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Subject: 2016 US Election board game rss

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Michael Tan
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I recently commented that the electoral college is terrible in real life but great for a board game. With a topic so ripe for gaming, I'm sure there are several games in the works. Myself, I've got several other projects that are further along so this might not see the light of day, but I find it a very intriguing topic and figured I'd throw my concept out there.

The basic engine would be Twilight Struggle / 1960 card driven with players competing for influence on a map of the US. The US electorate is divided into 5 major demographic groups that each player wants to appeal to in order to win the election: red (solid republican), blue (solid democrat), purple, green, and white (3 TBD undecided groups). Each state starts with some combination of the cubes above (or none at all) and players play cards to remove or add more cubes. Red cubes always vote Republican and blue cubes always vote Democrat so MANY states are already decided before election day. Green, purple, and white cubes are undecided but may swing for one candidate or the other based on very specific issues (TBD). On election day, for each undecided cube on the map, players draw from a corresponding white, green, or purple bag of cubes that determines how they actually vote (red = Republican, blue = Democrat, grey = Third party or No vote). The exact distribution of red, blue, and grey cubes in each bag is unknown to each player but through card play they add and remove cubes.

The idea here is to come up with 3 demographic groups of undecideds that can swing one direction or the other based on a player's actions. It's important that these issues can have varying impact regionally versus nationally. In that sense, the cubes on the map represent a candidate concentrating on issues that matter in a specific state or region, whereas some policies influence voting patterns nationally (the bags). For instance, if purple cubes represents voters that value economic issues, a pro-labor rally in Ohio may allow the candidate to flip purple cubes to red or blue in Rust Belt states but NOT alter the NATIONAL purple bag.

This is just a starting point but I think it has loads of potential and I've already got a ton of ideas. Ex. National smear campaigns might dilute a bag with grey cubes - suppressed voter turnout. I've got to flesh out what the 3 demographic groups would be and start creating events to fit those categories. I'm also not sure if bags are the right choice as hidden information is vital. This system will only work if it strikes the perfect balance between uncertainty and reward for skillful play. If there is too much information, players can and will count cubes. If there is too much luck in the final vote that not good either. Thoughts?
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Michael Tan
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Actually I thought of the solution for the 3 bags right after I created this thread. Each player has his own player aid (bag, cup, tray whatever) that allows him to secretly place cubes in each of the 3 color categories. The actual bags are only created on election day so neither player ever sees what the other player is doing. He can only guess by the text on the cards...
 
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1960: The Making of the President
Campaign Manager 2008
Race for the White House

and in a strange sort of way...

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Michael Tan
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I've played 3 of the 4. Never heard of Race for the White House. This particular election (2016) has some very interesting fodder that is begging to get depicted in a board game. I'm also toying around with using GMT's COIN mechanic for a 4-player game where the DNC and RNC are the "major powers" and Trump and Sanders are the "insurgents". The only way that game would work is if it also includes the congressional elections...
 
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you think anybody's going to want to wade back into that cesspool?
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Andrew Rowse
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I can't even watch John Oliver or Trevor Noah any more. I can appreciate that what they say is funny, but it's just triggering the heck out me!
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Charles Ward
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m3tan wrote:
Actually I thought of the solution for the 3 bags right after I created this thread. ...


That is why we post stuff
 
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I made an election game years ago -- I think around 1999-2000. It was getting pretty positive feedback but I kept mucking with it and got caught in a "that-breaks-it-oh-no-that-breaks-it-even-more" death spiral and haven't touched it in years.

Been thinking of breaking it out again...

It was intentionally "optimistic". I was tired of all the political satire going on and wanted to make straightforward election games without the snark or sass that a lot of them have.

I think it went up to 6 players.
Each player chose one of the two major parties to be on (was working on 3rd party rules).

The winning condition wasn't exactly to have the most votes. You won if:
- Your party had the most votes AND
- You, personally, had more votes than anyone else in your party.

I was trying to work the primaries into it, you see?

The board was set up with rows of states. The lowest-scoring states (3 electoral votes) were at the bottom and the big ones (Texas, New York, California) were at the top.

At the end of each round, a row of states was scored. So, the first round scored those low-value states, and every round thereafter scored more and more high-value states.

Each state went to the player who had the most appeal there. A player could affect his appeal by:
- Having taken a stance on an issue that matched the state's view of that issue. (Each state had 4 issues that it cared about, and it could be Liberal or Conservative on each of those issues. So you would have had to have taken the matching stances on the right issues to increase your appeal.)
- Campaigning directly in the state.
- Having won the most recent debate (there were three special "debate" mini-game rounds interspersed between the regular rounds)
- I can't remember what else....

You could take on sponsors to earn campaign money. I think you got more money from them the better you aligned with their issues.

Each player started the game with a set of action cards -- the same for everybody.
On a turn, you played a card and took that action.
You never got your cards back, so timing your plays was important. So, for example, you could only Take a Stance 4 times during the game.

So the game play flowed pretty well: Each player took one action, then a row of states was scored, for 10 rounds (I think).

It was ok. Needed work.
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Brendan Riley
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kungfugeek wrote:
The board was set up with rows of states. The lowest-scoring states (3 electoral votes) were at the bottom and the big ones (Texas, New York, California) were at the top.

