The Electoral College in the United States acts as a separate body choosing the Executive Branch every four years. That seems complicated, but the system really only comes down to who is most popular as chosen by each state. The Presidential Game by Regina Glocker takes this system and applies it to a medium well known for its own seeming complexities: board games.
Game play in The Presidential Game is actually quite simple. Players organize themselves into teams, Democrat or Republican. Games are played in a series of rounds referred to as “Weeks,” in which each team gets a chance to play. During its turn, the team decides whether it goes Campaigning or Fundraising. In Campaigning, the team rolls three six-sided dice and applies that many chips to three states. In Fundraising, the team picks one of the big four states (California, Texas, Florida, and New York) and rolls the dice, leaving half of the chips in that state and applying the others wherever they like, then ending their turn by drawing a Politics Card.
Politics Cards contain little scenarios that affect the chips and may be used at the end of any turn. Some may give bonuses to a player’s team such as “You are in favor of more drilling in the ANWR—add 2 votes to Alaska,” while others may injure the other party, “Your opponent misstates where the Revolutionary War Battle of Lexington took place—add 4 votes to Massachusetts.” A few are able to be used in any state, giving players the possibilities of making up votes in places they may not have reached otherwise through Campaigning. Alongside eighty formal Politics Cards, there are another 40 “Write-Your-Own” cards that can be good fun addressing contemporary news items or simply making fun of politicians.
Like real life elections, the game is based in luck with dice-rolling and card-drawing. The strategy comes in keeping track of who is ahead in each state and thereby who is ahead overall. All of the states are considered “winner-take-all” (except, in real elections, for Nebraska and Maine, which is an optional rule in the game), and each state is worth a different number of votes based on their population. At the end of each turn, players keep track of how many votes they have gained or lost, always hoping to reach that 270 for the overall win. While the resources are randomized with the rolls, players can allot them very skillfully to ensure a win by scooping up several states through well placed chips or holding onto cards until key moments.
The Presidential Game is for two or more players aged eleven and up. The length of the game will vary depending on how many Weeks the players choose. The game usually has thirty Weeks, which makes for an hour of play, and is listed on the score pad for players to keep track of their progress. An online Electoral WebMap Calculator is available with a code on the back of the instructions, giving players a much easier time adding up who is ahead in the overall race.
With 2016 fast approaching, The Presidential Game is a great chance for learning about America’s electoral system. It is not nearly as complicated as it is often treated, and The Presidential Game makes it easy to see how the mechanics work. On top of the educational value, it is a fun and easy system for players to spend an evening on the campaign trail and feel the intensity as the clock ticks down to election night.
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