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Subject: Forget the First Play. With Player Drafting, a Gem! rss

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and symo
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These days I find my favorite games are ones where theme and mechanics are tightly intertwined. Winning is nice as a validation of strategy but playing and bantering with friends and becoming immersed in the mechanics and theme is where the fun lies for me.

We first played using the introductory rules of Campaign Manager 2008 where the decks are pre-determined. We enjoyed it but somewhat dispassionately observing how the campaigning elements translated into influencing voters and re-focusing the issues. Ultimately it didn’t have that gravitational pull to play again and onto the shelf it went.

Recently, we gave it another shot. There was not enough time for 1960: The Making of a President, so Campaign Manager came off the bench this time with the drafting rules. By golly, for such a small change, what a massive difference it has on your perception and experience of the game.

With the drafting, it is you who is constructing your campaign for the forthcoming election. It feels like you are sitting in the campaign room with interns, wily vets and the candidate choosing which issues will be focussed on at the expense of others. And this is reinforced beautifully in play when the campaign running with candidates banging on about the same issues over and over again. It truly feels like a campaign where, to keep things simple for the candidate, they have a number of bullet points they constantly fall back to.

While you can simply lay down cards and move corresponding markers on the Defence/ Economy track and/ or the voter track, this leads to a massive theme bypass. Campaigns are about communication and oratory. I highly recommend reading the headline and flavour text. This will get repetitive over the course of a game so over time drop it back to the headlines, then maybe every other card. But to a degree the repetition is important, both groan-inducing and hilarious as stock phrases come out time and time again and even if only marginally appropriate.

The best games tell stories and it really sticks in my head that my deck was able to target women voters. A McCain appearance on the women’s focused, The View tv show coupled with a Sarah Palin appearance was a 1-2 combo that swung and won the Democrat-leaning Oregon for the Republicans!

The order the campaign states are played is also key. Early on you hit the big states for the big points but as the finish line approaches, smaller states suddenly start getting big attention. In our play Wisconsin became the final, deciding state. I am sure Wisconsin had never experienced such an intense election knife fight as both presidential hopefuls engaged in bloody back and forth exchanges. Ultimately I lost but wasn’t bothered. At the end of the day my opponent had run the better campaign. A campaign that resonated with the voters in Wisconsin.

There are 2 issues that exist for me with the game which keep Campaign Manager from being an out-and-out classic. The first is the drafted decks are maybe a little small at 15 cards which can lead to a little too much repetition. Maybe 20 cards would have been better (Caution: no analytical thought has gone into that comment).

The second is that the 2008 campaign didn’t really have issues that made it really memorable. This makes the issues on the cards somewhat bland. They’re interesting for those into politics and its minutiae but won’t resonate with a broader audience. One has to just sit Campaign Manager next to 1960: The Making of a President to know which battle you’d rather watch. I would love, love, love to see the mechanics attached to great elections with big issues that have stood the test of time- 2000 springs to mind.

Christian Leonhard and Jason Matthews have really hit the key notes of a political campaign in the super-focused, streamlined Campaign Manager 2008 where the theme shines through in its mechanics. I really recommend playing this one again, use the drafting and finding that this is a really an under-appreciated gem.

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Baron von Doom
United States
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andsymo wrote:
Ultimately I lost but wasn’t bothered. At the end of the day my opponent had run the better campaign. A campaign that resonated with the voters in Wisconsin.

It’s like a quotation lifted from an alternate universe version of What Happened, wherein Hillary Clinton succinctly stated and accepted the truth.

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