I’ve been fortunate to review Positech’s latest expansion for their (mis?)governance simulator, Democracy 3 (D3) during one of the most hotly contested local municipal elections in recent memory. Originally released for D3 but subsequently updated to support Democracy 3: Africa, Electioneering muddies the sometimes idealistic approach that pervades the vanilla experience by introducing a campaigning element and a more complicated political balancing act between donors, party members, and the general populace.
Starting with the more pervasive additions Electioneering brings, ministers you elect to the various positions now have a campaigning statistic associated with their experience, effectiveness and loyalty. Campaigning has an impact on how the electorate view actions by the minister in light of their portfolio and their preferred support base. So for example, the minister of transport with a high campaigning stat would likely have a positive impact on the perceptions of, say, motorists and the working classes, but if they support the poor, it might add to this factor as well. I found this made my decisions decidedly more difficult when deciding to shuffle my cabinet or hire and fire ministers, since finding ministers who are competent in even three categories is significantly rare.
The other all-encompassing new element is fundraising. Remember the murky elements I was talking about? Your party now benefits with from a number of rich donors, each who have their own level of generosity and preferred support base. This is combined with funds from your member base. Managing these key elements are vital, as the funding now significantly impacts the lead-up to elections, which is noticeable in the new elections screen. The election results used to be a simple bar chart; now you have a breakdown of ministers impact, campaign spending, the impact of activists.
I’m a bit ashamed to admit that this is the element I’ve struggled with the most. In both D3 and D3:A, funding for my opposition’s party skyrockets, while attempts to sway my own party members has proven largely ineffectual. I have no doubt that I’m failing to account for some element that isn’t immediately obvious, but as a result I’ve yet to win a single election so far since deploying the new expansion despite the more, uh, direct tools it gives me.
Yes, indeed. Because Electioneering adds a host of electioneering activities to spend political capital on, which excluding media stunts are only available in the the last three turns leading up to the elections. Firstly, my electorate now have a more refined perception of el presidente by including their estimation of me, personally: My compassion, strength and trustworthiness affect voter perception over the course of your term, and they can be improved via a number of media stunts employed. These stunts can greatly boost your percentage but carry with them to the risk of failure, result in a backlash in the opposite direction.
Speech-making allows you to improve the perception of various voting groups at the expense of others by selecting snippets of the speech that appeal to the desired groups.
Finally, in the final turn you can make a last-ditch effort to affect the outcome of your campaign by making manifesto promises, which usually involves adjusting your policies by a significant amount. Making a manifesto promise then marks the selected policy or characteristic of your democracy with the appropriate target. Failing or succeeding the manifesto targets has a negative impact on your perceived trustworthiness.
Unfortunately, the polls are in and the overall implementation of Electioneering feels a bit off-kilter.
For example, when deciding to engage in a speech, the components of the speech – soundbites – are randomly selected, with two of the available twelve presented having no negative impact. However, this is not fixed in a particular turn, so if you don’t like what you’re seeing (either for the presented voter bases or the degree of the effect) you can simply close the tab, reopen it and have a new set of options available to you. This cheapens the decision in the most laborious fashion; you can keep reopening the section in a single turn until you get the desired soundbites.
It’s also possible to end up with situations in which you select, say, two soundbites that pit two voter groups against each other but simultaneous annoy both of them in a minor fashion and significantly improve their perception of you… in the same speech. Manifesto promises tend to be extreme in their degrees and curated on your behalf – it limits your choice to a couple of manifesto options.
Keeping in mind that Electioneering was specifically developed for D3, the integration with D3:A has some pain-points, with messages not being displayed correctly and some odd effects in the numbers attributed to the number of party activists and party members.
While I don’t begrudge the expansion’s narrow focus, it still ends up feeling insubstantial. While the new campaigning stat on your ministers and party funding systems are important factors throughout, and the impact of your voters’ perception of you is one that needs to be carefully managed, the speech-making, media stunts and manifesto promises seem a mere full stop to the sentence of the otherwise deep democratic simulation D3 provides.