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Conviction Review

Quick Look: Conviction

Designer: Neil Patel, Dan Peterson
Artist: Jen Lum, Rick Menard, Alexander Morozov, Andrew Wood
Publisher: El Pen LLC
Year Published: 2017
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 14+
Playing Time: 30 min.

From the publisher:

Conviction is a political satire card game where players deliver sweet judicial justice to Trump, his cronies, and other political characters. The game allows you and your friends to take matters into your own hands as prosecutors putting a wide variety of public figures on trial – from Ivanka and Jared to Betsy DeVos and Paul Ryan – in front of Lady Justice.

Over the course of four years (rounds), prosecutors take turns rolling the dice to put a Public Figure on trial. Rolling anything but doubles will convict the Public Figure and add them to that prosecutor's conviction pile. But if you do roll doubles, the Public Figure is acquitted and placed under the protection of Lady Justice. Each Public Figure has a point value – the more notorious they are, the more points they’re worth. Trump and his inner circle, family, and comrades are the most valuable convictions; if you somehow convict a Public Figure not associated with Trump (e.g. Elizabeth Warren or the Muslim American), it’ll cost you points. Whoever has the most points at the end wins the game and saves America!

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

Review: Conviction

Overview and Theme:
Conviction: Justice Comes Calling! is a tongue-in-cheek, lighthearted card game that pokes fun at the current administration of the U.S. while donating profits from the game to groups that work to effect change. Are you ready to save America at the gaming table and in real life?

The gameplay of Conviction is easy to learn if you can keep your players from simply rippling through the decks of cards to laugh at all the satirical cartoons and hysterical subtexts!

Components and Setup:
Conviction has two decks of cards, two dice, and a Lady Liberty standee, along with an easy-to-follow rules poster.

The black-backed cards are 61 different Public Figures, from Ted Cruz and Mitch McConnell to Putin and Trump, as well as figures from across the aisle like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

The blue-backed cards are 71 Motion Cards which allow you to take actions in the game, illustrated with satirical sketches and subtitled with relevant and current captions and actions, from Obstruction of Justice to White House Leaks.

Setup is easy--you'll deal a line of 10 Public Figures down the middle of the table, with Lady Liberty at the front of the line. Deal 5 Motion Cards to each player, and you're ready to begin.

Game Play and Mechanics:
Game play is quick to learn by following the illustrated poster of rules. Your turn has 3 steps:
  1. File a Motion (play a blue action card, if you like, to change the order of the line or otherwise alter cards in play)
  2. Hold a Trial (roll the dice to see if you convict the person at the front of the line and take that card into your scoring pile, or if they are acquitted and placed under Lady Liberty when you roll doubles)
  3. Draw a Motion (whether or not you played one this turn)

Players continue to go around the table, taking turns, until there are no Public Figures left in the line.  This is the end of one Year. Complete 4 Years for a full game or follow optional fast play rules to convict at midterms, completing only 2 Years with a hand limit in place.

At the end of the game, you'll score points--positive or negative--that are printed on the Public Figures that you convicted. You'll want to read the text on each card carefully, because there are many interactions between cards (if you have both Jared and Ivanka in your pile, they are each worth two bonus points, etc.). 

There's a reasonable amount of strategy in the moment to make the best of the Motion Cards in your hand combined with which Public Figures are on the table. You want to find good combinations of Public Figures while forcing your opponents to take unhelpful cards.

The player with the highest points wins, and in case of a tie, check your pile for the Public Figure currently highest in the presidential line of succession (keep an eye on current events as tie-breaking may change from month to month!).

The gameplay and mechanics are very similar to other games you might be familiar with, though Conviction does add the roll of dice to allow for the possibility of an acquittal. The strength of Conviction is in its modern political satire, and it is that ability of the game to bring politics into your game night in a fun and engaging way that makes it stand out. We found it practically impossible to keep from laughing and sharing the images and text on each new card we drew--the artists have included so many hysterical details!

The Good:
Conviction is a very social game, best played with other players who are politically engaged.  Gameplay is easy enough that younger kids could play, but they wouldn't necessarily get as much entertainment out of the snarky texts and illustrations. Those of us who do know most of the players and situations referenced in the cards had a hilariously good time each time we played!

Conviction is fun to play, quick and light, amusing and engaging, easy to teach and learn, whether or not you are following the political side of things.

Most of all, I'm impressed that the creators of the game, Neil Patel and Dan Peterson, are donating all the profits to groups that need our help and support in the current political atmosphere.  I think that's a really wonderful way to put both enjoyment and enlightenment into the world.

The Bad:
The creators admit that they have played hundreds of hours of games such as Risk, Settlers of Catan, and Guillotine. If you have played Guillotine, you will immediately see this. Conviction adds the dice roll, and uses 4 Years instead of 3 Days, but gameplay is otherwise basically identical. Everyone we taught the game to saw the similarity at once. 

By the same token, Guillotine is also a political game--just set in the French Revolution instead of modern America--and it is a favorite of ours. We didn't mind this modern take on an older game, and found it easy to slide into and play because of it. I might have had more of a problem with the similarities between the two games, but knowing that we're supporting important causes and not lining anyone's pocket made me view this as an homage rather than a copycat.

It's possible (hopeful) that the political climate will change and that within a few years, this will be more of a historical artifact than current events, and that it will become outdated. On the other hand, we still have some satirical games from the 1990s and 2000s that still get play because we remember living through those times and because we enjoy the gameplay enough to return to.

One final thought--this game has a clear and definite political stance, and it happens to be one that I support, and I'm amused by the game's commentary. If you are on the other side of the aisle, you would not enjoy Conviction.

Players Who Like:
Players who have enjoyed games like Guillotine or Ink Monsters will find the gameplay familiar and fun; players who are drawn to political or satirical games like Trial of the Century, Junta, or Road to the White House will enjoy the theme.

Final Thoughts:
Whether you're on the left side of the aisle, living in a blue state, or somewhere in the middle or just confused by today's political ravings, the satire and comedy in Conviction will keep you coming back for more. Gameplay is familiar but the cards are fresh, and Conviction is a game that we'll continue to play and to share with friends at game night.

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About the Author:

My name is Alexa: I'm a life-long game player and homeschooling mom to two awesome kids. I've loved board games since my early days playing Scrabble and Gin Rummy with my grandmother, and life only got more interesting when I married a Battletech enthusiast and fellow game lover. We've played games with our kids since they were small, and I helped start a thriving homeschool co-op where we have weekly sessions of board games with kids.  In a family with kids raised on Catan and Pandemic, life is sure to be fun! You may run into me on Twitter, BoardGameGeek, and other social media as MamaGames. Be sure to say hi!
Conviction Review Conviction Review Reviewed by MamaGames - Alexa C. on November 06, 2018 Rating: 5

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