Publisher: Hegemonic Project Games
Player Count: 2-4 Players
Game Length: 90-180 Minutes
Hegemony: Lead Your Class to Victory is a political and economic simulator where players take on a specific class of society and work to better the lives of those people through political reform, social influence and everyday life choices in an effort to establish dominance and leadership throughout the culture.
Right out of the gate you need to know this is truly an ambitious project that seeks to not only create an engaging gaming experience, but one rooted in realistic academic principles such as Social-Democracy, Neoliberalism, Nationalism and Globalism. Hegemony is designed by accomplished designer, Vangelis Bagiartakis (Kitchen Rush, Dice City) and newcomer Varnavas Timotheou who carries multiple degrees with an emphasis on international political economy. Along with a cabinet of academic associates versed in political economy and political science, Hegemony has done the leg work to ensure it puts players in the middle of a true-to-life battle of the classes.
Primarily a hand management and worker placement game, each player will choose a role as either the Working Class, Middle Class, Capital Class or The State. Each of these classes feature their own actions, objectives and goals that will interact with other players, but likely never completely mimic them in any way.
I don’t claim to be any sort of political or economic student. The majority of my economic knowledge comes from playing games like Brass Birmingham. So while I have an appreciation for the source material here and understand the concepts interwoven throughout the game, my main focus will be on the experience and ultimately how it feels from a gamer’s perspective.
ON YOUR TURN
This is a fairly complex game with a number of actions and checks that take place each round. Fortunately, Hegemony does a fantastic job providing each player their own mini-rulebook and clearly presenting the game’s complexity in a point-by-point, easy to digest fashion that works wonders to keep the game flowing as smoothly as possible.
The magic number is 5! The game takes place over 5 rounds with a series of 5 phases each round. During the primary action phase players each take turns playing 5 actions. These 5 actions will either be selected from a handful of class-exclusive cards or by discarding a card and taking a general action specific to that class.
What really makes Hegemony unique is the asymmetrical classes. Each class is playing their own unique game that will both harmonize and conflict with one another just like in real life.
The Working Class is one of the game’s primary sources of labor. They will supply workers to staff companies owned by all 3 additional classes. In exchange, they will receive money to purchase basic life necessities such as food, heath, education and possibly entertainment.
The Middle Class also provides a working class, but they’re capable of owning their own companies and seek to find a balance between producing, selling and consuming goods.
The Capitalist Class runs the companies that produce goods and services and primarily seek to maximize their income.
The State seeks to increase their “legitimacy” by working to keep all the classes satisfied in a balancing act while dealing with events that pop-up in society.
While a chunk of the game’s actions take place in the daily activities such as working, running businesses and consuming goods, the other major component has to do with legislation reform. The board’s “Politics Table” features 7 areas where players will vote and pressure policy to improve and benefit certain aspects of their classes. This includes fiscal reform, taxation, minimum wage, healthcare, education, trade and immigration… things that affect everyday people every day. Any player can call for a vote in a specific area. Voting outcomes are first determined by each player’s preference on the vote, then ultimately ruled on by drawing a series of influence tokens representing each of the classes (minus The State). Those cubes, in coordination with the player’s preference, determine the adjusted legislation.
Player count does limit your class options. A 2 player game only features the Working Class and Capitalist Class. Three players add in the Middle Class and 4 players bring The State. The Crisis and Control expansions add in AI players as well as a solo mode.
Play continues in this way until 5 rounds are complete and each player adds up their own prosperity in accordance to their objectives. The player with the highest total is the winner.
ARTWORK & COMPONENTS
There are a TON of components in this one. Each player is truly playing their own game and that often requires additional decks of cards or tokens unique to that player’s objectives. The Working Class has cardboard fists they can use to go on strike while The State has their own event deck among others. There is a mini-game the rulebook doesn’t address and that is packaging each player’s components together so it’s easy to jump into your next game of Hegemony. That’s a game you’ll need to figure out on your own.
This is a really well done production. The card quality and components are all nicely done. The artwork isn’t exceptional, but solid and fits the theme well. The visual communication such as iconography and instruction is phenomenal. It’s the work the publisher put into creating a game that not only functions, but directs its users is key to any success an ambitious game like will have. The structure and written pieces throughout the primary rulebook and the individual player guides is central to the flow of the game.
