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FLASHBACK: THE GAME OF POLITICS

(Sometimes it seems as if virtually every game company has taken a crack at reproducing the United States presidential election for our gaming pleasure. Some attempts were more successful than others. One of the most successful was done by Parker Brothers. The result? Another classic game: The Game of Politics. In our Summer 2000 entry in our Game Classics series, we took a look at this gem.)

THE GAME OF POLITICS (Oswald Lord, 1935, Parker Brothers, 1936, 1952, 1960 editions, out of print)

 

With the Year 2000 US presidential election coming upon us, it seems only natural to consider election simulations. In our Game Classic series (Summer 1992 GA REPORT), we revisited Mr. President, the great election game from 3M. In this look at game classics, we look to a classic from Parker Brothers, The Game of Politics.

Simulating US presidential election games is always tricky because America operates under a basically two party system. So, unless you’re creating a two player game, you have to consider what to do with the “excess” players. The Game of Politics almost succeeds in overcoming this obstacle.

gameofpol36

The 1936 Parker Brothers edition

The Game of Politics actually began as the brainchild of Mr. and Mrs. Oswald Lord. They self-published the game back in 1935 as a prelude to the re-election campaign of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Parker Brothers acquired the game and issued their first edition in 1936. The game was designed for two to six players and utilized a large map of the United States, a set of color-coded pins, and campaign cards to add a certain sense of uncertainty as well as certain individual advantages to the specific player/candidates.

The game divided the United States into six sections, based on the relative size of the state’s electoral votes. For example, large states (with many electoral votes) such as New York and California were in region 6. Smaller states (such as Idaho and Vermont) were in region 1. Each region was color-coded so states could be located easily.

The 1960 edition. Notice Alaska and Hawaii on the top of the board.

On a turn, a player would roll three dice, one red and two white. The red die would indicate in which region that player could campaign. The combined total of the other two dice would indicate how many counties were “won” by the candidate. The twist here is that the player could decide exactly WHERE he could win those counties (within that region). He could win all of those counties in a particular state or spread them around. (Won counties were indicated by placing pins into the board!) When a candidate won enough counties in a state (usually eight), he could go on more and “close” the state prohibiting further campaigning there, “locking in” the electoral votes for that candidate. Once all states had at least one pin in them, the board was considered “closed” and, when doubles were next rolled, the results were tallied.

If a player managed to win a majority of electoral votes, he was the winner. If not (and this was more than likely with 4, 5 or 6 players), only the top two vote getters remained in the game! Pins of the lesser candidates were removed form the board (opening up states for more campaigning) and the game resumed as before. When next the board was closed (with pins in all states), a second tally was taken. Then, the player with the majority of votes was declared President of the United States.

The Game of Politics remained in print through the 1960 election, a run of 25 years which is some sort of record for election games, with only minimal design changes. (In the last edition, Alaska and Hawaii were added to the map.) Politics offered lots of decisions, a bit of luck, some strategy and a fine feel for the rhythm of a presidential race. It also handled the multi-player problem pretty well until the end. If you happened to finish in third place (or lower) on the first ballot, all you could do was watch the top two finishers go at it! But all things considered. The Game of Politics is still a winner in the political circle. – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy

copyright © 2000, all rights reserved.


 

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