Taking a Look at Mapmaker: The Gerrymandering Game

Ryan reviews Mapmaker: The Gerrymandering Game

Note: This article is also cross-posted at The Inquisitive Meeple

  • Mapmaker: The Gerrymandering Game
  • Player Count: 1-4
  • Ages 8+
  • Published by Go! Games,  Lafair Family Games
  • Designed by Josh, Lous and Becca Lafair
  • Mechanics: Area Control
  • Theme: Gerrymandering, US Politics

Before we even get into the meat of this article, we will be talking a lot about the political practice of gerrymandering. For those that may not know what gerrymandering is, let’s define it: 

Now, with that settled, let’s talk about the game…

How It’s Played

For 1-4 players, ages 8+, in Mapmaker: The Gerrymandering Game – players play the blue donkeys, red elephants, the green plants or the yellow porcupines – or Democrats, Republicans, the Green Party and the Libertarians (yes – their symbol is a porcupine and their official colors are yellow/gold).  The goal is simple, to own the most distracts when the game ends. How does one do that? With gerrymandering, of course! Players all have an assortment of tokens with numbers on them (1, 10 and then 2-9 twice), all players mix their tokens up together and put them face down on all the counties (a single space on the board) and then flip them up to get the starting set-up of the board. Note, that the board does scale depending on the number of players, there are light and dark grey spaces for if you are playing with 3 or 4 players. 

With the exception of the first couple of turns, on a turn, players will place 4 wooden district boards (black sticks) on the board on the outer edges of the district hexes, trying to carve out the majority in the district. A district MUST be an enclosed space of least 4 county spaces but can be more. If ever a district can be carved up, it is not considered complete. So, if you have 9 spaces enclosed, it can still be carved up to one 4 and one 5 space district. The winner of a district is the person with the highest number of votes (the numbers on the tokens) after you add up the tokens. When you win a district, the player places their meeple on it claiming it. The game ends when all districts have been won. 

There are tie rules for a district of course, that being, the person that closed out the district picks the winner between tie players. Also, there is a tie-breaker for the end game too – whoever has the most swing counties in districts they own – the ones with players #1’s in them (also the neutral zero) –  breaks the tie – thus making 1s important. 

A Quick Note About Theme

Before we get to gameplay, I do want to make a note about the game. That is, Mapmaker: The Gerrymandering Game really wants to educate people about the practice of gerrymandering, and though it is a game about having fun gerrymandering, it does NOT approve of the practice, in real life. In fact, at the end of the rulebook, there are 5-pages talking about and disapproving of the practice as well as a single insert that has been digitally signed by the designers.

 

Gameplay and Final Thoughts

The game does come with a solo variant (actually two – an easy one and a competitive one), however, I have not played the solo game. I’ve played this game with both  2 and 3 players, both multiple times with those player counts. 

Mapmaker plays super fast with 2-players. Like you can play a game in the same amount of time it takes to set up fast. That said, it plays fast enough you can reset and play a second (or third and fourth, etc) game in-a-row. With 3-players, there is a little bit more going on, in how you carve up your districts, because well there are now three players you have to contend with. However, the first game of three-player took awhile to see how borders, as it uses the extra hexes that is that a few shades lighter than the darkest 4-player hex squares and the readability, suffers a tiny bit. Not a big deal. I really like both player counts, though I may like the fast and fierce 2-player a little more as you have a little more control about cutting things up, as you don’t have 2 opponents (just 1) messing up your plans, even if it plays super fast.  

Really the only negative I can think about this game is that the circle tokens don’t have a colored or pattern back, they are just plain white. It would have been nice to have the American flag or something on the back. The game does come with VERY nice draw bags in each of the players’ colors. So nice in fact, I pull out some extra plastic bags and use those for the circle token and will use the draw bags somewhere else. 

2-player game in progress
End of a 3-player game

I think often when we think about the games that are to be used educationally, we already consider them “bad” or no way up to ‘hobby game” standards. However, Mapmaker: The Gerrymandering Game breaks that assumption. This is a  good game, even by hobby game standards, and it’s very easy to teach. It may have basic rules, but does area control very well.

Mapmaker: The Gerrymandering Game would be a great way to introduce area control to non-gamers, while also having a unique and educational theme. My family has really enjoyed playing this one, both as a 2 and 3-player game. This is one I also highly recommend for any gameschooler families or teachers out there looking for a game about American politics. 

If you would like to pick up a copy of

Mapmaker: The Gerrymandering Game you can at

https://www.calendars.com/Mapmaker:-Gerrymandering-Game/prod201900019412/

 

Disclosure: Ryan was sent a copy of Mapmaker: The Gerrymandering Game for an honest review.