How to Play Democracy

Let's Play DemocracyWhile many modern games can be traced back to their creator, the history of this game is a bit more obscure. Although it is currently unknown who created this game, it is well known where the first references to it being played is, which is Cleveland Ohio, at the Tabletop Board Game Cafe.

This game, which also is sometimes known by several other names (such as Colonization, Islands or Civilization) also has a specific story on which the gameplay is intended to be based. The basic story is as follows:
Far out in the oceans waters, a specific island exists which is inhabited by four different tribes of people, each corresponding to a suit in a deck of cards (Clubs, Spades, Hearts and Diamonds). The players themselves are colonists who want to attempt to take control of the island and the resident tribes. The Nations have decided, however, to allow the tribes themselves to determine which parts of the islands will be controlled by which colonist and a meeting has been announced for the next day to decide this.

However, the night before the deliberation meeting, colonists from the Nations (corresponding to the players) have snuck into the camp of each tribe kidnapping some of it's members. Since this occurs in the dead of night, the colonists are unsure of which tribal members they have actually kidnapped.

The next day, at the deliberations, the captured tribe members (probably under duress) then deliberate as scheduled, then attempt to make a case for the colonists they have been captured by.

Thus, each game consists of a series of these deliberations on one particular island. Let the deliberations begin!

Democracy is designed to be played by two to six colonists (players) and uses the standard 52 card deck. However, some alterations to this deck are made depending on the number of participants in the game, as follows:
Number of PlayersDeck AdjustmentsCards Dealt per Player
2All Twos Removed8
3All Twos Removed6
4All Twos Removed, 2 Jokers Added5
5All Twos Removed4
6All Twos Removed, 1 Joker Added3

The ranking of the cards used in the deck is as follows (from high to low); 5, 4, 3, Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6. Between two cards of the same ranking the cards are considered equal (unless one is of the tricks designated trump suit to be described later). The Joker is a special card which can take on the value of any other card in the deck. It's use will also be described below. In addition, for scoring purposes, the cards have individual scoring values (as well as a special name), as detailed in the following table:

CardPoint ValueCard Name
3, Ace3Warriors
King, Queen, Jack2Hunters
10, 9, 8, 71Farmers
60Village Idiot

Determination of seating positions and first dealer can be done in any manner, with drawing for low cards often used. Once these details are determined, the first dealer shuffles the deck and deals the cards in a clockwise rotation, face down and one by one to each player. In addition to the hands for the individual players another face-down hand is dealt to the center of the table. This extra hand is called the voting pool and will be used to determine a trump suit for each trick. This voting pool gets the same number of cards as each player does during the hand. The remainder of the undealt deck is set aside for the second hand (or day).

Playing Democracy After the deal, the players then pick up their hands to examine them. The dealer then randomly selects one card from the face down voting pool and turns it face up. The suit of this card determines the trump suit for the trick. Each player then takes a card of their choice from their hand and places it face down on the table in front of them, which is considered their play to the trick. There is no requirement to play a card of the revealed trump suit, and as such, a player can select any card from their hand. After all players have done so the dealer signals, and then all players then flip their cards, revealing the card they have selected for the trick.

The highest card of the trump suit played to the trick (if it contains any) wins the trick. However, if both the five and six of the trump suit were played to the same trick, the six wins the trick (the village idiot shows up to the meeting, making a ruckus and otherwise disrupting the proceedings).

If no cards of the trump suit have been played to the trick, the highest card played to the trick wins it, with that player taking the trick. However, if there are two or more cards which tie for the highest non-trump card played to the trick, they must split the trick as follows: Every player (including the tying players) wins only the card they played to the trick. The voting pool card is discarded to the side, won by no one. The player who captures a full trick then takes all the cards in the trick, including the voting pool card and places them to his side, for later counting.

The Joker, when used, is a special card. It can be used to represent any non-trump card in a trick to which it is played to. Thus, if a trump has been played to a trick, the trump card will win it. However, if no cards of the trump suit were played to that trick, the player usually set the Joker to represent a 5. Thus, they will either win or tie with the other players in that trick. A Joker card however, has no point value. If the Joker is revealed from the voting pool as trump for the trick, then no trump suit is used for that particular trick, and thus the highest card or cards played to the trick wins the trick.

Gameplay continues in this way, with the dealer revealing the current voting pool card and then each player playing a face down card. Once all the tricks from each player hand has been played, the dealer then deals out the remainder of the cards in the deck to the players (including a voting pool), for day two. The second day is played the same way as the first day, using the new cards dealt to the players. Once all these cards have also been played, the players then check through their captured cards to determine how many card points they were able to capture.

The object of the game is to capture specific tribes (or suits). If a player, over the course of the two "days" is able to capture over half (13 or more) the points from any suit, he is said to have won that tribe, which is worth one game point.

A new hand (or island) is dealt, and the game continues until one player manages to capture 5 or more tribes (game points). This player is then declared the winner.


Variations and Optional Rules

More Tribes Required: For a longer game, some players set the winning requirement for tribes or game points at 7, or sometimes even 10.

Misdeal: Some players prefer to allow the declaration of a misdeal or "Bad Catch" on a hand. If any player receives all cards worth exactly one point in a deal, they may declare a Bad Catch and then place their hand face up on the table for verification. This player then automatically scores one tribe or game point.

However, a player who is dealt a Bad Catch may elect to keep the hand. He still declares the Bad Catch, but then indicates he intends to still play using the cards dealt (called playing High Stake). While the player does not automatically win one game point when doing this, they have the opportunity to increase their winnings if they manage to win a tribe during the hand. Any tribes that player captures during the hand scores double the normal value (2 game points). If a player falsely declares this type of catch, it will become evident quickly, and that player is penalized by not being allowed any score during that hand.

Social Negotiations: Veteran players of this game sometimes like to modify the game such that it plays more like a social game. In this case, the tricks (called negotiations) are actually played out verbally. The players attempt to make a case for their nation on the play, potentially taking on personas of the card played or perhaps one of the colonists. The players then attempt to argue their case, and the results may not always be directly in line with the actual ranks of the cards played. In these cases the players may (before start of the game) add or modify the game rules (time limits, etc.) in order to make the game more of a social interaction game than a card game. The main requirement here is that everyone has a fun time and enjoys the game.

In many cases, however, if there is an absolute impasse during the negotiations and discussions, the highest card or cards will still win that trick (negotiation).

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