Lead your Class to Victory: Why does Hegemony use Classes?

Dear Hegemons,

A question that we have received a couple of times is “Why does Hegemony use classes?”. Of course, this question is also linked to many other questions, for example, “Why does Hegemony utilize classes in this specific way?”, “How does the state fit into the classes framework?”, “Why did you not include XYZ?” and so on. So today we would like to take the opportunity to tell you a little more about our train of thought behind this decision. And, as always, the answer lies in the beginning:

As you all know, Hegemony was born out of the idea of creating the most comprehensive political-economic simulation possible that would rely on fun and innovative gameplay instead of dry, technical jargon. Therefore, it was important for us to create equal focus on political and economic mechanisms as our goal was NOT to create a “politics simulation” that would show different kinds of executive-legislative relationships and their modes of operations. There are already board games out there that do an excellent job of simulating this. Additionally, it was important for us to make this simulation as macroscopic as possible and to include as many layers of the state, its economy, and politics as we could. With these thoughts in mind, we experimented with different kinds of player factions but ultimately settled on the three classes. Why was that?

Well, in short, the classes enabled us to focus on the economic relations that we can still see in most parts of the world. These consist of:

  • A (comparatively) poorer section of society that usually works as employees and produces goods and services, i.e. sells its labour for wages (traditionally associated with blue-collar workers, however, not only focused on physical work alone)
  • A middle section of society that consists of both small- or medium-size business owners and higher salary workers (also traditionally associated with white-collar workers, but also not restricted to managerial or administrative work alone)
  • A (comparatively) wealthier section of society that usually is made up of large-scale employers and uses generated profits for other economic operations (business expansions, investments, etc.)

All these sections of society within a nation create a triangle of economic relations that we desperately wanted to show in a game, so the implementation of classes seemed to be the right decision. Additionally, these economic relations also bear some political implications that we thought would be equally fascinating to add to the game:  it is undoubtedly so that your position in the economy creates- or restricts your access to completely different political and economic actions. 

A CEO of a multinational conglomerate for example will be able to influence the political decision-making process in a completely different manner than a white-collar worker. Simultaneously, the average “Working-Class Joes or Janes” could voice their political opinions by initiating strikes and demonstrations, something that corporate CEOs can hardly pull off. These mechanisms can be beautifully illustrated in a class framework.

Besides this emphasis on the economic relations and the resulting political implications, there was another factor that made us implement this framework: We were doing a board game and, therefore, would have to keep a player count that would make sense in a board game setting.  Of course, we were also considering other frameworks such as the concept of the milieus which focuses more on the social environment individuals are located in and is also backed by a lot of research. In this case, however, we would have to:

  • Abandon our goal to make the game as universal as possible as every country has a completely different configuration of social milieus.
  • Crank up the number of players to 10 – 20 (which will then make the game only useful in educational settings)
  • Create a much more complex net of economic relations that would be quite difficult to get through for the most seasoned of players.
  • Abandon our goal to create a flexible player count (i.e., 1 – 4 players) that could be adapted to the number of players present.

Obviously, these considerations were quite important to us and cemented our idea to bring classes into the game. This, however, led to the following question:

How does the State fit into all of this?

Here, once again, we have to go back to our initial thoughts. As we already decided to do a macroscopic politico-economic simulation, we did not plan to simply “create our own vision of how the world works”, but, instead, relied on the incalculable amount of research that has been done in political science, economics, and political economy. Hence, our goal was to

  1. A) implement a wide range of political and economic theories while
  2. B) abstaining from preaching in favor of one (or some) of them.

Both conditions were of the uttermost importance to us as, otherwise, the game would simply not be a simulation. If, for example, we had focused on a certain theory, it would have become a gamified explanation of it. If we had featured many theories but favored one of them, it would have heavily distorted the gameplay (and some may say it would have transformed the game into a piece of propaganda).

In this context, the role of the state presented us with new challenges as every theory has a completely different interpretation of the state and prescribes a different role to it: While the neoliberal thinker might argue for a night-watchman state (e.g. von Mises) and propose to slim it down even further (at least until the next financial crisis), the socialist might see the state solely as the extended arm of capitalist class interests (e.g. Gramsci) and advocate for its (perhaps violent) overthrow. In all scenarios, we would end up with a state that.

  1. A)    cannot be an independent player as the game would become a partly cooperative, partly competitive game with solid politico-economic alliances.
  2. B)    would heavily imbalance the gameplay as a non-playable state would always support one player, e.g., the Capitalist Class.

Therefore, we decided to strip it of its ideological content deriving from each theory and treat it as a completely separate entity. Of course, we still wanted to show the different political configurations that could happen in the state, however, without creating an imbalance that would be pure poison in such an asymmetric game. Thus, we decided to settle for the agenda cards that would represent the shifting ideological preferences of the government. Additionally, the State received a semi-autonomous role as it reflects the political desires of the social classes through the policy changes during the election phase. Some players assume that we treat the state as a separate class. This, of course, would be non-scientific as, to our knowledge, there is no academic theory that would conceptualize the state as its own separate class. Additionally, this also stems from the title of the game itself, however, “Lead Your Class OR THE STATE to Victory” would have sounded quite silly. We, therefore, opted to evade this confusion in the rulebook by purposely referring to the “players” instead of “classes” or using other terms such as “socio-economic groups”.

Finally, as we implemented different theories and explained them in the “Concepts” handbook, the game´s goal is not to show the players how we think the world works (as mentioned above), but, rather, to reveal different socio-economic lenses to the players and, simultaneously, let them reflect about their own ideological assumptions. Therefore, the debates the game generates among the players about the existence of classes, the relevance of ideologies nowadays, and the contextualization of the state in such a framework are beautiful things and exactly what we hoped the game would trigger. 

You can also dive deeper into all the content on the three Classes and the State, as well as other articles on  we have published about the concepts and theories behind Hegemony on our Blog: 

Let us know your opinion about our (frankly quite extensive) thoughts regarding this matter below! 

Thank you for reading and happy gaming! 😊

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