At the end of each round, a row of states was scored. So, the first round scored those low-value states, and every round thereafter scored more and more high-value states.


Everything sounded great until you got to this part -- I love the idea of a primary-focused game, but you should switch it so that the first state that gets scored is New Hampshire, and your order after that gives you some benefit in the next round, then score two or three states next, rearrange the order, then score the rest of the states in several batches.
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I've always thought that Smash Up or Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game was a good representation of the electoral college system.
 
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wombat929 wrote:
kungfugeek wrote:
The board was set up with rows of states. The lowest-scoring states (3 electoral votes) were at the bottom and the big ones (Texas, New York, California) were at the top.

At the end of each round, a row of states was scored. So, the first round scored those low-value states, and every round thereafter scored more and more high-value states.


Everything sounded great until you got to this part -- I love the idea of a primary-focused game, but you should switch it so that the first state that gets scored is New Hampshire, and your order after that gives you some benefit in the next round, then score two or three states next, rearrange the order, then score the rest of the states in several batches.


Heh. Thanks for the feedback. If I get around to posting a WIP thread for it, I'll let you know.

Getting back to Michael's post...

I think this is a great idea. First reaction thoughts:
- Drawing cubes for each state might get tedious (50 draws, some from multiple bags if a state has different colored undecided cubes). You might have to clump states together in regions, to get the draws down to a less exhausting number.
- For seeding the undecided bags at the start of the game, you could maybe give each player 4 red, 4 blue, and 2 grey, or whatever, and then pass the bags around and have each player secretly distribute their cubes among the bags. This will keep things from being perfectly trackable and keep the tension going until the end.

After cubes are drawn for a state, are those cubes returned to the bags?
- On the one hand, returning them to the bag will maintain a consistent ratio of support (the pinks that vote republican in one state will tend to vote the same in the other states).
- On the other hand, leaving them out means that players will usually see the cubes they put in at some point, so they'll have less wasted effort.
- Leaving them in is more fiddly, but less complicated rule.
- Leaving them out saves on fiddleyness, but then you have to have extra rules that ensure that no bag runs out of cubes somehow.

Good luck.
 
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Max Jamelli
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m3tan wrote:
I recently commented that the electoral college is terrible in real life but great for a board game. With a topic so ripe for gaming, I'm sure there are several games in the works. Myself, I've got several other projects that are further along so this might not see the light of day, but I find it a very intriguing topic and figured I'd throw my concept out there.

The basic engine would be Twilight Struggle / 1960 card driven with players competing for influence on a map of the US.......


without reading too much into details ... after I saw this I figured I'd point you to Campaign Trail which funded a few months back and hopefully finishes 1Q in 2017.
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Michael Tan
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kungfugeek wrote:
I think this is a great idea. First reaction thoughts:
- Drawing cubes for each state might get tedious (50 draws, some from multiple bags if a state has different colored undecided cubes). You might have to clump states together in regions, to get the draws down to a less exhausting number.

Agreed - counting more than about 15 states would get very tedious. Blue and red cubes are automatic votes. My thought is to embed some cubes into the board setup. Ex. California might have 3 blue cubes and Alabama 3 red cubes printed on the board. So many states will never really be in play unless some whacky things happen.

kungfugeek wrote:
- For seeding the undecided bags at the start of the game, you could maybe give each player 4 red, 4 blue, and 2 grey, or whatever, and then pass the bags around and have each player secretly distribute their cubes among the bags. This will keep things from being perfectly trackable and keep the tension going until the end.

That's a good idea. I still like the idea of all the cubes being secret so maybe combine that seeding with hidden trays.

kungfugeek wrote:
After cubes are drawn for a state, are those cubes returned to the bags?
- On the one hand, returning them to the bag will maintain a consistent ratio of support (the pinks that vote republican in one state will tend to vote the same in the other states).
- On the other hand, leaving them out means that players will usually see the cubes they put in at some point, so they'll have less wasted effort.
- Leaving them in is more fiddly, but less complicated rule.
- Leaving them out saves on fiddleyness, but then you have to have extra rules that ensure that no bag runs out of cubes somehow.


My inclination is to leave them in but it's worth exploring both options. Running out of cubes would be a problem that needs to be solved...
 
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John Weber
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m3tan wrote:
I've played 3 of the 4. Never heard of Race for the White House. This particular election (2016) has some very interesting fodder that is begging to get depicted in a board game. I'm also toying around with using GMT's COIN mechanic for a 4-player game where the DNC and RNC are the "major powers" and Trump and Sanders are the "insurgents". The only way that game would work is if it also includes the congressional elections...


Race for the White House is by far the most detailed and closest in terms of a published game of the type of US election game that you are talking about and worth looking into if you can snag a copy (I suspect it's OOP). Candidates are crafted to have positions on various issues that might appeal to certain demographic groups, and these translate into votes in various primary and caucus states. The problem is, with this incredible amount of detail, the game takes virtually forever if played face-to-face. I played it once FTF, don't recall how far we got, then once in a play-by-email based on the 2004 Democratic primary season (with fictional candidates).
 
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