Mirror State is designed to run with 20-100 players, the majority of whom will be part of the political process. You might have a hankering to play for an agency or corporation, but the real power lies with the politicians.
As a State Representative, at the outset of the game you will be given an individual agenda that tells you what your voters want to see accomplished. Your success or failure in the upcoming election very much rests on your ability to meet or exceed the wishes and desires of your voters. How you achieve the objectives set is entirely up to you.
You will then select to serve on a political Committee unless you’re part of the Executive. Committees wield the power of the government, each having oversight on one or more government Agencies.
One Representative alone is not an island; you are also part of either the Democratic or Republican party who will also have an objective to fulfill. Regardless of whether you are in power or in opposition at the outset of the game, top of that list will be to ensure your party takes the Presidency in the upcoming election. Come hell or high water, the White House is the ultimate prize.
Of course, this is business as usual for a modern politician. Conducting negotiations through individual government Committees, dealing with corporations and wrangling the media is all in a day’s work.
But what if the world is threatened by an asteroid the size of Texas…
Or the dead start rising from the grave…
Or Google’s new super-computer decides to rid the world of the human vermin?
There’s a major threat coming that will not only throw additional complexity into your re-election campaign, but could render all life on earth extinct.
Elected by the party with the largest number of state votes at the beginning of the game and immediately following the Presidential Election in the 5th turn of the game. The President decides the composition of all legislation sent to the House Speaker to be voted on. This legislation can contain any number of amendments, but any committee requests submitted to the President must be sent to the House Speaker after the legislation is written. Following the successful passing of a piece of legislation the President has the option to veto (negate) the result.
The Central Intelligence Agency requests an additional $50M in funding to support field agents operating in South America from the Intelligence Committee. Having made his case to the committee, the members decide that this is a worthwhile endeavour and submit a request for legislation to the President. The President, however, does not want this bill to pass but is obliged to send it to the vote. Knowing that the opposition have a large amount of agricultural state interests the President amends the bill to take its funding from the biofuel subsidy act, which would harm the election prospects of several political opponents…
While the President is being selected by the majority party at the start of the game and in turn 5, the minority party select a State Representative to be the House Speaker. The Speaker receives legislation from the President in order to send it to the State Representatives for voting. The Speaker may not amend the legislation further, but can decide when the vote is called. There is one limit to this rule – the Speaker must send a piece of legislation to the vote every 15 minutes, if he or she has received any from the President. This ability can be used to delay legislation indefinitely providing no new bills are received, it also means that a vote can be called when it is most inconvenient to the majority party.
Having received the South American Intelligence and Biofuel Subsidy Budget Adjustment from the President’s office the Speaker notes that the combination of the two items is a clear trap for minority party members. The only possible way to pass the bill will be to call the vote while key majority members are engaged elsewhere. Should the bill pass the vote, the President’s only choice will be to use his or her veto to prevent is going through – at which point it will be the President’s party that potentially loses state influence due to blocking the CIA’s original request.
Acts as deputy and assistant to the President. Will largely be involved in fielding agency or committee meeting requests for the President who may be otherwise occupied. Additionally, the Vice President selected at the beginning of the game will be the candidate for their party in the Presidential election in turn 5.
Each party is lead by their elected Chairperson. This role is largely organisational, helping the President or Speaker co-ordinate State Representatives to push their overall agenda.
Chief of Staff
In much the same way as the Vice President, the Chief of Staff’s primary role is to assist the President in the smooth running of White House affairs. Second to this responsibility the Chief of Staff acts as the go-between for the President and the Party Chair.
Acts as liaison between the House Speaker and the minority Party Chair while assisting the Speaker in the smooth running of legislative voting.
Party Whips are used by both Party Chairs to keep individual State Representatives in line with party policy. Their presence should not be under-estimated as they act as the eyes, ears and (occasionally) teeth of party leadership.
State Representatives who are not filling Special Roles (listed above) will be a member of a House Committee, with each Committee having between 2 and 5 members. These Committees are the go-between for agencies and the Government. In order to put legislation in front of the President agencies must first have their requests vetted and approved by the appropriate Committee.
After the election of special roles, parties alternate in assigning their party members to any of the Committee spaces available. Cunning selection of Committee members at this stage can lead to one party locking down all decision making for a group of agencies.
With special roles filled the majority party select the first Committee member, appointing a State Representative to the Intelligence Committee. Not wanting to be outvoted on intelligence matters the minority party consider doing the same, but instead appoint their first member to Ways and Means, since control over taxation may prove to be much more useful…
The House Committee on Armed Services has jurisdiction over defence policy generally, ongoing military operations, the organization and reform of the Department of Defence and Department of Energy, counter-drug programs, acquisition and industrial base policy, technology transfer and export controls, joint interoperability, the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, Department of Energy non-proliferation programs, and detainee affairs and policy.
