Let me start by saying that I am a big fan of Rick Heli's Founding Fathers. I was part of the 2016 WBC game and had a blast there. We're already talking about a follow-up.
The game is well-suited for home brew additions to tweak game play or historicity. I thought I'd put out a few preliminary ideas and invite others to make comments or add their own.
My #1 wish is for greater differentiation among the statesmen. After you get past the opening figures, there is often little to choose among them. Adding special powers would enhance game play and add flavor. I propose, for starters:
1. Orator Bonus: Two statesmen per era get a +2 bonus to their die roll when making speeches. I suggest
Patrick Henry (Era I Lib)
Fisher Ames (I Cons)
Edward Everett (II Lib)
Daniel Webster (II Cons)
Abraham Lincoln (III Lib)
Stephen Douglas (III Cons).
2. Diplomat Bonus: Two statesmen per era get an extra point of Ability when resolving issues having to do with another country. I suggest the following, ignoring Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, and Adams. Admittedly some of these have more to do with boosting overall influence than diplomatic ability per se:
James Monroe (I Lib)
Oliver Ellsworth (I Cons)
John Calhoun (II Cons)
Henry Clay (II Lib)
Alexander Stephens (III Cons)
William Seward (III Lib)
These powers can easily be marked by adding a small colored sticker (but not too sticky!) to the card.
I'm a little concerned about the elections being calculable and resulting analysis paralysis. Would they be better if you had an egg timer's worth of election planning for each side, and then the cubes must be dropped? It might add excitement and unpredictability. (Perhaps even better, but this would be a major overhaul, seed a bag with colored cubes like in 1960: The Making of the President, weighted according to popularity and party influence, and then pull them one at a time to run an exciting election. I may explore this one further.)
No one should take any of these ideas as a negative criticism of what is a terrific experience game. I'll be interested to hear your thoughts. I know John had some interesting ideas on tweaks to the game.
Couple of comments and some additional suggestions.
I like the idea of making Speechmaking a more likely occurrence. As it is now, with only a 1 in 6 possibility of success, it's often not chosen during a player turn unless that player has a ton of unused influence cubes -- also an unlikely occurrence. On the other hand, not sure I agree with the idea of making it easier to resolve thorny foreign policy issues, given that there's a reason for the high difficulty numbers on some of the issue cards.
Similarly, I am less troubled by the calculability of the elections except it seems that the party which goes first often wins. There are two ways within the current game system of altering those predictable outcomes -- (1) by declining a VP nomination so as to make a less than optimal VP candidate and (2) by playing some action cards that let you replace cubes or split state votes, altering the predictability of placing the cubes. Don't see a big issue although using a timer to prevent AP calculations might be needed in some cases.
A couple of issues arose in our recent play, so I will add a couple of possible variants based on that experience:
1. It seems like a Party Leader who has lost three straight elections should be replaced. (Call it the William Jennings Bryan rule.) Seems like unsuccessful Presidential candidates in US history have -- in most cases, at least -- faded into oblivion. An alternative would be to remove popularity cubes for each election lost; of course, you would need some way to track this, same as with the Presidential term limit.
2. If one player faction controls both Faction leaders, then they can easily rig the election in a favorable manner with the goal of retaining that power as long as possible -- this happened in our recent game when one player kept the Presidency for four straight elections, the first two with the less popular Party while controlling the leader of the more popular party who then became President after the first President of the other party was retired. Seems like preventing this is to some extent up to the players, but maybe a rule preventing this in 4+ player games (harder to avoid in 3P games, I would think) could be implemented.
As with the lead poster, I am open to other thoughts and comments on the above and other suggested variants and "house rules" although I think the game is great as it is as well.