“Well, I say, Charles. I do believe the taxes on this red planet should be increased.”
“Indeed, good sir! Let us discuss the complete and utter annihilation of the green planet.”
“Feed it to the black hole?”
“Shall we go to the club?”
“The Club? Quite.”
OK. So the interactions in Black Hole Council aren’t quite so civil, but the game is about a Council with the complete control over the fate of 32 different planets. Tax this planet, mine that one, settle another, conquer a 4th. That 5th planet REALLY bother you? Swallow it up with a black hole. Of course, each Council member has their own secret agenda on which planets match certain outcomes. Each round they negotiate the future of 5 different planets in order to further their own needs and increase their influence while trying to figure out their fellow Council members’ goals. Council members also have a bit of their own Intrigue to give them a boost when used at just the right moment.
Black Hole Council is played over 10 rounds, 6 of Negotiation, 3 of Deduction, and a final Pay Out. Each Negotiation round the current leader will draw 5 planets and place them on the board as they see fit in the Tax, Mine, Settle, Conquer, and Black Hole spaces. A timer is flipped and players then openly negotiate to move the planets into spaces that better fit their secret goals. Bribes can be played, lies can be told, alliances can be made/broken, but in the end, there’s only two outcomes: either the vote passes or fails. Players earn points based on the outcome and can use those points to move themselves up the Influence path.
They don’t even have to tell the truth there.
While they can’t move farther than the points they’ve accumulated, they can move their piece less in order to lure their opponents into a false conclusion about their goals. They can also use a bit of their wealth to boost their movement, or even as a mask to hide how many points they really received that round. All of this is to help protect themselves come the Deduction round. A Deduction round happens in rounds 3, 6, and 9. Each one of these rounds players will be trying to deduce which color planets the player in the indicated direction is assigned to certain actions.
Players continue with the negotiation and deception until the 10th round where a final Pay Out occurs based on the history of every planet’s fate. Players can them use this final monetary boost to further themselves up the Influence path one final time in an effort to edge out a victory over their fellow council members. The player with the most Influence wins. If players are tied for the most it comes down to who has the most cold-hard cash left over.
You can check out the complete rules here to get a better feel for the flow of the game.
So how does it all play? Well, there’s a lot of yelling, quite unlike the civil exchange portrayed at the top of this preview. Negotiation phases are hectic and loud with money changing hands and planets shifting from space to space for 2 full minutes until, hopefully, a resolution is agreed upon. All the while players are trying their best to hide their true intentions so their goals aren’t figured out and they’re left out to dry in future rounds. The real meat of the game comes from the player interaction. The actual base mechanics of the game are very simple and easy to learn. Lies, trickery, a silver tongue are the quickest way to victory
Sound like something you’d be interested in? Black Hole Council is currently wrapping up a successful campaign on Kickstarter. You’ve got a bit of time left to jump on the bandwagon and make sure a copy arrives on your doorstep once it ships.
A copy of Black Hole Council was provided by Orange Machine Games in adherence to A Pawn’s Perspective’s 2018 Preview Policy.