That’s My Congress is a new kind of game, a political game played with cards in which players attempt to win by gaining control of the U.S. House of Representatives or by passing landmark legislation.
It’s a fun, competitive game, but it’s got a civic purpose as well. It’s meant to encourage people to become familiar with the personalities of the House of Representatives, important and powerful people who are nonetheless less well known than actors, singers and professional athletes. Playing That’s My Congress is intended to encourage people to become more familiar with the real people behind the two-dimensional images we present.
The game you’re playing is the Second Edition, a streamlined version of the original game with quicker play. It’s based on the 111th Congress. A Third Edition, based on the 112th Congress will be published in January 2011.
This game should include:
– 1 six-sided die
– 50 House member cards
– 10 rookie cards
– 16 action cards
– 23 legislation cards
Your game is most easily played by two people, or by groups of even numbers of people, divided into two teams. You may try other configurations, though. Experimentation with political organization is a great way to expand your game playing skills – and your political consciousness. In these rules, we’ll assume that the game is played by two people.
Choose Your Hand
In this base set, there are 50 members of the House of Representatives you can choose from. You can add to this number with booster packs containing additional members of Congress. Divide the member pack into a Democrats and Republicans. Place the rookie cards in a separate pile, as they aren’t included in the initial play. Also create separate piles for legislative cards (face up) and action cards (shuffled and face down).
Decide who will play Republicans, and who will play Democrats. Then, each player fills their hand with members of Congress. The total number of cards for each hand may vary, but no player’s hand may contain more than 25 seniority points at the beginning of game. For example, a player could choose 4 cards with 6 seniority points each, plus 1 card with 1 seniority point. Or, a player could choose 5 cards with 5 seniority points. Theoretically, given some booster packs, a player could choose 25 cards with 1 seniority point each. Place your hand face up on the table, so everyone can see which members of Congress you have.
The way you compose your initial hand can have serious strategic implications. The player who has the most member cards will be the Majority Party, and will have procedural procedures. If players have equal numbers of cards, roll the six-sided die, and the player with the highest roll will become the Majority Party.
The Structure of the Game
Game Play is divided into repeating rounds, which are in turn divided into the following 3 steps. You’ll go through these steps over and over, until someone wins the game. Victory can be achieved through the passage of certain pieces of legislation.
Step 1: Get Action Cards – Step 2: Legislation – Step 3: Elections
Step 1 – Get Action Cards
Players may take one action card for every 15 seniority points they have in their hand. The Majority Party goes first. Action cards are taken from the top of the deck, which remains face down. Action cards may be kept hidden from your opponent until you play them.
Step 2 – Legislation
In this step, players attempt to pass legislation. Passing different pieces of legislation gives special benefits, including, for a few, winning the game.
The Legislative Calendar
Players look at the deck of legislation cards (Majority Party gets to look first) and choose which pieces of legislation (also known as bills) they will try to pass in this round. The bills to be considered are placed in a row on the table. This row is called the legislative calendar.
The legislative calendar can contain 5 cards. They are placed in order, from left to right, so that the legislation card on the far left is the first legislation considered, and the card on the right is the last legislation considered. The Majority Party chooses the first, third, and last legislation cards. The opposition places the second and fourth cards in the legislative calendar.
Voting on Legislation
Players “vote” on legislation by placing member cards down on the table, next to the legislation. The Seniority Points for each member card laid down for a piece of legislation are devoted to that legislation only. The member card cannot be used for any other legislation until a new round begins.
The Majority Party votes first, by placing down as many cards as he or she wishes. The other player goes next. The Majority Party and the other player may go back and forth like this, playing more and more cards until one of the players calls a halt to the vote. The player who has laid down the most Seniority Points wins that legislative battle. Remember, member cards that are played for one piece of legislation cannot be played for another bill. They’re out for duration of this step of the round.
A player may choose not to lay down any member cards at all for a particular piece of legislation. If no players at all lay down member cards for a piece of legislation, that legislation neither passes nor fails to pass. It just isn’t voted on at all.
When legislation is passed, the player who placed it into the legislative calendar gets to keep it. It cannot be voted on again. If a bill fails to pass, however, it can be placed in the legislative calendar again on a following round.
Winning the Game
Note that some legislation cards offer a chance of victory. Passing these bills is the way to win the game. If victory is achieved, the game stops right here.
Step 3 – Elections
Elections are an opportunity for players to knock member cards out of their opponent’s hand. A player may place one rookie card in an election against any card in his or her opponent’s hand per piece of legislation passed that round. So, if a player passes two pieces of legislation in a round, that player can challenge two opponent member cards with one rookie card each.
Winning an Election
In this step of the game, the player who is not the Majority Party gets to go first. The results of an election contest between an incumbent and a rookie challenger are calculated using Seniority Points and rolls of the die. Number of votes = Seniority Points plus two rolls of the die. So, for example, let’s say that Walter Jones is challenged by Rookie Democrat 2. Walter Jones has 5 Seniority Points, and then rolls a 2 and a 4 on the die. Rookie Democrat 2 has only 1 Seniority Point, but rolls a 5 and 6 the die. Walter Jones gets a total of 11 votes, and Rookie Democrat 2 gets a total of 12 votes. The odds are against rookie challengers, but they can win.
Any single member of the House can only be challenged once per round. A rookie who has joined a player’s hand cannot be challenged until the round after joining play.
If a challenger wins an election, the challenged member card is discarded back into the deck of inactive House member cards. The successful rookie then joins the challenging player’s hand. If a rookie loses an election, the rookie card goes back into the deck of inactive rookies.
Ending the Round
Action cards that have been used are returned to the action card deck, which is re-shuffled, and then placed back down on the table, face down. Legislation cards that have not been passed are placed back in the legislation deck. Then, go back to Step 1 and start again.
After You Win
Play the game again, of course! Seriously, follow up on your game with a visit to the Congressional Record and legislative database run by the Library of Congress. Look at the power games being played behind the scenes at opensecrets.org. Read our articles about what members of Congress are actually up to at the main That’s My Congress site. Then, be a real player – become an active citizen, and get involved to promote the issues you care about, and the candidates you believe in.
That’s My Congress is ©2010 by Political Games. All rights reserved.