Sunday, June 13, 2010

Political Board Games

Starting in a few weeks, I plan on reviewing a series of politically-themed board games. This is intended to coincide with the release of Founding Fathers, a much-anticipated board game about the creation of the Constitution. There are three other games that are made by the same creators: Twilight Struggle (2005, Ananda Gupta and Jason Matthews); 1960: The Making of the President (2007, Christian Leonhard and Matthews); and Campaign Manager 2008 (2009, Leonhard and Matthews). Founding Fathers (2010, Leonhard and Matthews) is set for a late June release, so I'm going to try and space these reviews in a manner where I will have received the game and played it a few times before I review it last.

The trajectory of political board games is pretty dismal. Up until about ten or fifteen years ago, most presidential election games--which make up a bulk of the non-wargame political games--tended to be trivia games or Monopoly-style random luck games. There were a few games that had politics but were primarily about something else (such as Republic of Rome) and a precious few that actually were pretty good (such as Kremlin). But there was no one, overriding gem of a game that everyone could point to as the board game standard for presidential election games or, for that matter, political games in general.

Starting about a decade ago, a few companies tried to make decent presidential election games with limited success. Candidate by Avalon Hill was a solid game, but was more of a bluffing and abstracted trick-taking game than a political game. Road to the White House--which is amazingly still being sold despite being released in 1992 and being culturally out of date--was one of the few attempts to make an all-out strategic presidential campaign game, but it bogged itself down with a lot of dice rolling and unnecessary rules. Apparently, Mr. President (released in the 60's, so not technically new, but has many features that later games would adopt) is a pretty solid game, but I've never played it and it's been out of print for years. I may track it down some time, but reading the concept of the game I'm not sure if it will hold up well.

This "new" set of games have cleaned up the entire process of making politically themed games. They tend to have reasonably easy rules, quick playing time, and make an attempt to be less luck-driven and more realistic. The games certainly differ in subject matter and pace (especially Twilight Struggle) but they're all very solid.

I'm going to prepare these reviews, completed with pictures, and start getting them up probably in a few weeks.

1 comment: