Time for another little game. It’s called President, and it is also about democracy and taxes. Good for 4-12 players.
- Paper money (any currency will do)
- sets of six tokens in as many different colors as there are players,
- a tax board for each player, i.e. a sheet of paper with the numbers from 0 to 60 in a row,
- an extra counter to mark the current tax rate,
- 2-4 game figures representing political parties.
Each player gets $100 in small bills, picks a color and gets three tokens of that color,
sets the tax rate counter on her or his tax board to $10.
The political parties are placed in the center of the board.
The game proceeds in years. Each year consists of an election phase and and ruling phase.
Before the game begins, the players decide for how many years they want to play.
First, all players pay their taxes.
For the first year, these are $10, and each player places them into the center of the table.
If in a later round a player cannot pay the taxes, that’s ok. The poor are tax exempt. But see the variation below.
Next, each player votes for political parties by placing their tokens next to the party figures. Votes can be split, and not all votes need to be used. In the first round, a player is selected randomly to begin the voting, and then it continues clockwise.
After all votes have been cast, the winning party is determined by counting all votes. If more than one party has the same highest number of votes, the winning party is determined randomly. You can place the tied parties in a bag and draw one, for instance.
The player who cast the most votes for the winning party is declared president. If there are more than one player with the same highest number of votes, the president is determined randomly among all players with the highest number of votes for the leading party.
All used voting tokens are returned to the players, which ends the voting phase.
Variation: If a player cannot pay taxes, he/she loses one voting counter.
In the ruling phase, the elected president must make a few decisions:
- Adjust taxes: The president can adjust how much taxes each player pays. He or she does so by moving the tax counter on each player’s tax board up or down by at most $2. The taxes cannot exceed $60 and must be at least $10. The total amount of taxes paid must remain equal to $10 times the number of players. This means that if the president lowers taxes somewhere, he/she must increase them somewhere else.
- Adjust the number of votes: For each player, the president can increase or decrease the number of voting tokens the player has by at most one. The number of voting tokens cannot exceed 6, and must be at least 1.
- Distribute tax income: Finally, the president distributes all of this year’s tax income to all players as he or she desires, including him or herself.
The game ends when the number of years the players agreed on has passed. Then the plaeyrs vote on one of the following three winning conditions:
- The richest player wins
- The player who was most often president wins
- The player who has the most voting tokens wins
That was a lot of text. I like to invent games, and I like to watch how people play games. So I programmed a little simulation to see how this game would perform while tweaking the parameters. All players in my simulation behave opportunistic. They begin with equal preferences for the political parties. When somebody’s income increases, they start favoring the ruling party in the next vote. The president uses his/her power to give more votes and more money to those who voted for his/her party.
In contrast to humans, the computer was willing to play for an extended period of time. I was expecting that the game would quickly stabilize to a single rich dictator with the rest of the population living in poverty. The pictures above show the wealth/time graph of a 4-person game with just two parties. While presidents often rule for long periods of time (50,000 years for the blue president…), the situations is all but stable. That it can take so long is only because the underlings in my simulation do not cooperate. Below are mere 5,000 years with eight players and four parties. I have run several such simulations, and it appears that change happens more often when there are more parties involved.