Propaganda is a territory control board game where opposing teams use propaganda to influence individual neighborhoods in their favor for an upcoming election.
The goal of Propaganda! is to achieve the most points by controlling districts and placing propaganda in individual neighborhoods throughout a distinct town in Soviet Russia.
The initial concept was created by me and I coordinated the project as Lead Designer. The constructivist and graffiti images on the cards were all from creative commons image searches and the constructivist designs on the board were created by myself inspired by the period and artists like Alexander Rodchenko.
The initial game concept came from my interest in Soviet Constructivism. I love the art style, architecture and general design aesthetic of Constructivism. I had also been interested in designing a territory control game revolving around the idea of people rising up against their government against the use propaganda. This lead to the evolution of the board game Propaganda!
Propaganda Board Layout
The board is an 18x24 square based grid that depicts a distinct city set in Russia. The board is separated into different neighborhoods where players are able to place propaganda cards. Each neighborhood has “key” points which contain propaganda locations such as billboards or massive building walls. Each neighborhood alsos contain a “pool” to put minor propaganda cards that depict small posters and painted images. These pools represent the propaganda that is spread out around the neighborhood. One neighborhood contains a building that represents a prison where “arrested” pawns will go, following an arrest.
Our first game board was drawn out by hand on 4 sheets of 13 x 19 paper. The grid was drawn by hand and the important locations on the board were all drawn as well. We did not have distinct pieces so we used pawns and pieces from other board games. We focused on playesting and gameplay iteration heavily as we developed this game.
During the design of Propaganda we considered countless game mechanics and patterns that would attribute to the game’s fun factor. There are 5 particular patterns that Propaganda! uses to create a fun and engaging experience for players.
Propaganda! uses Asymmetric Abilities, which means players do not have the same experience on both teams. The Ministry and The Radicals (the two teams) both have very different abilities and this gives them different strategic advantages. The Ministry can move less per turn, and they get one less action. This may seem like a handicap but it balances out because they can arrest opposing teammates and they can use action to remove minor propaganda cards. The Radicals however are a lot faster. They can take 3 actions per turn and move using all three actions if they like. This gives them an advantage because they can move quickly across the board capture key points before The Ministry can even catch up. Asymmetric Abilities gives the game more flavor because both side has advantages and it keeps the players on their toes while they use varying tactics.
Strategic Locations, is also a pattern that Propaganda! uses. Propaganda! uses a gameplay mechanic called key points. Key points are locations spread throughout the map that provide players with a significant amount of propaganda points and leverage. The pattern of strategic locations presents the idea of advantages given to players that control specific strategic locations and this is exactly what key points are. Players that control Key Points get a boost in propaganda points yet lose a turn when they begin to occupy it. Once players take strategic points throughout the map, they can easily begin to use the spots to their advantage.
Team play in Propaganda! is crucial. Propaganda! places player on teams so they can succeed together. The only way to win in is by working with teammates strategically to control the map. Team players can coordinate actions, abilities and roles to take key points and place minor propaganda throughout the board. There is also a distinct difference in the way the two teams coordinate because of their particular advantages and abilities. One team may try to slowly take one half of the board together and the other may try and rush to gain as many key points as possible. The possibilities that team play introduces is huge and it gives the game more depth than a single player board game.
The pattern of capturing is one that makes Propaganda! an area control table top game. Players race to take control and capture key points on the map, in attempt to gain the most propaganda points. Both elements of capturing and elimination are used in Propaganda!. Depending on the players team, players can strategically plan how they will capture the locations on the board. The Ministry for example does not always need to rush in to gather Key Points. They can capture points that are already taken by Radicals, which is something the Radicals cannot do. This puts pressure on the opposing teams and it gives the game a sense of panic and fluster as players frantically try and capture key points.
Planning is the last major pattern that gives Propaganda! its fast and fun experience. Planning is something that players do not always consider when playing a board game. Often times they will jump right in and begin to take actions and movement without planning with their teammates about how they will come to mutual success. Player must consider if the risk is worth it, for example should I take put down all of my minor propaganda cards in a certain district to gain control? If I do that, I will not have cards to place in other districts and the opposing team may use this to their advantage! Predictable consequences also play a part in planning. A player might understand that he or she loses a turn taking a key point, and in that time they are vulnerable to get arrested by another player, will the opposing player do this? Thinking ahead to plan action can often times be crucial to the overall success of a team.
All of these patterns are absolutely essential parts that create a great game. Every pattern listed above also works hand in hand with the other patterns. Team play and planning, Asymmetric abilities and strategic locations, Capturing strategic locations, Team play and asymmetric abilities, they all work together and mesh to make Propaganda! an excellent game.