1960: The Making Of The President
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Will you recreate history, or rewrite it? In this fast-playing, 2-player strategy game, players take on the role of John F. Kennedy or Richard Nixon vying for the right to lead his country into the heart of the Cold War.
I've played this only once but am quite sure that this is the best election game I have ever played. The cards covering the various events in the Kennedy-Nixon campaign are intriguing and the cube allocation aspect relating to the candidates' power and influence throughout the states, issues and media is fantastic. There is some luck where you draw the cubes blindly out of a bag for what is called support checks keeps the players on their toes but there is plenty of strategy here as well. There is also pieces representing endorsements and momentum markers that can trigger unplayed events that the other player has. Finally there is a turn based solely on the debates which can be fumbled quite easily if not with some careful forethought put into it. The player with the most electoral votes is the winner just like a real presidential election! I thoroughly enjoyed this game and even though you really have to follow the letter of the rules in order for the game to play out fairly it was worth the scouring of the rules.
1960: The Making of the President is another card-driven thematically-drenched game from the mind of Jason Matthews. Like its predecessor Twilight Struggle, 1960: The Making of the President operates in multiple rounds with varying degrees of turns within a round. Unlike Twilight Struggle, this election game is a bit less tense and much easier to play. My first play of the game was with my 13-year-old son, and he easily caught on to the rules.
Players are either Republican candidate Richard Nixon or Democratic hopeful John Kennedy. The game play involves a clever juggling of historical events, shoring up voter support in different states, working to improve media support in different regions of the country, and vying for positions on key debate topics in Defense, Economics, and Civil Rights. With so many different ways to use your precious Campaign Points, it takes advanced planning to score just the right victories. Taking advantage of certain events in the course of the game can have major pay-offs in voter support if you time them just right.
Be sure to set aside key cards early in the game to help you get the lead in the Debate round, and keep a close watch on the East and the Midwest when courting your voters. Mathematically a win in these two regions alone will net you the number of electoral votes you need to win the election.
Watching the way events tend to play out and affect the nine weeks before the election can also help you better understand the changing popularity of candidates in real elections as well. Best of all, 1960: The Making of the President is one of the best looking games out there. The board, although only a map of the United States, has the look of serious politics, right down to the coffee ring stains. The cards are informative and clever, and the wooden blocks, hard cardboard campaign buttons (Momentum Markers) and smaller round Endorsement Markers used in the game make for a much more esthetically pleasing appearance than the much smaller cardboard chits used in Twilight Struggle.
The game has Jason Matthews’ signature attention to detail and historic accuracy, and, best of all, when you win the game, you truly feel you have accomplished something even if White House refuses to acknowledge your efforts.
For some time now I've wanted to try out a fairly new board game called, "1960: The Making of the President". Something about it sounded like my kind of game.
I got a chance to play it recently and was so taken with it that I did something I rarely do and played the same game twice in the same night.
1960: TMotP is a 2-player game that immerses you and an opponent into the depths of the famous campaign of 1960 between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. Before 2000 this was the most contested campaign in US history. It went down to the wire and has been contested and debated by scholars and pundits since.
The game does a tremendous job of bringing home the feeling of being there. It mainly takes place across a large map of the country that features wonderful artwork and a great overall look. The pieces, especially the event cards, are first-rate. They're made of very durable material and look like they'll hold up for years. Plus the detail that went into them is excellent. Seemingly every event and major personality of the time is represented here.
The game takes place over 9 turns. You play 5 turns before heading to the famous debate then two more turns and finally the election itself. During the main turn you choose actions from the event cards to direct your campaign. It's all about resource management. Where do you campaign? How much advertising do you do? How much emphasis will you put it the events of the day (Defense, Economy and Civil Rights)? Do you bother with going for endorsements? How much rest will you require? All of these items must be well balanced and the game does a great job of making them all count in an equally balanced way. If you don't get enough rest then you'll come up short when initiative is at stake or when you need a critical bit of luck.
Battles will wage back and forth. Your candidate will look to be turning the south towards them only to have the other candidate steal it back with timely plays of their own. In both the games I played (against two different players) all three of us were entirely unsure of the outcome. We could just as easily believe we'd win as lose. Tensions ran high as we calculated the final electoral college votes to see who won. Just as in 1960 the necessary count was 269 votes needed to win. As both sides drew closer the tension grew in parallel.
