1960: The Making of the President

It’s been a depressing few months, and it’ll be even more depressing come Friday, but, hey, at least we can escape from the harsh reality of real life by playing board games, right?  So … let’s all go back in time to 1960 to a very different presidential race that came down to Richard Nixon vs. John F. Kennedy.

In this game, players battle it out to get the most electoral votes to win the presidency.

I finally got a chance to play not one, but two games of this fabulous game I randomly found at the Bookmans in Flagstaff. My buddy @idontknowrules and I set a date to play this classic gem, and we weren’t disappointed! Well, maybe he was … I’ll explain way down at the end of this blog post.

1960: The Making of the President is a card-driven area-control game in which you’re trying to get the most electoral votes for your presidential candidate. It’s a more streamlined version of Twilight Struggle, which is one of my favorite games ever. The game is played through 9 Turns, with 7 of the Turns having 5 Phases. The box says the game plays in 90 minutes, but I’ve yet to play a game that didn’t last under 2 hours.

Momentum markers for JFK and Nixon. I love how they look like buttons!

At the start of the game, there are 10 red and 10 blue cubes inside it, and as the game progresses, that number changes as cubes are added and removed from the bag. Players also start with 2 Momentum Markers representing their candidate.

The U.S. map is also filled by placing each state’s seal on it, plus starting cubes representing the candidates based on what’s indicated on the  map. The three issues are placed on the Issues Track off to the side. Lastly, you draw initiative from the bag one cube at a time; when the first two cubes of the same color are drawn, that person has the initiative. He or she then gets to decide for the Turn who begins.

Here’s a sampling of the Campaign Cards and all the information that’s printed on them. I do enjoy reading the historical flavor text.

In Turns 1 to 5, each player is dealt 6 campaign cards. On each campaign card, there are multiple things you can use. There are campaign points, an event, debate issue icons, candidate icons and a state selector. In these first 5 Turns, player play 5 of their 6 cards for the 5 Phases, with the last card going into a pile to be used in the Debate turn (Turn 6).

When playing a card, you can use it for the event or campaign points. If you’re using the event, resolve what the card says and remove the card from the game. When playing for campaign points, you can do one of three actions:

  1. Increase state support or move candidate as Campaign Action.
  2. Advertise.
  3. Issue support to any issue.

To increase state support, you add your color cubes on the state. If your opponent’s support cubes are in the state, spend your CPs removing them before adding your own. If your candidate is not in the region where you want to add state support, you have to spend one CP per region you’re moving him from. If your opponent is carrying the state (meaning, he has 4 or more cubes on that state) or his candidate is there, then you’ll have to do a Support Check to see if your campaigning is successful. A Support Check means you draw a cube from the bag per CP you’re spending, and if the colors match, then you have the support to do that action.

Here’s Nixon campaigning in NY, which is worth 45 electoral votes.

If you advertise, you also perform one Support Check per CP you’re spending. Each success equals one of your cubes to be placed in any region’s advertising box. If you’re using CPs to issue support on the Issue Track, the first cube added counts as 1 CP, and each additional cube costs 2 CP.

You can also spend your Campaign Points on three different issues.

When a player plays a card for CPs, he can pre-empt his opponent’s event on the card from happening by spending 2 Momentum Markers. If he doesn’t do that, after the CPs are spent, the opponent can spend 1 Momentum Marker to trigger the event. Resolve the event, and the card is removed from the game. No matter how a card is played, each player places the number of rest cubes indicated on the card in their coffee cup on the board.

After the 5 Phases, each player is left with one card, which is then placed in the Campaign Strategy pile on the board to use in the debate in Turn 6. The turn ends with players losing half their Momentum Markers (rounded down), getting awards for their placement on the Issues Track, one cube being removed from each issue, and then the person with the most media support on the board moves two issues on the Issue Track. The awards for the Issue Track range from a Momentum Marker, a Momentum Marker or an Endorsement, or both. Endorsements are used in end-game scoring. The turn ends with putting each player’s rest cubes into the bag.

Turn 6 is the debate round, in which this little board comes out.

Turn 6 is Debate time! The three issues are placed on the Debate board, and players take the cards they’ve set aside for this turn. They simultaneously choose a card to reveal, and using the debate icon issue on the card, place the card next to the issue. When two cards of the same icon are played by the same player, that issue is resolved, and the player with the most CPs for that issue is rewarded with cubes to add to states for support. Card play continues until the second and third issues are resolved, with more cubes going to the winner with each subsequent issue.

Next up are Turns 7 and 8, where each player gets 7 cards to be played in 5 phases and 2 are saved for Election Day. Election Day is Turn 9, in which cubes on the board from media and issue support are throw into the bag. Players can also trade in their Momentum Markers for 2 cubes each, which are thrown into the bag as well. An Initiative Check occurs, and that player gets to decide who goes first. Players pick up 4 saved cards, and, using the state printed on it, he does 3 Support Checks for that state.

The board has a turn and phase marker. Endorsement cards are awarded with each turn and they come into play for end-game scoring.

After everybody does Support Checks and places the appropriate cubes on the map, you check out the Endorsements. Each empty state in a region with any endorsement marker receives 1 cube of that player’s color. Each empty state in a region that doesn’t have endorsements receives 1 cube of the color indicated by the state’s top edge. Lastly, players pick up the state seals of the states they have support in, and everybody tallies up their votes. The player with the highest total of electoral votes wins the game!

My presidential victory! I didn’t get a lot of states, but the ones I did get were big ones.

Man, do I love this game! (And that’s totally not because I won both games that I’ve played.) I love the push-pull aspect of it, its historical background, and the hard decisions you have to make with each round. Do I need to concentrate on the South or spend my CPs on issues, but then it’ll give my opponent a chance to trigger the event? I really want to save this card, but man, this event is super useful. It’s super tense and strategic, and there’s something so satisfying at the end when you’re counting up your electoral votes.

One last note though, in our second game of 1960, my buddy was super pissed when, through a series of unfortunate events, he totally majorly got shafted in Turn 8 when I played the first card on the left, which triggered two more cards.

The first card “High Hopes” says reveal the top 2 cards from the Campaign Deck and cards with Kennedy’s icon take effect. We first drew “Nixon’s Knee,” which says Nixon moves to Maryland, and for the remainder of the turn, the Nixon player must expend 1 Monument Marker to play a card as a Campaigning Action. The “Nixon’s Knee” card was the last card in the deck, so we took the discarded cards and re-shuffled them. The second Kennedy card drawn was “Joe Kennedy,” which states that the Nixon player can’t expend Momentum Markers for the remainder of the turn. Womp, womp (and a couple expletives were said from across the table). What made it even worse was that he had a card in his hand that allowed him to pick a card from the discard pile to immediately use, which at this point, the discard pile was empty. Such bad luck!

But despite that devastating blow to Nixon’s campaign strategy of wiping me out in the South — thereby handing the victory to me as Kennedy in this game — we still very much it. It’s often hard to get 2-player games out on table, but our third gaming buddy has been busy with work, so the two of us were able to get in two games of this. And I’m still totally counting my lucky stars for finding this game at the used bookstore and for my bestie getting this game for me!

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