It’s rewarding in a way few games are. You feel like all of your decisions matter.
Theme and What is it?
Watergate is an asymmetrical card game with a couple of other ideas peppered in. The game is divided into three sections; card play, the evidence track, and the witness board. The post player is trying to connect Nixon to two players on the Witness board in order to win. Nixon is trying to win enough momentum to reach the end of his presidency or cause enough momentum to be played that he runs out the clock.
At the beginning of every turn the Nixon player will set out three face down pieces of evidence, a token representing the initiative, and one for the momentum of the Nixon Campaign. Each round you will maneuver the tokens into your control. Evidence tokens get placed on the witness board. Momentum tokens get placed on each player score card. The Post gets more special immediate abilities that help sway the game. If Nixon ever gains five momentum or runs the momentum supply out then Nixon wins.
If you collect the initiative token then you’ll gain the initiative in the next round. The player with initiative will get to go first and plays an extra card each round.
Evidence tokens are placed on a large board in a small area control section. The Post player sets the evidence face up in an attempt to connect two possible informants to Nixon. While the Nixon player places them face down to block connection to the witnesses. You’ll also need to play cards the put the Witness’s into play or remove them as an avenue of victory depending on your role in the game.
All of this is done through card play. Every card lets you choose between moving one of the tokens or play the card for an effect. If the card is an event then it can be played for the effect one time before being removed from the game. If it’s a conspirator or reporter card, depending on your role in the game, then it will be discarded for future use.
You continue to play back and forth until one player reaches their victory condition.
I really like history and any game that can give me a small look into the past is always welcome. I’m a huge fan of Twilight Struggle and this had been compared to that game in several places. This got me very excited to try this game.
I will also relate that on my first game my opponent and I were looking through our hands when John announced, “Either, I’ve drawn my five best cards or every card in this game is powerful.” I had experienced a similar though looking at my own hand. I’m happy to say it was the latter option all of the cards are insane powerful.
Game Build Quality
Everything here is very nice. All of the pieces are sturdy, chunky, and have a nice feel. Cards all have an excellent finish and feel like they’ll hold up well to use. Cardboard tokens all have a nice thickness and none of mine warped. The entire package is nicely put together.
The game uses historical photographs for all of the images in the game. In this instance I very much appreciate this type of detail. It gives a more grounded quality to the game that I appreciated.
This is a very back and forth game of move, counter, and move again. You’ll spend your turn trying to outthink your opponent and come out on top. It’s very fast and the back and forth is fairly immediate. The game is very confrontational; you will spend a lot of time going after your opponent.
Age Range & Weight
The box says 12+ and I’m not positive. I think they would be understand the rules but I’m not sure how well they’d handle the strategy of the game. However, I’m all for letting someone play a game that’s just slightly beyond their comfort level. I also like that the topic could be educational. Just feels a little low.
I really like this game. It’s rewarding in a way few games are. You feel like all of your decisions matter. It plays very tightly. You never have enough actions to do everything you need to do. It forces you to prioritize your actions from turn one. Everything feels important. You need to win initiative because that gives you an extra action, you need to control evidence because that is the win condition for the Post player, you need to control the momentum because that is the win condition for Nixon, and you need to manage your cards.
The cards are all great. I said it earlier, in my first game both my opponent and I looked at our hands and announced we’d drawn our best cards. We were both right and wrong; every card is your best card. There isn’t a card in this game I don’t want in my hand. The dual use for the cards is well balanced. The event cards that move your pieces the most have the strongest effects but using the effect removes it from play. The conspirator/reporter cards are all come back regardless of how their played. While Nixon has more conspirators than the Post one of the reporters can remove a Conspirator from play if it’s used for its effect.
I can’t really think of a negative for this game. I don’t even have nitpicks for this. If I did have a complaint to level it’s that I just don’t get to play that many two player games. That’s right, my complaint is that I don’t have enough opportunity to play this.
It’s a nice fast game that feels good to play. I could spend an evening sitting around, having a couple of drinks, and playing several games of this. It hits on all cylinders. Right now, this is in contention for my game of the year. It’s absolutely in the top three.
A final point is the comparison to Twilight Struggle. I feel it’s a fair comparison. While it’s not a one to one equation, I think this hit’s a lot of the same buttons for me. Which one of them I would play depends on how much time I have. This is great over thirty minutes, but for a longer experience, I think I would go for Struggle.
As always, try before you buy. Head over to your local game store or convention and give this one a run. It honestly won’t take long to play both sides.
Until next time, be well.
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