The first game I took over the Kennedy campaign and won by about 40 points or the margin of one large state. In the second I played as Nixon and won by 47 points and again it came down to one or two critical states being the difference. All three of us thought this was one of the best games we've played in a long time. You could look back and lament earlier moves both made and unmade. If only you'd spent one more day in California. If only you didn't waste time in Hawaii.
What's even more interesting is that this would make for a wonderful educational experience. It really does showcase the major elements of any election and provides a historical reference for anyone interested in this particular moment in time. It's all here. Jackie might show up and woo the electorate causing Nixon to have to work much harder to regain momentum. Will Eisenhower endorse Nixon in time or will his silence go on long enough to raise questions? Will the Catholic issue bring Kennedy support or will it hurt him? Will Nixon's "lazy shave" doom the debate for him? Can Kennedy get Lyndon Johnson to join him on the ticket nearly assuring him Texas as a result?
The cards allow for all of these to be present but each game is different as you may get each card at times where you need to go in other directions than those historically followed. Opponents can also play cards that restrict your options.
The bottom line is that I haven't enjoyed a game this much in a very, very long time. I felt invigorated by the whole experience and can't wait to play it again and expose others to it. I can't possibly recommend it enough. It's not the lightest game out there. The manual is a bit lengthy and games can easily run 2 hours but it's worth every minute of it if it sounds even remotely interesting to you. (this is from my blog at http://blog.pcserenity.com)
The 1960 United States presidential election was one of the most hotly contested and emotionally stirring in recent history. After serving as Vice President in the Dwight Eisenhower administration during the prosperous yet tumultuous 1950s, Richard Nixon was named as the Republican standard-bearer. His opponent was Harvard educated John F. Kennedy of the influential Kennedy family political dynasty. The contrast between the two candidates was stark. In spite of his California origins, Nixon appealed to conservative America, and was viewed as a tough and experienced politician. Kennedy was young, handsome and seemed to have an air of newness, offering a fresh approach to the issues and problems facing the nation.
In 1960: The Making of the President, designer Jason Matthews of Twilight Struggle fame has teamed with Christian Leonhard to recreate the excitement, tension and struggles present in this pivotal election. Each player assumes the role of Nixon or Kennedy, crisscrossing the countryside in hopes of capturing the most electoral votes in order to ascend to the presidency. Candidates compete in a wide variety of political arenas and must contend with the pressing issues of the day, including the Cold War, economy, religious intolerance and much more. The impact of the emerging media must be considered and unexpected events constantly force players to adapt their strategies. Actual historical events are recreated, helping provide authentic atmosphere to the contest.
The map depicts the fifty states divided into four distinct regions. A square in each state indicates the initial voter preference of that state – Republican or Democrat – as well as the electoral votes at stake and how many influence cubes are initially placed there. The corresponding state seal token is placed onto each state. These tokens will be awarded to the candidate who ultimately captures that state's electoral votes. Rimming the map are various charts and spaces wherein players will play cards, cubes, and other markers.
Each player receives their candidate token and card, political cubes and two momentum markers. Candidates begin in their home state, but will travel about the country campaigning for votes. The "Political Capital Bag" is seeded with ten cubes from each player. The campaign begins!
The game is played over the course of nine turns, seven of which are divided into four phases. The two special turns are the debates and the final election. The four phases of the regular turns are:
Initiative Phase. Each player receives a hand of six campaign cards (seven on the final two turns). The start player is determined by performing an initiative check, which consists of drawing cubes from the political capital bag until one player has two of his cubes drawn.
Activity Phases. This phase is at the heart of the game. Players alternate playing and resolving campaign cards. The campaign cards are the driving force of the game. They depict a variety of items, including campaign points, historical data, events, debate icons and more. Each card depicts a headline and corresponding historical photo, enhancing the atmosphere. Each card can be played one of two fashions: as an event or for campaign points. The top-half of the card is used if the player opts to play the card to add influence to a state or increase their stature in the important issues of the day: defense, economy and civil rights. The bottom half of each card describes the effects of using it as an event. For example, playing the "Industrial Midwest" card allows the player to place three campaign points and gain one "rest" cube (explained later), OR allows the Nixon player to place a total of five campaign points in five Midwestern states. The player must choose which of these two actions to execute. Some events are immediate, while some do not occur until the debates or even election day. Some events are also persistent, with their effects affecting game play for several turns. These cards are placed on the designated spaces on the board.
