Election season is reaching its climax today. It’s time to get out and vote! An acrimonious political climate cannot detract us from these fine political games. Head to the polls and vote your conscience. Then head to The Gaming Annex and play these games!
1960: The Making of the President
What happens when half the design team of Twilight Struggle unites with half the design team of Fireteam Zero? You don’t need to be Nate Silver to conclude such a game is going to be a contender. Z-Man Games’ 1960 pits one player as Vice President Richard Nixon and the other as Senator John Kennedy.
This tug of war game introduces players to card driven mechanics in a very digestible manner. The cards have campaign points, valued from 2 to 4. Players spend these values to either gain support in the states or in the main issues of 1960: civil rights, defense and economy. Alternatively, players could play the card for the event text. The event texts are ripped right from the headlines of the day. My favorite card from the game can be seen here 😉
The genius of this game is its gateway-ness. For example: when Tasha joined the group, I asked her what kind of games she liked to play. She replied, “Light strategy”. After playing 1960, she’s moved from “light strategy” to “hardcore strategy”. Wait ’til I teach Brandi!
Campaign Manager 2008
The same team behind 1960 reunited to give us a lighter sequel: Z-Man’s Campaign Manager 2008. This go-around it’s Senator Barack Obama pitted against Senator John McCain.
Campaign Manager 2008 uses card driven mechanics but takes out the campaign point values of 1960. The cards all have actions that the player can use. The actions will typically do some combination of allowing the player to 1) draw a card; 2) gain influence in a state; 3) change a key demographic; 4) swing an issue.
There are two issues in 2008: defense and economy. Each state starts with a preference in one of those two issues. Seen here, Michigan favors economy (there is a dot in the triangle pointing towards the money icon). If all the circles at the top of the card are one color AND the issue is pointing towards defense, that player wins the state. Conversely, if all the circles at the bottom of the card are one color AND the issue is pointing towards economy, then that player wins the state.
Campaign Manager is not as deep as 1960. But that is not to say it’s a bad game. There is a nifty draft mechanic at the beginning of the game. This allows players to craft their own unique campaign deck that they will use for that game. Will Obama draft “Oprah-palooza” or “The Audacity of Hope”? Good drafting is required to get the necessary synergy to reach 270.
Making a game about an election is tough. Making one that is fun and plays 4 players is as scarce as an honest politician. Numbskull Games has produced a worthy candidate with their Divided Republic, a game about the fateful 1860 election.
Players take on the role of the major candidates of the day: Abraham Lincoln, John Bell, John Cabell Breckinridge and Stephen Douglas. The game is card driven. The cards, like those of 1960: the Making of the President, have campaign points and events. Players play cards for either use.
While the game draws obvious comparisons between 1960, there is at least two important distinctions: Divided Republic plays four and Divided Republic could end in civil war, where all players lose.
The cards are evocative of the era. I especially like how Nevada can become a state just in time for the election. Neat! You don’t have to be Jefferson Davis to enjoy Divided Republic.
Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing makes several consumer products. Everyone’s heard of Scotch tape. 3M developed it. But you may not know is that 3M also developed several board games in the 1960’s. One of which is worthy addition to this blog topic: Mr. President.
Mr. President is a different take on elections than the previous items we’ve seen above. Mr. President looks at a generic election in the US rather than a specific one. The candidates are all made up people with a set of stats and a home state.
Players select a pair of candidates to be their presidential and VP candidates. Several things must be taken into consideration: the candidates’ home states, their statistics and the issues they are most credible on. Pick some with lots of fund raising and advertising and you will have lots of funding. Pick someone with good campaign ability and you will have more cards in your hand to choose from.
Mr. President does not try to recreate an single election cycle. Instead, it tries to recreate the nuts and bolts of any given election. The frustration and the elation of raising funds and spending resources strategically. To its credit, Mr. President was way ahead of its time. It still holds a solid 6.5 rating on boardgamegeek.
Roll-and-move games are generally relegated to the dustbin. But GDW came up with a roll-and-move game that mimics a grueling presidential campaign in 1983’s Campaign Trail.
Players roll two dice and then moves his president and vice president pieces that many spaces. The larger the city you land on, the more votes you get, ranging from 1 to 5. If you land on an opponent’s piece, you have a roll off for more votes.
Campaign Trail is deceptive in its depth. For such simplicity, the game offers a lot of strategy. Managing the map and the position of your pieces is crucial. It’s because of this that it still enjoys a solid 6.5 rating on BGG. (By the way, why do so many election games have a 6.5 rating?)
Every so often Parker Brothers would release a gem. Their 1971 game Landslide is a fine example. Not only was it a good game but it seemed prescient, given the fact that a year later Nixon would carry 49 states over George McGovern in 1972.
Landslide reminds me of a roll-and-move version of Modern Art. Each space on the board is a different way to auction off the states. The states each have their electoral weight (from the 1970 census) listed on it. Some auctions are open while others are blind. Players bid with a hand of vote cards of varying denominations.
The game has all the trappings of a Parker Brothers game of this era: take that mechanics, lots of randomness and as previously mentioned, roll-and-move. But Parker Brothers was really onto something with this auction game. I can see Knizia drawing inspiration for Modern Art or High Society from this game.
Head to your local polls. Then head here…