I received a free copy of The Presidential Game to review for The Oldschoolhouse review crew. Two teams, one Democrats and the other Republicans, “battle” for control of the electoral votes in each state to win the presidential election of the United States. The object of the game is to collect 270 of the total 538 electoral votes by the end of the game. As few as 2 players can play and the game is geared toward players age 11 and up. The game retails for $35.
I tasked each one of my kids with reading the directions before we could begin play and all 3 failed at the task. Ultimately, I read the directions and then explained the object of the game for them to begin. Princess (age 16) was the Democrat playing against her younger sister NuNu (age 12) who was the Republican. Following the rules of play was relatively easy but what we didn’t truly grasp from the beginning was the best strategy for winning the game. However, strategy did become clear toward the latter part of our first game.
Here is what’s great about this game:
- gives a basic understanding of how presidential elections are won in this country
- players get an idea of which states are influential in elections
- players bring a better understanding of the campaigning candidates do in real presidential elections (i.e. the states they spend the most time in and why)
- great opportunity to review US geography
- great opportunity to sharpen mental addition/subtraction skills
I must say that my 16 year old brought a better appreciation of the game to the table than my 12 year old as were playing. My 12 year could follow the rules of the game but often times didn’t get the point. They both enjoyed the funny anecdotes of the political cards. NuNu commented that the political cards made the game fun.
To keep the game moving along, I found myself acting as a campaign analyst much like the banker in Monopoly. I kept track of which states my girls wanted to campaign or fund raise in and I kept the electronic electoral map found at The Presidential Game website. In this observing role it became clear how one could secure his or her position in a particular state and how to secure the most votes to ultimately win the game.
On the most basic level I think it is important to note the following regarding strategy:
- Take note of the states that have the most electoral votes.
Commonsense says to campaign or fund raise in these states first. These states include New York, Florida, Texas, & California. When players campaign they decide on 3 states to campaign in and roll their 3 dice. The value of the dice decides the number of votes (chips) that go in each of the 3 states. Obviously you can only get a maximum of 6 votes in a given state in each turn. However if you fund raise you add the value of the *3 dice and must place at least half of that value in NY, FL, TX, CA (the states with the highest electoral votes). In this scenario you can put as much as 18 votes (chips) in those crucial states. With this information, strategy becomes clearer.
- Pay attention to how far you are in the game.
Each turn corresponds to a week in the presidential campaign. You decide the number of weeks (turns) you will play at the beginning of the game. We opted for 15 weeks of play (15 turns for each team). If you know you want to knock your opponent out of a crucial state, pay attention to how many votes (chips) they have in this state. If you can take it from them with time in the game for them not to regain it back, you can secure your position. NuNu never glanced at the score but Princess kept her eye carefully on the score and based her plays on the score and how strong her position was in several key states. This proved smart in the end as she won the election by a landslide. Below is a picture of the electoral map that I used at The Presidential Game website. The results of the final election:
Here are some of the sticking points in the game that we had a little trouble understanding:
- I never grasped the point of the paper score card if I was keeping track on the electronic map. I couldn’t figure out if I was supposed to be adding chips (votes) or the electoral votes on the paper pad.
- The game doesn’t account for half votes. When fundraising there were times when the value on all 3 dice equaled an odd value (13 for example). If a player only put half of her votes in a designated state we just rounded that vote down (we put 6 in the fundraising state and 7 among other states). The game rules do not address this.
**The election rules that come with the game don't state how many dice to roll when fundraising. At the The Presidential Game website it states to roll only 2 dice when fundraising. We used 3 dice in our games.
This game will come out again perhaps shaking up the teams with different family members to test out several strategies for winning. Great learning game!
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