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Players race for the White House through skill and the luck-of-the-draw.

Educational Game Review: ‘Election’ from StartUp Games

The race for the White House is brought to the family gaming table in Election from StartUp Games, the company behind the entrepreneurial game StartUp. With 2016 just around the corner and campaigning already going strong, the electoral process is omnipresent, yet still much of a mystery to the average American. Kids and adults alike can learn a great deal from Election on the actual process from courting donors to taking on volunteers to jet-setting across the geography of the land to the Electoral College itself.

election-topAs with StartUp, and in the real political world, there are plenty of options for each player’s round. The game is set up for at least two competing players (who, for the numbers to work out, choose between the Democratic and Republican parties) and may include up to four (adding the Libertarian and Green parties). Additional players, such as in a classroom setting, might be added by playing teams that discuss and agree upon the action for the turn.

Players choose their parties and candidates and take turns going through a sequence of actions. Volunteers serve as a resource-generator for money, which may be supplemented by using the rounds action to raise more through “Kiss up to Donors.” Other actions include recruiting volunteers (even from opponents), purchasing advertising (such as Negative Ads), hiring consultants, travelling to states to gain votes, and conducting polls that show the hidden percentages of base support. Ideally, a candidate would review all the polls and work from there, but there is little time for that with opponents already hitting the campaign trail!

Outside of the fun of needing to be clever to plan a candidate’s campaign, some of the most exciting bits of the game come from the Daily News cards. These add the unpredictability of the race to the game, sometimes giving extra volunteers, cash, or ads, and sometimes costing them. Many of the cards are reminiscent of previous elections, such as appearing on the Late Show playing a saxophone or being caught by a cell phone camera talking about the “47%,” which will get plenty of laughs out of older players. The game will be wildly volatile until the final round, when the Electoral College casts its votes by state, showing the importance of planning where to concentrate one’s support by going for a few big states or scooping up plenty of smaller ones.

One bonus to Election is the variations at the end of the rulebook. Players may use the “Slow Game” rules to make one round of play per day, a great opportunity for teams or classrooms to discuss their options and support a chosen action. Alternately, players may up the tension with the “Time Game” that is over when a timer buzzes, adding a new dynamic (stalling) to the game. For three or four player games, “1788 Rules” determine a first place winner as President with the runner up as Vice President while “Secretary of State” allows a player lagging behind to throw his or her votes toward a chosen winner in exchange for a comfortable political position.

Election is a board game for two to four players ages nine and up. It is an excellent chance to clear some of the muddiness from the political process, a great learning opportunity for students of all ages. It is realistic enough to show the thrills and spills of the race while giving plenty of opportunity for tongue-in-cheek jokes about the electoral business.

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About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.

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