The Rambly Intro:
I played this one time about 10 years ago, and felt some minor regret and getting rid of it during a downsizing period. So, when the Thrift Gawds offered up a complete (even unused pencils) copy for 89 cents a few weeks ago, it was a no-brainer.
The Gist: 2 (or 4 if you are having people play the Pres and V.P. separately)take a side Republican or Democrat, are given candidates with strengths and weaknesses, and then you vie for the most electoral (or "real" votes) by playing ballot cards, advertising, and debating.
There is a real sense of having to counter your opponents actions while pursuing your own strategy. A pretty common element in games fer shure, but there is real tension here as there is a fair amount of luck in which region you campaign in and what ballot cards you have drawn. When you cast a ballot card, your opponent only knows whether it was a powerful/president ballot or a weaker/v.p. ballot, which gives a nice "fog of war" quality as well.
The advance rules really add some interesting options. My buddy and I both ran out of money for adds by the end of the game, and the hugely powerful debates are governed by a dice roll(there are ways to mitigate or exploit one's risk though).
Tension! I thought I was getting hammered, but really, if I had just gotten one more ballot point in California, I would have got the victory. And really...those Debate rolls had me holding my breath.
Much like our own electoral system, the rules are a little wonky. That being said, the exceptions do make for interesting choices e.g. whether you want to actually use one of a state's limited ballot slots or not.
Luck. If you don't like a fair dose of luck, move along. I caught some bad breaks in the beginning but got lucky on some debates, so it evened out, but I like luck, even when it's not going my way. I'm also pretty unsure if the candidates are well weighted.
Length. Like a lot of older games, it takes about twice the time you'd expect for the weight. What you'd think would be an "hour game" took us almost two. It does make the game feel a bit more epic, but I'm less likely to get it played again soon because of it.
The Straight Poop: I liked it, and hope to hang on to it, but...it's not a game I'm likely to play often, and if dust collects, it may hit the trade pile again sometime.
Thanks for the review. I have played Mr. President dozens of times, but never with the debate-fundraising-advertising rules. We just play the basic card game of rolling the dice and playing the vote cards in the states. Pure and simple, and over in 45 minutes. I make up new candidate cards every 4 years. I've looked at the add-on rules and didn't think they added any meaningful decision-making; rather they look like they just add luck and time. So, it's interesting to read your comments about these additional rules. You are very correct that there "is a real sense of having to counter your opponent's actions." Thanks for the write-up.
PS. If someone hasn't done so already I plan to re-do the built-in edge votes, as the game was published just as the South changed from Democrat to Republican, and it's archaic now for Democrats to automatically win the southern states in the game unless the Republican player campaigns there.