How politicians play it ...

William Hartston meets his match, with sleaze, banana skins and political time-bombs

Some games offer strategic complexity; some are outlets for vicious competitiveness; some provide thrills through the chance throw of a dice. Very few, however, offer genuine wit. Snap Election! (from Prowler Productions) has all these qualities. Players are put in the position of politicians vying with each other to collect votes from different sectors of the electorate.

During the race round a roller-coaster of a Ludo circuit, you may gain votes through Manifesto promises (such as: "Campaign to ban builder's bum. 2,000 votes"), or land on Banana Skins (such as: "Preach 'Buy British' but drive German. Lose 4,000 Transport votes to each opponent"). But what gives this game its special edge is the pack of Sleaze cards, which present an opportunity to compromise your integrity for short-term advantage. Accepting the sleaze option gains votes, but lays the player open to a later Moral Crusade from a player who has chosen the Moral High Ground of declining all sleaze options. On the other hand, taking the Moral High Ground may easily result in a long stay in the Political Wilderness.

It's really the perfect game for ex-ministers with time on their hands. One can so easily imagine Neil Hamilton, Stephen Norris and David Mellor, for example, enjoying a game with their colleagues, perhaps some of them egged on by a passing Pamella or Antonia, and all kept in order by Lord Nolan as referee.

As you may have gathered from the above, the rules are rather complicated. In fact, we've only skimmed the surface of them. For each player also has a Target Policy and Target Group without whose votes he cannot get elected. But you know only which is your own Target Group, not those of your opponents. So there is an element of poker in the game, with the opportunity to bluff opponents into misjudging your true goals.

You can snatch opponents' votes through a Live TV Debate, you can rid yourself of all Sleaze Marks by launching a Charm Offensive in the Media Circus. You may land in the Political Quagmire and lose two turns.

If you want to test your own sleazability, you can try these sample questions from the Sleaze cards. Would you take the Moral High Ground, then hope to launch a vote-winning Sleaze Offensive, or go for the vote-winners, head for the Media Circus and set up a de-sleazing Charm Offensive?

Designed by the currency trader and analyst Martin Armitage-Smith, Snap Election! really is ludicrously (in the best possible sense) complicated, but politics never was an easy game. The game will be available in selected shops from about the middle of next month, price pounds 35.

For further details, contact Prowler Productions, 0171-402-8083.

Could you win a Snap Election? Try these sleaze questions to find out

1. Party Chairman wants smear campaign to boost poll rankings. Do you:

a) play along and pick up 4,000 Target Group votes from each opponent

or

b) pull it and go to the Political Wilderness?

2. The knives are out for you. Do you:

a) promise to get partisan editor knighthood and win 4,000 votes from the Haves

or

b) ride out the storm but miss two turns?

3. Peerage-seeking millionaire joins your ranks. Do you:

a) allow him to finance media witch-hunt and have your challenger dispatched to the Political Wilderness

or

b) give him the cold shoulder and lose 3,000 votes from this Policy Circle?

4. Shady financier offers you free helicopter ride to Policy Circle entrance of your choice. Do you:

a) accept and pick up one Political Timebomb card, or

b) tell him you're not interested and lose 2,000 Trade and Industry votes?

5. Unanted rapprochement looms with European partners. Do you:

a) tell them where to put it and win 5,000 votes from the Have-Nots

or

b) "welcome joint cooperation" and lose 5,000 Have-Nots?

6. Local business found exporting napalm to foreign tyrant. Do you:

a) brush under the carpet and win 6,000 Small Business votes

or

b) condemn the company, put jobs at risk and lose 6,000 Small Business votes?

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