Micro review: Hegemony, a class warfare boardgame

Last week I had the chance to play Hegemony, a game where you take the role of a class amongst Working/Capitalist/Middle, or The State.

Each faction has a different way of playing and get winning points, which can be basically summed up as

  • Workers get points by getting better Health, Education or Luxury. They can work for Capitalist employers, Middle class ones or State managed ones (and in special cases, workers-run cooperatives). They can also go on strike to ask for better salaries, or do demonstrations if unemployment is too high.
  • Capitalists get points by gaining money. They can open new companies, do business deals, and trade on the foreign market. They decide the salaries (down to minimum wage) and can improve productivity via automation. They can also choose to just shut down factories if the business environment is not favorable (e.g. taxes and salaries too high).
  • The Middle class acts as basically both Workers and Capitalists, they can work as employees and can hire a limited number of working class employees, but they don’t have fully automated factories.
  • the State gets points by gaining legitimacy with all the other classes, which you can do in multiple ways e.g. by providing business incentives or cheap Healthcare. They also manage state-run companies, and need to run on a balanced budget, if the public debt gets out of control the IMF will step in and impose a Washington consensus agenda of free market, low tariffs and less privatized companies. The state also needs to deal with events and particular requests, and try to reach some specific policy goals.

In addition to this, all factions get to play with the regulatory framework. There are 7 policies, the first five are

  1. Fiscal Policy: the size of the public sector (i.e. how many state run companies exist), and how much the government can get in debt.
  2. Labor Market: this is basically the minimum wage: each company has 3 levels of salaries, and this determines if an employer can choose high, high+medium, or high+medium+low.
  3. Taxation: determines the company and income tax. This also affects a “tax multiplier” which only affects companies, which is in turn based on Health/Education.
  4. Health: how much the state should charge for healthcare. Lowering this automatically increases the tax multiplier (i.e. to keep the books balanced, if the state pays for healthcare someone has to pay more taxes).
  5. Education: how much the state should charge for education. Again, lowering this means the money has to come from somewhere else.

These five policies exist on a simplified Socialism to Neoliberalism axis. Two other policies exist on the Nationalism to Globalism axis:

  1. Foreign trade: tariffs on importing goods
  2. Immigration: whether/how many new workers/middle class people get added to the employment pool.

All factions can propose legislation, and get to vote on it. Of course, the bigger you are (e.g. more people in the working class) the more votes you have, but the the elections are done drawing faction cubes from a bag, so there’s a big of randomness (think: parliament). But then, you can also obtain influence by e.g. buying it from the state (think: state TV channels) or doing specific things (e.g. demonstrations) and alter the outcome of the initial draw.

The whole game is thematically very coherent, and “realistic” situation arise naturally, for example

  • the State offers cheap and abundant healthcare, taxes are high and wages are high
  • .. privately run companies become unprofitable and lobby for changes to regulation, but fail
  • .. private Healthcare and Taxes go out of business and private employers refocus on Luxury


  • Worker class lobby for lower tariffs so they can get cheap goods from abroad
  • .. but this makes private companies unprofitable, so they shut down
  • .. the state runs a deficit because there are less companies paying taxes, less money from tariffs, less employed workers but the same expenses
  • .. state tries to change policy but fails
  • .. the state goes bankrupt and IMF sweeps in

We also saw a weird case of “financialization” of our Capitalist faction, where it was more convenient for them to buy and sell good on the foreign market than actually producing them and selling them locally, which as an Italian felt very familiar. Fuck Exor.

The game is really good, and playing is quite straightforward, each hand is quite quick. It is also quite player driven, in the sense that each player can ally with another to affect specific policy changes, in a variable geometry which is not always obvious.

The only big problem is that a complete game takes multiple hours. I am sure this gets better with practice, but I can’t see a game taking less than 3 hours (the box says 2-3, but they’re low balling it).

Vote: 8/10, Highly recommended

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