same rank translate to a decent point gain or the mild annoyance level. I strongly feel this is unacceptable in a game involving random card distribution. If one player is going for those factions, and that leader happens to come-up, it is absolutely devastating should the player be able to use it. In effect, this makes certain factions simply better than others and if one player should luck into more of those, his odds of winning increase dramatically. This is a shame, because the inner workings of this game are quite smooth and would lend themselves nicely to a very skillful game if it were more balanced.
In addition, because the Majority 2 is such a short game, about 20 minutes, there is little time for a player to overcome the randomness with good decision-making. I normally prefer games that have a lot of luck to be short, because at least I did not invest a great deal of time in a game that skill would not decide, but with Majority 2 I wish it was longer, because I feel like I could overcome the luck if I had enough time. Unfortunately, while the mechanics provide room for skillful play, there is simply not enough time to take full advantage of these opportunities.
While there is much to like about The Majority 2, there is also much to dislike and this is very disappointing to me. What I believe could have been made into a very strong two-player strategy game full of interesting decisions has been limited to a light filler card game with a large dose of luck. In spite of those harsh words, my wife and I did enjoy our games of The Majority 2 and I think it would be just fine for kids, a parent with a child, or even very casual gamers who enjoy the Japanese style and theme. However, for even moderately serious gamers, there is simply not enough meat on the bone to satisfy their competitive urges. In the end, The Majority 2 feels like a missed opportunity to me, and while I would like to judge it on the game it could be, I must judge it for the game that it is. The game that it is, just happens to be a very light on strategy, very heavy on chance game that could have been so much more.
Let it be known to all readers and government officials alike, that Life in Games received a free copy of this game for the purpose of providing an objective review. No further compensation of any sort changed hands between myself and the publisher.
The Majority 2 will be on Kickstarter the week of September 8th. I will be posting the widget and a link to the campaign when it goes live.