Ideology Review

Ideology game in play

Next up on the review block: Ideology. (Note: my copy is the 1st edition, and the link is for the 2nd edition).

In Ideology, each player is trying to control a super-empire of countries around the world.  This can be done by adding influence in foreign controlled or neutral countries, or by warring with another player's influence and (if successful) flipping their influence to yours, in addition to developing your own countries. Each turn, all of the players will draw cards based on the amount of countries they control and the development level of these countries. There are 3 types of cards - Military, Economic and Cultural Influence. After drawing, each player has the option of discarding and redrawing a number of cards equal to the number of countries they are currently influencing. Next, players can develop their own countries or purchase new developments (which primarily make it cheaper to play your own influence or more expensive for others to play their influence against you). Next, players add influence to countries they don't own, conflict over influence markers, and then determine their diplomatic stances and turn order for the next turn. This cycle continues until one player has a strong enough empire to rule the world (12 influence points).

There are several good aspects of Ideology. The first aspect is in the balance of the game. Each player must decide whether it is more beneficial to develop his empire or to expand. He must also weigh the pros of developing his countries against purchasing new developments. Another balance in the game comes because of the limited number of influence cards each player has. If a player starts doing very well and influencing a large number of countries, he must contend with exhausting his influence deck, which will then prevent him from being able to expand on his next turns.

The next thing that I like in Ideology is how the alliances work. Each turn, you can negotiate political stances with each player. If you are at war, you can attack each other with any of the 3 influence markers, if you are neutral with each other, you cannot attack militarily, and if you are at peace, then you can only attack using cultural influence. Whoever takes the more aggressive stance determines the current diplomatic level (after all, if I pretend we're at peace, and you tell me that you're waging a war against me, I'm pretty sure that a war will be waged whether I like it or not). However, once these diplomatic stances are set, they cannot be broken or renegotiated for the whole turn. This causes the diplomacy to play an incredibly crucial role in the game!

The main con in Ideology was that the game was not as engaging as I would have liked in relation to the time it takes to play. The game is about 1-2 hours long, but the mechanics are very simple. If you enjoy negotiating and having a back and forth game in which you are able to influence countries, they are re-taken from you, you re-take them, etc, then this will be no problem. However, in games of this length, I generally prefer to have different ways of taking over - if I am not gaining any ground in one area of the game, I like to be able to advance my position in other areas in the hopes that they will help in the long term. Ideology really only has a few different aspects, and so it does not allow something like this to take place.

Overall, I give Ideology a 7.0/10. It is a game that I will keep in my collection and will play occasionally, but it will not be on the monthly list of games that I need to break out and play. However, on a semi-regular basis, it would be fun to try to use my influence to take over the world.

If Ideology sounds interesting, you might also check out Twilight Struggle, Washington's War, and Glory to Rome.

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