PROS & CONS
➕ The most thematically/mechanically integrated game I have ever played
➕ I love the game’s ambition
➕ While it’s a serious teach, the game does some of it’s best work in educating, supplementing a teach and onboarding players
➕ The components are fun and help elevate the game
➕ The shifting of policies encourages players to be diplomatic and interact in non-typical gaming capacities
➕ Each class deck features fun actions such as the capitalist class hiding money in off-shore accounts to avoid taxes or The State limiting free speech in order to bully their agenda.
➕ There is a decent amount of replayability here thanks to 4 unique class games.
➕ Gameplay provides a neat, educational look into how our societies function.
➖ Setup is going to be a major exercise and accessibility isn’t high
➖ There isn’t much rule oversight since you’re so engaged in your own actions, it’s impossible to police ignorant (or deceptive) players who are doing their own thing.
➖ I wanted the voting to play a more central role in the fabrication of the game’s tension between the classes and while the vote doesn’t always go your way, the shifts in policy never impacted play like I was hoping.
➖ To piggyback on that last point, I really wanted more tension in the game’s choices. This may just be my own perception with limited exposure, but I wanted choices where I had to determine if the benefits I’m sacrificing for my opponents would be worth the rewards I would receive. The tension is there, but more understated and that dissolved some of the potential satisfaction from a turn or choice.
➖ While you draw 7 cards each turn and choose 5, you’re often at the mercy of draw and success and failure can potentially hinge on this luck factor.
➖ I may have liked to see some mechanics changed at the expense of the real-world theme in order to make it more fun. Could Hegemony be too thematic?
WHY WOULD YOU LIKE THIS GAME?
If you like deep, heavy simulation games with serious themes, Hegemony is going to blow you out of the water. You can feel the effort and thought put into every aspect of the game. You’ll also likely enjoy how different each class functions and likely want to know each class inside and out in order to get a leg up in future games.
WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT THE GAME?
The best thing about Hegemony is the theme. The designers and developers have gone to great lengths to integrate this real-world theme into the fabric of the game’s mechanics. It’s rich and deep and you see it in the details. Thanks to these efforts, the game serves as a resource for both education and entertainment.
Hegemony: Lead Your Class to Victory is a major accomplishment as a board game. It seeks to be taken seriously by not cutting any corners or ever taking the easy way out and it succeeds 100%. This is the most thematically-integrated game I have ever played and it should be respected for that. On top of that, it’s a complex theme that can only be wrangled by those with a true gasp of the source material.
Despite the theme and tone, Hegemony still desires to engage and entertain. This is where things get a little dicey.
I think Hegemony can be a fun experience, but the players need to meet some extreme conditions. Each player needs to be somewhat invested in the theme and be able to play their own role with limited oversight. This is a heavy game with a heavy set of rules, but it’s compounded by bringing a unique set of rules to each individual player. To really get the full experience, you need to play repeatedly with the same group of players. It’s also going to take multiple plays to ensure you have all the rules down. These aren’t bad things, but they do limit the practical engagement Hegemony can receive in the board gaming community.
For me, I deeply respect the effort, thought and resolve that went into creating Hegemony. This is an experience and one that I’m thankful to have taken. That being said, the enjoyment factor just wasn’t consistent enough for me. This is a heavy game, but it’s also a long game and based on the time invested learning, teaching and relearning the game… the outcome feels a bit underwhelming. I imagine 10 or 12 plays will curb the play time and cement the rules creating a more streamlined, enjoyable experience, but I don’t have the resolve to get there. My gaming group seemed to enjoy this more than I did, but we’re nowhere near committed to exploring the depths and riches Hegemony likely has to offer based on the investment.
If you have the means and are willing, Hegemony is one that I would highly recommend you experience. Seasoned and expert-level euro gamers looking for that next unique experience to summit are going to appreciate Hegemony and all it has to offer. Unfortunately, It’s the accessibility and limited return on a major investment that will keep this one from returning regularly to my gaming table.