I recently received The Presidential Game to review. The Presidential Game is designed to teach how the electoral college system works as well as various aspects of campaigning for office to gain control of the needed votes.
Intended for 2 teams (minimum 1 person per team) of players ages 11+, the game contains blue and red chips, a game board, Politics Cards (80 pre-printed and 40 write-your-own), Vote Republican and Vote Democrat cards, red and blue dice, a score sheet, directions, and an access code to the online interactive webmap.
There are a couple of interesting features of this game- the Politics Cards are a deck of cards which are used when fundraising. These cards contain little statements like: “You give a speech in Montana and announce your opposition to logging in national parks like Yellowstone. Add 5 votes to Montana.” or “A top DC lobbyist who your opponent befriended while in Congress is indicted. Your opponent loses 3 votes from the state of your choice.” A couple of the cards are definitely more appropriate for the more mature audience and might be offensive to some families. These include a couple that deal with alcohol and one states you favor legalizing marijuana. These cards could easily be removed from play if they are offensive to your family. There are also some blank cards so you can write your own Politics Cards. The other feature is the interactive webmap. Instead of keeping score manually on the tally sheets, the map is used to show which states are controlled by whom and what the total tally of electoral votes is. Below is a picture of the webmap during the beginning phases of a game my family played.
This game was a lot of fun. It was very interesting to see how some states really were a battle ground with gains and losses. They weren’t necessarily the ones that are battle ground states in real life, but the game creates a dynamic of states to fight over. As we played, I spent some time talking about why various Politics Cards had the effects that they had. For example, why would it matter what baseball cap a candidate was seen wearing in a given state? Why does it matter who your friends are? What effect do endorsements have? etc.
I played with all of my children from 7-11. Through playing the game, I think my children began to realize what a balancing act running for president is. They also began to see how much strategy with a little luck is involved too. At one point near the end of one of our games (Tiger, Butterfly, and Pumpkin Pie against mom), Butterfly was lobbying Tiger to leave CA alone since I only had it by a couple votes and go campaigning in several smaller large states. She rationalized that I would just come back and regain it and their turn would be wasted but if the gathered some other states before coming back to CA, then they would be further ahead. I loved listening to them strategize against me!
After playing the game a few times, I realized we were making a few errors in our game. I discovered that the instructions have been updated to be a little clearer. An updated election rules is available on the website. One of our errors, which you can see in the picture above is how we were allocating chips to the board.
It would be interesting to have an optional 3rd color to work with a 3rd team and see how the strategy and dynamics changed with an additional possible candidate and how that would affect our electoral system.