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1960: The Making of the President» Forums » Sessions

Subject: A Close Shave rss

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Alan Paull
United Kingdom
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I've played 3 or 4 times and was Nixon. My opponent was a completely new player and took Kennedy.

Nixon started by carrying California, while Kennedy buttressed his position in the East. Kennedy got an early lead in the issues on Turn 1, while Nixon got a single media in the East. This meant that Kennedy had more momentum than Nixon (who quickly had none!) and an endorsement in the South. However, Nixon swept the West with Gathering Momentum.

Nixon came over to the Midwest and started a long campaign to try to take it, coupling this with a concentration on issues to get try to get a lead on momentum; he didn't seek to control the board through endorsements, but to limit Kennedy's and to control small states through single cubes. Kennedy quickly went for California; he spent huge resources there and secured it with something like 8 cubes, first overthrowing Nixon's 5. In the meantime Nixon made a reasonable showing in the Midwest. In our ding-dong over issues Nixon got the edge on momentum, which enabled him to pre-empt a couple of times on very good Kennedy cards. Greater Houston Ministerial Association event prevented some of Nixon's plans however.

Leading up to the debates Kennedy showed a surprising number of 4CP cards, so Kennedy looked stronger geographically, while Nixon took a lead on cubes in the bag. Despite this, Kennedy won the initiative in the Debates. There were no Debates events. It turned out that Kennedy had no cards for the Defence issue, but won the other two - fortunately for Nixon, these were the first two issues, so the Debates ended with Kennedy nudging it 5 cubes to 4. Pretty much all these cubes went into the Midwest.

At this stage Kennedy had a firm grip on the major population centres in the East, plus California and a majority in the Midwest. Nixon had only a small holding in the East, but dominated the West and had a significant though inferior position in the Midwest. Kennedy had the South, but only Texas was firm; Nixon held Florida.

Turns 7 and 8 were to be decisive. In the former, Nixon abandoned what looked like a hopeless struggle in the Midwest and went for a major combo in the South, using Southern Strategy (Nixon gains 5 state support in the South, but Kennedy gets a cube in Civil Rights) followed by Old South (leader in Civil Rights loses 5 in the South and cannot campaign there), then Southern Revolt (if Kennedy leads in Civil Rights, Nixon adds 5 in the South), and finally Voter Registration Drive to mop up states with no cubes. This left Kennedy with only Texas and North Carolina in the South, though he used Swing State to secure Michigan finally in the Midwest.

It looked really tight at the end of Turn 7, with Kennedy probably edging it, particularly as he had endorsements in the South and East. Nixon's endorsement in the West looked irrelevant.

In Turn 8, Nixon had the perfect opening card with Congressional Summer Session, depriving Kennedy of 2CPs per card. Coupled with some good cards, such as Whistlestop, Nixon was ending on a high. But was it enough?

Election Day: Much of the electioneering on Election Day just confirmed the existing position. Kennedy took Wyoming, his only state in the West outside California. However, Nixon had earlier played an event to look at Kennedy's cards and noticing that he had Oregon for Election Day Campaigning, he had reinforced Oregon to 2 cubes, just enough to keep it using the West endorsement. Kennedy had avoided Unpledged Electors and had played the Illinois Election Day event, but in the end had already carried Illinois. Nixon had the Recount event and made a desperate attempt for Ohio, which failed.

It was a close count, but Kennedy conceded 258 to 279. If just Tennessee had swung the other way, the result would have been reversed.

Looking back on the game, neither of us played a coherent long term strategy, but were very much reacting to the cards and events as they occurred. We both focussed on campaigning in the states, Nixon first in the Midwest then South, Kennedy on California, the East and Midwest population centres. After the first turn Nixon spent more resources on the issues, which was perhaps a primary reason for edging it. On the other hand perhaps Kennedy concentrated a little too much on the large cities, which seems a common strategy for new players - California and New York look very attractive, and it can be difficult to realise that the rest of the West is worth far more overall. Then again Nixon got two very lucky breaks for the Southern campaign and the last turn Congressional Summer Session, which hamstrung Kennedy's last push. In the heat of the moment both players forgot to use their candidate cards in Turn 8! It was noticeable that very little media was used; perhaps this is typical of inexperienced players? Or perhaps media is just too risky?

It's such a tight tactical game that missing a card combination can cost dear, a last Election Day campaign card can swing it, or an early mistake can come back and haunt you in the final count. Highly enjoyable game, and I look forward to the next session.

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