Junta is a board game published, most recently, by West End Games
(which I think went bankrupt but has re-emerged with a new French backer and calls itself simply West End). It was created by Vincent Tsao in 1979 and was first published by Creative Wargames Workshop.
The game is set in a mythical Central American country called Republica of Los Bananas. As the name implies, the game is about a ruling junta. The ultimate object of the game is to siphon off as much American foreign aid
money as possible into a Swiss Bank account
by game's end. America's aid largesse
is not infinite, however. The game ends when the treasury's stock of greenback
s has been portioned out.
The board is a map of the banana republic's capital. It's a patch work of city districts and as well as key buildings from which players build their power base: the Presidential Palace
, military barracks, a police headquarters, etc. There are also foreign embassies which one can flee to when your population and so-called allies rise up against you in a coup d'état
The game begins with the election of a President. Democracy, unchecked, rapidly takes its natural course. The elected President hands out appointments to the other players. Not all appointments are equal in power or prestige (for example the Interior Minister can kill other players easier, the leader of the Navy
has little power in terms of boots on the ground
and he is mostly relegated to the traditional, symbolic shelling of the Presidential Palace during a coup). The President also controls the budget, the funds which players must try to stash away in a Swiss account to win the game.
While the position of President seems all powerful, it's not. One aspect of the game is to try and bump off other players via assassination
attempts. Each turn every player may attempt to assassinate another player. If the President gives one player too little money, he might try to bump off the President. If the President gives another player too much money to buy his loyalty, the other players will try to bump him off.
The assassinated player's unstashed cash gets transferred to the assassin
. Having too much money makes one an attractive target for assassination for another reason. Each turn players have to secretly declare where they are. If they're at the bank, they can move cash to their Swiss bank account. Only money moved to the Swiss account counts towards victory points. So a player with too much cash showing might logically be at the bank. And then, BLAMO
! (Being assassinated doesn't, however, kick you out of the game. You actually represent an elite
family and you simply miss a turn while your family hashes out who will lead.)
Also, while it's good to suck up to the President, the other key player to have on your side is the powerful Minister of the Internal Security. The player in that position gets two assassination attempts per turn.
At the start of each turn, Democracy
again rears its nagging head when the President announces his budget, the cash handouts he makes to other players. Each player gets to vote for or against the budget. A failed money bill
means not only a vote of non-confidence
but potential for war.
If a budget is turned down, players may band together, unleash their military forces, and try and seize key assets on the board to wrestle control from the President. During a coup d'état phase, insurgent
players have 6 rounds to capture five key sites like the presidential palace, the treasury
, and the radio
Players also sometimes, based on randomly drawn cards, acquire additional support in the form of popular uprisings like tequila
-sotted dock workers just looking for a good riot (most of these non-player forces are a poor match for, say, the Air Force General's fighter bomber
s but good cannon fodder
for blocking strategic moves by opposing forces and spoiling a last round attempt to seize the radio station).
A successful coup allows the rebels to elect a new president amongst themselves. If a coup fails, the President retains power and can execute one of the coup plotter
s (which allows him also to seize all the coup plotter's cash).
Junta shows up on various lists of Top Ten Board Games of All Time, right along side favorites like Monopoly
. Despite enduring critical acclaim the game remains relatively unknown, much like Doctor Who
The game's brilliance, appeal, and playability is paradoxically the very thing that limits its popular reach. Every advantage in the game is also balanced by a disadvantage. Money makes you an easy target. Being President makes you powerful but you have to make sure you appoint only the most loyal player as Interior Minister
, for he has the sharpest and longest knife. Making a loyal ally too rich makes him more powerful. This ends up creating a game that's most enjoyable when you can gather 5-7 players. Who has 5-7 friends? Who wants that many friends? Monopoly
, in contrast, can easily be broken out and played among 2 or 3 friends.
Another problem that limits Junta
's scope is the subject matter has a certain stereotypical
nature. It's not something a traditional game company might want in its catalog. For example an "Amateur Assassin" card features a drunk sombrero
hurling a grenade pin through a window while he mistakenly retains the relatively more dangerous portion.