Suffrage – Review

A copy of Suffrage was sent to me by Athena Spel for review. We do not charge for any of our content. 

Games can be many things. They can entertain, educate, and enlighten. Games can let us experience moments of history gone by. To put us in the shoes of folk that have come before to see if we would have made the same choices. 

Suffrage is one such game. It puts you in the shoes of the extraordinary women that fought for their right to vote in the United Kingdom. The game is designed by Ulrik Wemmenhed with art and production from Beo Winroth and Frida Enebro. It is published by Athena Spel

Over the course of a game of Suffrage you’ll gather followers to your cause. When you have enough you will take that fight to parliament and try to win that vital vote. 

The key mechanism of the game is simple action selection. A set of cards are available for all players to choose from. You take one of them as your action for the round. Choosing a card will generally gain you some of one type of supporter and lose you another type. The actions are things like marches, protests, and more violent action.

The game in play towards the start of the game
Suffrage in play

The supporter types players are trying to gather are Upper Class, Militant, Working Class, and Law-Abiding Suffragettes to their cause. Once you have 10 or more you can force the vote for your cause in parliament. Some of the cards do make thematic sense with the types of followers they gain and lose you as you take different actions to rally people to the cause.

On top of losing and gaining supporters, many actions will allow you to affect other players. Generally this means them gaining or losing them supporters as well. You can also manipulate the number of no votes in the parliament deck, increasing your chance for success as you race to the finish line.

Since you are embodying one of the women of the Suffrage movement you occasionally see cards only your character can choose like Suffrajitsu for Edith Garrud (a totally cool thing I wasn’t aware of before playing this game). Some of these provide some nice flavour and an educational aspect for sure. 

Unfortunately that is where the praise ends. 

Suffrage is an odd game. Despite you all being in the same movement, you are effectively racing each other to win the vote. This feels weirdly unthematic. I think I would have been fine with it were it not for the weird fiddle that takes this game away from being light enough for me to forgive the thematic mismatch. 

When you gain or lose supporters, you discard cards from the top of the deck and look for symbols to see how many you gain or lose based on the number of those symbols. This is a bit fiddly for a single action but when it affects multiple people it feels like a lot of work for very little benefit. 

A character card and a couple of stored
You can store some cards for later use, and some trigger when an effect happens. You can see both these cards basically have the same effect despite being quite different thematically.

The card variety is really poor as well. A lot have very similar losses and gains, despite being very different actions from a thematic stand point. Some cards even get you arrested, making you lose your next turn. You would expect such cards to have a bigger effect on your supporter numbers for the penalty of losing a turn, but that just isn’t the case. 

As mentioned there are some cards that get shuffled into the deck that only your character can use. These all have a yellow banner, with the name of your character written in small white letters against that banner. These are incredibly hard to read, even in good light, with good eyesight. We found ourselves having to pick these up each time to identify who they belong to, further slowing down the flow of the game. 

Suffrage feels like a game not complex or light enough to reward repeat plays. It has a very staccato flow that makes it feel too complex to be a really light game, and there isn’t enough meat on the mechanisms for it to sit more comfortably in a more complex category. 

I really wanted to like Suffrage. It has a theme and setting I admire someone making a game in, and games should try and diversify in this way. Unfortunately the core of this game is just not good enough to recommend it to you

Iain McAllister

Tabletop games reviewer and podcaster based in Dalkeith, Scotland.

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