Developer: Red Marble Games
Price: $23 (download); $28 (CD)
Requirements: Mac OS X 10.4. Universal.
Trial: Feature-limited (can’t save game; turns are limited).
“Democracy forever teases us with the contrast between its ideals and its realities, between its heroic possibilities and its sorry achievements.” —Agnes Repplier
Democracy 2 is an interesting and challenging simulation game, putting you in charge of a nation. You make the decisions about transportation, public health, and the like, and you respond to specific dilemmas as they arise. Each turn is three months in the term of your prime ministership, and after a bit, you are up for re-election. Your goals are to please enough people to be re-elected, and, I suppose, also to run a healthy country.
This was my first sim game, so I cannot compare it to others. From my vacuum, I enjoyed it very much. I liked that it rewarded players who have read a little psychology and a little warfare and a little science and a little ethics. I felt the thrill of the educated nonspecialist. This game made me feel like my education was worth something.
On the other hand, you could easily play it without any of that background, and have it be fun in some other way.
It takes all sorts.
Red Marble began by porting PC games to the Mac. Democracy was originally developed by Positech, a UK company. This explains the occasional British or Canadian references I ran into. They were not troublesome but charming, though I expected as ruler of Freedonia I would not see a mention of British royalty. But no harm.
For your first game, choose a political perspective you understand.
When you begin the game, you choose a country with a particular political style. I suggest going with a style you understand, whether or not you espouse it, because you will be able to make better decisions about what the people expect and want. You can’t please all of the people all of the time, but if most of them lean a particular way, you can lean that way also.
I began with Freedonia, a liberal atheist state. I understand these positions, and thought I knew what policies would fit that approach.
The game opens with onscreen help, and there are tips throughout. Note: if you have a tip screen open, you must close it before you can do anything else.
You get some policy capital points each turn, and when you want to change a policy, it costs you. Sometimes you have to wait until you’ve been in office a while to accumulate enough goodwill to make the change.
Every so often you’ll be presented with a dilemma with two options, like this one where you must decide how to respond to a gaffe by a member of the royal family:
This was my first clue the game may have been written by someone British, which I loved once I saw it.
Most of the dilemmas are about topics such as immigration or biomedical laws. But it is the petty ones like this one that turn the voters against you, so pay attention!
You get three terms in the default setting, if you can win the re-elections. You get quarterly reports on various things, including the happiness of the voters. It’s pretty cool when you are re-elected the first time and get the fireworks.
The fireworks are animated in the successful re-election notice.
By the end of my third term, I had wiped out most of the orange icons representing trouble spots. In my final act, knowing I was not up for re-election, I authorized a supersneaky spy network which did not fit the liberal state I was running. But it got my final approval ratings way high….
Despite my having installed a tobacco tax on the final turn, even the smokers approved of me.
- The sheer joy of providing benefits and services to make imaginary peoples’ lives better, and knowing what actions to leave alone because they don’t fit the country’s view.
- It’s as fast or slow as you like, and you can save the game and return to it.
- Challenges from many aspects of the human condition: economics, welfare, healthcare, education, transportation, foreign relations, criminal justice.
- The game rewards you for understanding many aspects of contemporary life.
Weaknesses, or, Some Stuff I’d Like
- Onscreen help or more suggestions.
- A way for two people to play the same scenario.