Events can cause a wide range of occurrences. Campaign points in various states can be gained or lost, players can gain or lose media influence, support can be gained or lost on the important issues, etc. Tough choices arise when deciding which card to play and whether to use that card as an event or to place campaign points. Some events help or harm a specific candidate, so players will often try to bury events that only help their opponents, using those cards to place support cubes.
When playing a card to place campaign points, the card will indicate how many cubes the player receives. These cubes may be played in three manners:
1)Campaigning in States. The player may place the cubes into any states in the region where his candidate token is located. The candidate automatically moves to the state where tokens are placed. A player may move the candidate to a different region, thereby enabling him to place cubes into states in that region, but this costs the player one campaign point for each regional boundary crossed.
The idea is to eventually win the electoral votes from enough states to win the election. Only a single player may have cubes in a state. So, if Nixon has two cubes in Nebraska and Kennedy decides to place three cubes there, both of Nixon's cubes are removed and Kennedy places one cube there. Removed cubes are returned to the appropriate player's supply.
Before placing cubes, however, a player may be forced to perform a support check. If a player has at least four support cubes in a state, before placing cubes into that state, his opponent must draw one cube from the political capital bag for each cube he desires to place into that state. For each cube drawn of his own color, he may place a cube into that state. This reflects the political power of the player currently leading in that state, and generally causes players to strive to obtain at least four support cubes in a state, particularly those with considerable electoral votes. If a player has the support of the media in that region, he is exempt from making support checks in that region. Thus, possessing media support can be quite advantageous, which often results in keen competition.
2) Advertising in Regions. The procedure is similar to that for placing campaign cubes into the states, but the cubes are placed into the regional advertising boxes. As mentioned, garnering support of the media in a region exempts a player from having to perform support checks before placing campaign cubes into the states in that region. Before placing these cubes into the media boxes, however, he must perform support checks as described above.
Another advantage of influencing the media is that the player who has more media markers on the board may swap the position of two adjacent issues on the issues track. This can be quite beneficial during the Momentum phase.
3) Positioning on Issues. Again, the method here is very similar to the placement of campaign cubes into the states or media boxes. However, the player adds cubes to the three issues on the Issue track. The cost escalates with each cube placed onto an issue. Being ahead on an issue can be important as many events benefit the leader of a particular issue and leaders receive more momentum markers and/or endorsement cards.
Momentum markers are important, as they can be used to trigger the event of a card that was played by an opponent to place campaign cubes. Often, a player will have several campaign cards whose event benefits his opponent. So, the player will play these cards to place campaign points instead of as an event. The more momentum markers a player possesses, the more he can cause these events to occur.
Instead of playing a campaign card, the player may opt to play his candidate card, thereby gaining a hefty five campaign points. However, his candidate is then exhausted and can only be revived by the play of specific events. A nice tactic is to play the candidate card when you are in possession of the event that will revive him.
Momentum Phase. Players must discard half of their momentum markers, so the rule-of- thumb is "use 'em or lose 'em". New momentum markers and/or endorsement cards are then earned for leading in the three issues on the Issue Track, with more benefits earned the higher the issue is on the track. Endorsement cards allow the player to place an endorsement marker into the specified region. These endorsements can be useful in swaying a state's votes if the election results in a tie.
The issue chart is adjusted by removing one support cube from each issue. Further, the player with the most media cubes on the board may switch the position of any two issues on the chart. Thus, the issue most important with the public on any given turn is heavily influenced by the media.
Campaign Strategy Phase. Players each set one card (two on the final two turns) aside. These cards will come into play during the big debate in turn six, with the final four cards affecting conditions at the end of the game. The idea is to set aside cards that will benefit you in the upcoming debates and at game's end.
During the course of playing campaign cards, players will set aside cubes into their "rest" area, as instructed by the cards played. These rest cubes are now placed into the political capital bag. So, the more cubes a player sets aside during the turn, the better his chances of passing support checks during the course of the upcoming turn.