Taking reponsibility for the funding and legislation governing the United States military is no small task given its size. The Department of Defense reports directly to the Armed Services Committee, and NASA can approach them for funding of certain space-born assets.
Department of Justice
The Department of Justice has the jurisdiction over all domestic law enforcement. From various enforcement and investigation services to the judiciary.
The DOJ is directly responsible for the activities of the FBI and will set them on investigative paths ranging from the suspicious activities of an individual corporation to unethical media reporting to corruption in the government. When the need arises the Department of Justice has the ability to issue warrants for the questioning or arrest of any US citizen.
The Committee on Homeland Security was established in 2002 to provide Congressional oversight for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and better protect the American people against a possible terrorist attack.
Homeland Security has direct operational oversight on the National Security Agency. In times of national crisis Homeland Security may extend the NSA’s authority to supersede that of any other agency.
The United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence is charged with the oversight of the United States intelligence community, which includes the intelligence and intelligence related activities of the U.S. Government, and the Military Intelligence Program.
The primary source of funding for day to day operations of the CIA, the Intelligence Committee is aware of every foreign and domestic threat discovered by government agencies. Often working with the Treasury Committee to secure further funding, the Intelligence Committee is exceptionally selective about who it briefs on rising threats and the various programs it oversees.
Space, Science and Technology
The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology has jurisdiction over energy research, all federally owned or operated non-military energy laboratories, astronautical research and development, civil aviation, environmental research and development, marine research, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, NASA, NSF, NWS, outer space, and other aspects of scientific research.
Chiefly responsible for budget and oversight on both NASA and the CDC, the Space, Science and Technology Committee is often overlooked for critical funding since their work tends to be more focused on preventing disaster than remedying it.
The Treasury Committee oversees all spending of the United States government, and is the chief tax-writing committee in the House of Representatives. The Committee derives a large share of its jurisdiction from Article I, Section VII of the U.S. Constitution which declares, “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives.”
While having no individual agency under their control, very little expansion of agency or government activity can be accomplished with Treasury having given the green light.
How a Bill becomes Law
1. A House Committee considers a new policy option. This may originate via a request from an agency, or they may originate it themselves.
2. After debating the subject the Committee votes on the new policy. Regardless of whether all Committee members are present or not, if the majority of Committee members vote in favour of the policy it becomes a piece of potential legislation.
3. Potential legislation is presented to the President, or the President’s staff.
4. The President considers all potential legislation and combines as many or as few items into a single votable bill as he or she chooses. This bill also includes details of how (if necessary) the actions included will be paid for. See below for more information.
5. When the bill is ready the President gives it a name, and issues it to the House Speaker.
6. The House Speaker may then choose to present the bill for voting whenever they choose. There is an exception to this rule however. The Speaker may only “sit on” a new bill if a vote has been conducted within the last 15 minutes. If no vote has been carried out for 15 minutes, the Speaker must put a new vote in motion – if he or she has a bill.
7. When the vote is called, all political players except the President have 5 minutes to cast their vote. If they miss the vote it will be counted as an abstention.
8. Voting itself is conducted through the player’s voting card which has two bar-codes printed on it. One is the “Yes” vote, the other is the “No” vote. The Political moderator will scan whichever code the player presents, and the vote is counted.
9. If the bill has enough votes to pass the President now has the option to veto the bill. There is no limit to the number of times the President may veto, but negative sentiment generated from a failed bill will be higher from a veto than it would if the bill had failed to receive enough votes.
10. If the bill has the votes and is not vetoed it is now in effect. Agencies, corporations and the media are notified of the result while receiving new assets or briefings if appropriate.
You should note that no matter what the outcome of a vote, there may be a postive or negative impact on the sentiment of your state. Constituents who are highly dependent on agricultural subsidies will take a pretty dim view of anyone choosing to vote against that subsidy, whether the bill passes or not. Since the voting record of all State Representatives is public, you had better have a very good reason to go against the wishes of your state’s citizens.
Funding a Bill
Whether investing in a mining rig that can land on an asteroid, recalling overseas troops or shutting down international travel there will be times that a new piece of legislation needs funding in order to work. At the beginning of the game the country is assumed to be budget neutral: everything currently running, from FBI field offices to digital tax relief, is balanced to an acceptable level in the budget. In other words, if you want to do something new, you will need to find some more cash, cancel an existing policy or raise taxes.
Rarely will any of these actions be popular with voters, so you had better be sure it is worth doing.
There are no hard and fast rules as to how funding is found, providing is meets the criteria of the new policy being put in place. In the event that a radical move is made by the government, shutting down an agency to save the budget, members of that agency are free to join a corporation or different agency. This really is not recommended however.
At the beginning of the game the following Bills are active laws in the United States. Each Bill listed affects two different industries so may have an effect on a large number of different states – positively or negatively. The value of each of these bills will be listed in your player documentation.
Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program – Subsidised research and development of high-tech manufacturing of environmentally friendly vehicles.
