If Mount Rushmore were a band, who would play bass?
If you’re like us and always looking for excuses to play themed board games, you may enjoy this list of presidential games in celebration of Lincoln's and Washington’s Birthday.
Sometimes you wish that you could see, if given the chance, what you would be able to accomplish as the president of the United States or as a trusted adviser. These board games put you in the middle of the U.S. presidency, in the roles of previous U.S. presidents, presidential hopefuls, constitutional founding fathers, campaign managers or strategists, or even powerful corporations with political aspirations. Sometimes satirical, sometimes earnest, these games devote themselves to the examination of those people—whether historical or imagined—who founded and who preside over these United States.
1. 1960: The Making of the President – GMT Games
Currently on its second printing in GMT Games’ P500 pre-order program, 1960: The Making of the President is often listed alongside Twilight Struggle as one of the best historical two-player strategy games. In the game, the two players seek to win the 1960 presidential election, one playing as John F. Kennedy and the other as Richard M. Nixon. Like Twilight Struggle, 1960 employs card-driven gameplay to reenact the actual historical events surrounding the election. Players strive to maintain popularity, gain votes on a historically accurate electoral map of the United States, and prove they are strongest on the issues of economy, defense, and civil rights. While we may now know the outcome of this election, anything could happen in 1960.
2. Founding Fathers – Jolly Roger Games
A game from the same designing duo of 1960 (Christian Leonhard and Jason Matthews), Founding Fathers features three to five players who play as major historical figures involved in the drafting of the United States constitution. The game also involves another kind of drafting in the drafting of cards that represent delegates and states, each with special abilities. To enhance the theme, the board is laid out to look like Independence Hall, with the main Assembly Room and cracked Liberty Bell. Players vote for or against articles depending on which of the four types of issues they want to pass. Each type of issue has its opposing type: Federalist versus Anti-Federalist, and Big State versus Small State. Players want to have the most influence over the document by strategically voting on and controlling which issues get voted in.
3. Campaign Manager 2008 – Z-Man Games
Campaign Manager 2008 is yet another Leonhard and Matthews production, so you’re probably beginning to see which designers to watch if you’re interested in political games. As you may have guessed, this game pits two players against each other as campaign managers of either John McCain’s or Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008. On the election trail, players will draft decks of cards to strategize, advise their candidates, and do battle over battleground states to win votes. Like the two previous games, Campaign Manager 2008 enables you to potentially alter history, depending on who dominates play.
4. Corporate America – Nothing Sacred Games
If you’re looking for a game with more levity that’s not based on history, try out Corporate America! Three to six players play as corrupt corporations that use bribery and manipulation to make money and potentially even become president. In Corporate America, money wins elections, and the player who comes out on top has the power to enact rule changes and renege on any promises made on the campaign trail should it suit their interests. As in Monopoly, the winner is determined by whoever has the most money at the end of the game. Corporate America is definitively a game of political satire, so you may need a good sense of humor to truly enjoy its jabs at capitalism and government.
5. Swing States 2012 – Victory Point Games
In Swing States 2012, one player becomes a political strategist for the presidential nominee of their choice—they choose president and vice president from a list of real-life Democratic and Republican politicians, as the roster stood in 2012, each with special traits and abilities. Swing States takes place during election season and is concerned with the swing states: as the title might indicate, you are trying to win states for your candidate that historically could vote either way in an election. As it is a solitaire game, the player must decide on strategies to prepare their nominee for campaigning, funding, debating, etc., all without any outside input from other players. The rule book is lengthy and involved, with everything you could possibly need to figure out the ins and outs of the game by yourself.
6. The Contender – John Teasdale & Justin Robert Young
A social card game that’s relatively lighter than the above options, The Contender turns three players into presidential candidates in the middle of a moderated debate. It’s like Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity in that players must combine cards together to form compelling or amusing statements. Topic cards determine which issues are up for debate, and players then use their Argument cards to form responses to the topic in a fill-in-the-blank style. The game’s website asserts that its quotes and information are factually accurate; and, while The Contender does poke fun at politicians, it doesn’t mock one party over another.
As usual, we try to find games that are still in print and sold by retailers so that you can potentially enjoy them for yourselves, but it turns out that that can sometimes be difficult to determine. If you know for a fact that any of these aren’t available, or if you have any to add to the list that fit the presidential bill, please let us know in the comments!