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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

TOS Review: The Presidential Board Game

My kids love board games and play them whenever possible. In fact, we keep an entire cabinet in the family room full of various games, and the cabinet is seldom closed - either a result of lots of game playing or a whole lot of games. I knew, then, that when I had the opportunity to review a board game, The Presidential, I had a group of experts on hand to give it their vote (or not!).

The Presidential is a board game based on electoral votes, and earning and losing them. The game is sold in a solid box, about 12" by 12" by 3.5". The game board itself is thick folding cardboard which opens into a large map of the United States. Included in the game are red and blue chips to record electoral votes, 6 dice, a scoring sheet, 120 Politics Cards (80 pre-written and 40 to write your own), and an access code to an online Electoral WebMap calculator.

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The goal of the game is to use strategy to be the team with 270 electoral votes at the end of the game.

The length of the game ranges, depending on how many "weeks" (turns per team) the game will be played until the election. This is determined by the players and can vary each time the game is played. A benefit to this is that you can play a quick game or a longer game, depending on the time you have available and the attention spans of the players.

There are two teams per game, teams can range from one person up to however many you want, but no matter how many players there are there are just two teams. The teams are the Republicans and the Democrats (makes sense, right).

Setting up the game, reading directions.

The rules pages are relatively short and the game is simple to understand and play. We had no problem sitting down and figuring it out in about fifteen minutes.

As a team takes it's turn they have two options for play, either campaigning or fundraising. The two options offer different outcomes and different possible numbers of votes, so the team needs to weigh the pros and cons and decide which direction they'd like to go.

Four year old under table optional (not included with game)

Politics cards are drawn when fundraising. The cards represent possible scenarios that occur during an election. One card, for example, reads "You are spotted fly-fishing in Wyoming. Your form is considered to be perfect. Add 4 votes to Wyoming". Another states "You support legalizing online gambling. Add 3 votes to Nevada." There are a few mixed in that'll have your team losing votes too.

The online Electoral WebMap and the scoring sheets allow the teams to keep track of the states they've won or lost during their turn. In turn, it calculates the electoral votes of each team.

Using the online Electoral WebMap

Ian (15), Mia (14), Adam (12), Kaden (10), River (4), and I (ha!) sat down the night we got the game and started playing. Within a few minutes we were up and running and fiercely working to get those electoral votes. We opted to play just a few rounds as it was close to bedtime. River lost interest pretty quickly but the other kids really enjoyed the game.

The next few times the kids played they played longer games and that was when it got interesting. Like any dice-rolling game there's chance involved in the game, but determining whether to go fundraising or campaigning matters too. Which states you place your electoral votes on matters too, so there is a strategy to the game, and the kids worked hard trying to come up with the best strategies. Once you win a state's votes you're not home free, the other team has the opportunity to take those votes away from you (and they will certainly try to if it's a state with a large number of electoral votes).


The part of The Presidential that I found most interesting was the Politics Cards. It really got the kids thinking and talking. Mia drew a card that read "You favor legalizing marijuana. Add 2 votes to California, 1 vote to Alabama, 1 vote to Georgia, 1 vote to North Carolina, and 1 vote to South Carolina". Mia commented, "I don't really know if I'm for that or not, but if it gets me votes I'll say I am," which led to a nice, lively discussion about politics during elections. One of the kids picked "Your opponent is in favor of a means test for Medicare. Add 4 votes to Florida" and asked why you'd get Florida's votes for that, which we then brainstormed until they came up with a good reason.

While there's an educational aspect to this game the kids didn't feel they were being "schooled". They just enjoyed the game. I love that.

 photo presidentialgame_zps1c10cd67.jpgThe other night while driving I mentioned to the kids that I had to write this review and asked for their feedback so I could add it. All five of them started talking at once about the game and the Politics Cards and didn't stop for at least 20 minutes. I got so involved in the discussion that I didn't focus on their specific comments (oops) but I did hear lots of  "yeah, I really liked it" and "remember, you drew that card that said ... " and "next time we play I'm going to ..." and "we should take the game camping, it'd be great when it rains". I can tell you they really liked it and it earned their vote.

I really liked this game too. I love sneaking in learning and this game was a perfect opportunity to do so. The kids learned about the electoral college, a bit about the election process, and some election strategy. I know that they'll now have a strong frame of reference when the next presidential election is held and are likely to be more interested in the votes and the process.

The Presidential is available for $35 and is geared for ages 11 and up (though Kaden is 10 and really liked it). There are some interesting reviews of the game here.

If you get this game or have it I'd love to hear your opinion of it (and your strategy).

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

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