Updated: 2 days ago
So we were kindly given a copy of Distrix for review just before the UK Games Expo (UKGE), as we had hoped to be able to discuss the game with Distrix Games there. Unfortunately, travel restrictions made that impossible this year, but that hasn't stopped us giving this game a thorough review...
*image taken from game publisher's website (distrixgames.com)
Players: 2 Ages: 14+ Game Time: 30+ minutes
In Distrix, a 2-player game created by Matthew E. H. Petering, you play as opposing political parties - the red party and the blue party. You are redrawing the nine voting districts in the 6x6 voting area, hoping to manipulate the overall result to be in your favour.
Each of the spaces in the 6x6 grid has a known political bias either towards the blue or the red party, and by manipulating the voting districts you can make sure that the overall votes will be in your favour. But do so carefully, as your opponent will be attempting to do the same.
Once all the districts have been established and can't be changed further, you check which party controls the most districts and determine the winner.
Having won the Judge's award for 'Best New Abstract Game' at this year's UKGE, we had to see what this game was all about.
To start your game, you will create the political arena by shuffling and laying out the various populations into a 6x6 grid. Each tile represents one of the voting areas and indicates their political affiliation with either a number in red or blue, or the neutral zero.
Players will then take it in turns to perform one of the main actions until the game ends, when all 36 tiles belong to one of the voting districts. The winner at the end of the game is the person who would win the hypothetical election by control a majority of the voting districts.
There are three main actions, which change slightly as the game goes on:
Establish a new voting district - Place a new home marker on the board, initially restricted but relaxed when no other legal placements are available.
Expand an existing voting district - Does what it says on the tin, but you can't expand a district to be greater than four areas... until. you guessed it. there are no other legal options available.
Reassign a community from a larger district to a smaller district - Redistributing power IS wonderful, David can really hit back at Goliath if you meet the very strict criteria...
As the game progress, with each move you will track the political landscape on one of the game boards by indicating how much voter power resides there favouring either the blue or red party. For example if the red district has two red tiles with a four and a six and one blue tile with a nine then the total result would be favouring red by one (6+4-9 = 1). If you win a district by one or more makes no difference overall, it's the total number of districts controlled which matters.
I found the game to be quite chess-like having to think ahead to how your move will affect your opponent and considering the moves they could do to affect you likewise.
The game components are nice, using wood for the markers and standard punchboard tiles for the voting districts and a good sized board to track the vote.
I do have a bug bear that there is no consideration for colour blindness, as there is no use of symbology to differentiate the tiles which favour either red or blue party.
But that is nothing compared to the rulebook! The rules are very difficult to grasp at first with a lot of subtle intricacies that are not laid out well at all in the book. Having a simple set of core actions which change subtly through the game with LOTS of weird expectations and special rules meant that the first few playthroughs of this game were tedious to say the least, checking that we were indeed playing it correctly. However once you've got the hang of it it is simple enough.
Distrix is a solid performer and it is clear to see why it won the Judge's choice for 'Best Abstract Game' in the 2021 UK Games Expo.
Game play wise it is a solid euro game with clear deep strategy elements that will have you thinking like chess players all over again. But with just enough randomisation in the board set-up, that gives it a great amount of replayability.
Personally, I think the political theme is interesting, and makes a great commentary on the matter of gerrymandering in a wonderfully subtle way. However, I understand that others may not agree and certainly politics is a fairly universally divisive subject.
Overall, I think this is a great game and nice to have another game for just two players to enjoy with my significant other. I'm not sure I'd find my self recommending this one to others though unless I knew their tastes well beforehand.
Your friendly DoaLG rules Lawyer
George E Ohh