Agricultural Reporting Reform Act – Punitive controls over misrepresenting nutritional data in the media.
Airport and Airway Extension Act – Relaxed planning restriction for the expansion of major airports.
Alien Species Prevention and Enforcement Act – Strict border control of overseas flora and fauna.
Biofuel Subsidy – Federal funding grants for ethanol and bio-diesel production.
Consumer Bill of Rights – Protection for consumers from substandard manufacturing and irresponsible commercial practise.
Consumer Credit Act – Regulation and limitation of credit offerings based on the consumers’ ability to pay.
Cybersecurity Protection Act – Consumer and retail protection against fraud, placing responsibility for security with technology suppliers.
Digital Accountability and Transparency Act – Legislation to protect consumers from fraudulent criminal behaviour employing technology.
Digital Arts Promotion Bill – Subsidised support for the digital entertainment medium and associated production facilities.
Drug Quality and Security Act – Minimum acceptable standards for the manufacture of pharmaceuticals in accordance with FDA approvals.
Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act – Tax relief to financial institutions to aid in manufacturing and trade economic growth.
Emergency Petroleum Allocation Act – Federally controlled petroleum pricing and reserve storage.
Energy Independence and Security Act – Investment in the development of advanced power supplies, including fossil and renewable fuels.
Energy Tax Act – Simplified taxation legislation to cover the provision of sustainable energy.
Environmental Protection Public Scrutiny Act – Mandate for the media to investigate EPA infractions with umbrella federal protection from prosecution.
Fair Credit Reporting Act – Legal standards for unbiased fiscal reporting.
Farm Security Act – Forces financial institutions to allow an additional 12 months of mortgage leeway to agricultural landowners before forceclosure.
Federal Digital Copyright Enforcement Act – Rules regarding the ownership and distribution of registered copyrighted works via digital media.
Federal Drug Administration Price Protection Bill – International trade legislation protecting pharmaceutical pricing overseas.
Food Manufacture Safety Standard – Mandates independent verification of food processing and manufacture to ensure standards are met.
Food Origin Labelling Standard – All retailed food products must state the geographic source of primary ingredients.
Genetic Modification Restriction Act – Prevents the use of 10-year untrialled genetic modification in farming.
Genetic Research Investment Program – Federal subsidy of genetic research programs targeting cures for cancer and HIV.
International Medical Visa Act – Visa program to support the growth of medical tourism.
Medicare Extension Act – Reform of Medicare investment covering maximum pricing and underwritingthe availability of pharmaceutical products.
Pharmaceutical Competition Security Act – Restrictions on media coverage of pharmaceutical development to avoid patent infringement.
Print Media Preservation Subsidy – Subsidy to ensure the continuation of the nation’s rich history of printed news media.
Renewable Fuel Standard – Legislative governance covering increased production, distribution and retail of renewable fuels.
Resource Allocation Priority Program – Legislation to federalise petrochemical and pharmacological resources to ensure full national stockpiles are maintained.
Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program – Federally mandated limits on crop diversity and pharmacological allocations.
Technology Convention Tax Relief Act – Tax relief for technology sector convention organisers to promote international support of domestic operations.
Trade Act – Subsidy promoting increased overseas trade.
Travel Promotion Act – Relaxation of taxable travel services to encourage further international air travel.
Wall Street Reform and Consumer – Protection Act Regulation covering overseas and credit based investment of international financial institutions.
Wireless Competition Act – Regulation of the provision of digital access and streamed media services ensuring fair competition.
All the information presented above may seem daunting, it really isn’t. What we’ve provided here is background information designed to give you the full picture of how the political role is played in the game. When it comes down to it however, the way you choose to perform your role, and how you spend your time is entirely at your discretion.
There is only one rule you must follow – behave as you believe your character would.
You are a career politician and have sacrificed a great deal to build the trust of your party and constituents to reach the position you are now in. “Winning” the game is an entirely subjective notion; you have to decide what a win is – it could be great personal wealth, a prosperous State or a high powered role in government.
You may equally decide to let the chips fall where they may. This is your story.
If you’re stuck for ideas of what to do at the outset of the game, try some of these:
Negotiate a deal with a corporation. They’ll be eager to talk to you and may be beneficial to you personally or your state.
Enact a piece of legislation your voters will approve of. Your player card will tell you which industries are of greatest importance to your state, and you’ll have several State Objectives that demonstrate what your voters want accomplished.
Check your state budget or see how you’re doing in an opinion poll by asking a Game Master. The GMs have a lot of information that may be valuable to you. Sometimes you can get this simply by asking.
Take out an election or attack ad with the media. The cost of these ads will be variable, from an exchange of information to hard currency. If you have no money, corporations may be able to help you out.
Request a briefing from a government agency. Agencies will be heavily involved in combating threats that occur during the game. You won’t have long before they come to you for help, but that doesn’t mean you should wait for them to be ready.