In stressing the interpersonal elements of activist work in Diary #0, I meant to draw your attention to how, when commonly using the term "organizer" to mean someone who manages a protest or other community endeavour, we typically overlook the crucial element of its meaning: "organizer [of people]". Challenging enough, the majority of work such an organizer does is motivating, training, and telling people where to go and when. But of course, when working with the vast amounts of people necessary to effect substantial social change, the dynamics of such a diverse group working together brings even more of the challenges of organizing. So when contemplating an activist boardgame for Project Turnover, I kept returning to these sorts of dynamics.
I'll list some of the key elements I believe this design should pay attention to or incorporate before brainstorming more on the specific mechanics for the system:
Worker placement is a key mechanic in probably the majority of Euro-style board games, but I want to try and crank that up to an even higher degree in this design. Since thematically, the vast majority of the work a player should be doing is guiding and managing groups of individuals, I want a little more than just a worker placement mechanic. So workers then should be a primary resource, a measure of time dedicated to a task, and possibly other things. Secondary resources should also, thematically, come from individuals or their social relationships; essentially varying forms of "people power."
A Common Opponent and Mutual Antagonism
Like actual movement-building, this game should be a shifting mix of cooperation and competition. Players will have to divide their attention across multiple goals: minimizing the current crisis, trying to get the general public to help you overthrow The State, and ensuring when The State does topple, it's your organization that will be poised to establish the new order. There should be some uncomfortable allegiances between competing organizations from time-to-time, as addressing the current crisis in full, and bringing down the system, should require more than individual organizations can muster. It's rare for national, systemic change to be spurred from one group, so a more-or-less unified movement needs to be present. However, all of its constituents should be on the look-out for others who are waiting to take their chance to secure leadership in a power vacuum. Additionally, my first thought was that it might be easier to make The State an additional player with a bit of asymmetric gameplay, but if possible, I'd rather all players be on equal footing and facing the same threat.
Focusing more on people than ideas, I want the players to play as Organizers, unique characters with individual faults in addition to any unique ability. I'll probably have to include ideologies or causes that the individual Organizers follow on some level, just for the thematic flavor, but I definitely don't want that to be a major deciding factor in how the Organizer's group plays. The main narrative conflicts between players will not come from the opposing thematic ideologies their chosen characters hold, but from the regular conflicts that arise in competition for resource in a boardgame (mimicking the competition for participants' attention and effort amongst coalition/broad issue activists). And considering the players most likely to compete over resources are those that utilize the same resources, it's likely the conflicts will arise between players who are utilizing a similar strategy. This imitates the real-life interpersonal conflicts between organizers or between activist groups that are often striving for remarkably similar, if not the same goals. Anyone doing any sustained activism work will quickly recognize the common trope of in-fighting amongst the inclusive left. By letting the individual players' interactions themselves create conflicts over shared resources, the thematic animosity between semi-cooperative activists should be somewhat spontaneous. Additionally, there could be some elements included that emulate an organizer forming a personality cult of a sort.
As usual, it makes sense in this design to have player boards, and fitting the theme, they should probably be some sort of home base for their activist organization. Considering the amount of training activists that should take place, and that this would mostly happen in spaces prepared by the organization, it makes sense to have all the committees for each organization on their Organization Board. Perhaps each player can get a unique committee providing special actions to them alone to expand part of their Organization Board. Any other organization resources can be tracked on these boards, but there should still be a main board for collective resources and other game actions.
Direct Action (Cards)
Until we can actually figure out how to make a praxis out of fusing board games and social justice, this may be the most tactile (or just most obvious) way of simulating direct actions in this hobby. Continuing the idea of a diversity of "people power" resources, the variety of action cards available could likewise be divided: militant organizations are prone to militant actions, more economic-minded groups have more money to throw around for actions or endorsements, etc.
There are two ways I could go with using direct action cards: make them either cheap, abundant, and the standard for players performing actions, or pricey, sparse, and an exceptional action that gives a player a strong boost. I'm not quite decided on this yet, as both have their mechanical and thematic advantages. I'll have to think about it a little more.
Strong External Pressures
Most games with any kind of economy have their own boundaries to growth, and their pressures on resources. But while I don't want to crank this game's difficulty quite up to Space Alert, Dungeon Petz, or Galaxy Trucker levels (Vlaada levels, if you will), I do want to make the forces of the media, various state institutions, and political rhetoric in this game felt by the players in powerful ways. Pushing against or subverting these obstacles and barriers should be an uphill battle, because it most certainly is. I have to be careful with how this is implemented, of course, because it could easily throw the balance off this way or that, but more details will have to wait until I iron out the basic systems.
I would never pretend to be able to make a boardgame able to appropriately deal with the serious issues leftist activist groups face, but I hope this project could create an enjoyable entertainment product that allows for them to blow off steam in a safe enough context, and maybe entice some gamers to look up some of the concepts they're playing with in the game. As for the next steps in design, specifically for a game structured around responses to scripted events being the primary gameplay frame, it would probably be smart to begin with that crisis-response system itself next. It'll also force me to make up my mind about how to use direct action cards.