In the sixth turn, a great debate is held. Players retrieve the five cards they set aside during the first five turns. These cards will be used to debate the three important issues from the Issue Track: defense, economy and civil rights. Players each select a card and reveal them simultaneously. The cards are placed beside the issue and candidate indicated on the card. This process continues with all five cards. As soon as two cards appear by an issue for a candidate, that issue is decided. The player with the highest total of campaign points as indicated on those cards wins that debate. The reward is additional campaign cubes (2 – 4), which may be placed into the states. More cubes are rewarded for winning the latter debates.
The debate is a fun and often tense interlude. Players must properly plan for the debates by setting aside valuable cards during the first five turns of the game. It can be tough deciding which cards to set aside, as they will not be available for use during those turns. Players should also concentrate on which issues they desire to win and set aside cards depicting that icon, making sure, of course, that the icon is also applicable to their candidate!
Finally, on turn 9, election day arrives. The normal game sequence is abandoned, with new steps being taken to determine the outcome of the election. Election day events as indicated on cards played during the game are resolved. All media and issue support cubes are removed from the board and deposited into the political capital bag. Any leftover momentum markers are exchanged for two cubes, which are also put into the bag. Players reveal the four campaign cards they have set aside over the final two turns, and each player gains three support checks in the states indicated on the cards. This often results in dramatic shake-ups in several of these states. It is also one of the most random aspects of the game, which has the potential of upsetting what may have been a carefully crafted campaign strategy.
States that are still undecided – meaning they have no support cubes for any player present – will now throw their support to a candidate. If a candidate has an endorsement marker in the region, he will win the votes of those states within that region. Otherwise, the votes go to the candidate who initially had the edge in that state, as indicated on the board. Once all undecided states have made their selection, players collect the state tokens from each state they control and tally the electoral votes indicated. The player who captures at least 269 of the 537 available electoral votes wins the election and ascends to the presidency.
1960: The Making of the President uses several of the same mechanisms found in Matthews' earlier design, Twilight Struggle. The card-driven aspect, wherein cards can be used in a variety of manners, is very similar. This is an extremely appealing mechanism, as it forces players to make vital decisions with the play of each and every card. The tenseness and angst caused during this decision making process is considerable and, for me, the best part of the game. Considerable research and care has been performed to insure that the cards have historical connections and reflect the ebb and flow of a presidential campaign. The campaign deck seems well balanced, and the availability of the momentum markers allows players to trigger favorable events that may have escaped their use due to any "luck of the draw" occurrences. There doesn't appear to be any undue built-in advantage for a particular candidate.
The game is certainly lighter and easier-to-understand than Twilight Struggle. Twilight Struggle is a wonderful, tense and exciting game, but it is a bit rules- heavy with lots of detail and occasionally confusing situations. It is not a game for the faint-of-heart. 1960: The Making of the President is considerably easier to learn and play, making it accessible for a wider audience. Granted, the subject matter might not be as popular outside of the United States or appeal to a younger age group who may not have any interest in past presidential elections, but those willing to give it a try will find it far easier to become acclimated.
Another advantage is that 1960 plays quicker than Twilight Struggle. Most games can be played to completion in ninety minutes or so, and there is less downtime. It is more straight-forward and less confusing, all factors that help the game move along at a brisk pace.
That being said, the game does not appear to have the strategic depth of Twilight Struggle. Plus, the board situation can and often does change dramatically. While there are steps players can take to protect themselves and increase the odds in their favor, there is still a healthy dose of luck present, especially during the support checks. The final shake-up caused by the rectifying of the campaign cards players have set aside during the final two turns can be dramatic and may actually swing the election. While these support checks can be fun and exciting, they can also be frustrating as they are heavily dependent upon luck. That may be distasteful to some.
While Twilight Struggle remains my favorite of the two designs (I'm a bit biased, though, as my Master's Degree concentration was World War II and the Cold War!), I find myself playing 1960: The Making of the President more often. This is predominately due to the length of the game and the ease in teaching it to others. It is a fun game that really does capture some of the atmosphere, excitement and uncertainties of a presidential campaign. Surprisingly, given the nearly universal recognition and appeal of the subject, there are far too few good election games available. Fortunately, 1960: The Making of the President is one of those few very good ones.