Game

Mapmaker: The Gerrymandering Game

What if politics were a strategic, underhanded, zero-sum game that was actually kind of fun?

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What if politics were a strategic, underhanded, zero-sum game that was actually kind of fun? Welcome to Mapmaker: The Gerrymandering Game.

Developed by Lafair Family Games and funded via Kickstarter, the board game is supposed to simulate the cutthroat stakes of the once-per-decade reapportionment process in which states redraw their congressional districts. In June, the Supreme Court ended a yearslong constitutionality debate by deciding that "gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts." So now it's your turn to try. Four players pick their parties—Elephants, Donkeys, Leaves, or Porcupines—and take turns drawing segments of a congressional district border that must include at least four of the 73 "counties" on the board.

Each county contains a randomly assigned vote tally for one of the four parties. Once a prospective district is fully enclosed, the party with the highest vote total inside the boundaries wins it. Win the most districts and you win the game.

Mapmaker presents an overly optimistic scenario. The Porcupines and Leaves, for example, are given equal opportunity to draw district lines. Compared to reality—where gerrymandering serves as a way for the two major parties to entrench their duopoly—the game offers a surprisingly fair exercise in democracy.