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1960: The Making of the President» Forums » Sessions

Subject: 1960 first-timer: converted to the power of cards rss

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Dirk Knemeyer
United States
Arlington
Massachusetts
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To call me skeptical of card-driven games would be a gross understatement. I like games that reward creativity, boldness and innovation. The idea of a game being dictated by the draw of cards that "railroad" actions and historical events just isn't my style. However, as a former political campaign volunteer, the theme of 1960 really interested me. So it was last weekend that I found myself waiting for someone at a board game gathering and someone else offered to teach me 1960 while I was waiting. Game on!

My opponent was a heavy board gamer, and did a really good job of teaching me the rules and how the game plays. He told me that I could be Kennedy because Kennedy wins a majority of the time. I wasn't sure if that was really the case or if my more experienced antagonist was building in a ready-made excuse if I should win, but either way I was happy trying to bring Camelot back to Washington.

While the rules were superficially straightforward, being a first-time player was more of a muddling process than anything else. In the early turns, I thought the discards were a garbage dump and didn't realize that the debate cards only count to my benefit if they have a donkey on the bottom. Oops! The debates were basically lost by the fourth turn, when I realized my mistake. Then, in the early turns - largely because I didn't understand their importance - I basically ignored the issues and advertising and focused on moving CPs around the board. While I made some good early tactical gains, advertising was lost before I knew what was happening, and my opponent had a death lock on the Defense issue. Even though I did well with the issues after the first two turns, losing Defense definitely put me in a hole.

On the board, New York was a major early battleground. I was ahead for most of the first four turns, while also gaining some nice advantages in other places. However, during turn 5 my opponent invested extremely heavily in New York - getting up to six blocks total - leaving me to try and secure second-tier states. By the end of the game I owned much of the midwest, Caliornia and Texas.

Within the first couple of turns I had hand management and the order of play pretty well figured out (save for knowing how to prepare for the debate). I think my play was very strong in this regard for pretty much the entire game. Momentum markers were another matter: even though I understood how they worked, I never felt like I was using them optimally.

In the end I lost the game collecting 258 electoral votes. It was a lot closer than it looked like it would be, thanks to a very strong last two turns. In fact, if I had gotten just one blue cube on a support check on election day I would have won the game! What I like about this is that it helped capture the real-life nail-biting nature of the 1960 campaign.

Thanks to 1960, I am a huge proponent of the use of cards in all kinds of gaming. A perfect example of this is in my favourite game, Europe Engulfed. That game, which has a beautifully elegant and playable core, is completely bogged down by a complex tangle of political rules. They take up big parts of the rule book and play book, and are the culprits for whythe game takes 12-16 hours instead of 8-12. If only Europe Engulfed turned all of those political rules into a card system - complemeting the game as opposed to driving it - the elegance of the core system could be fully appreciated. Designer Mike Tan is planning something like this for his new effort, Sturm Europa.

As a game design hobbyist who has modified and expanded games for years - and who imagines someday designing and producing my own games - 1960 has added this key design convention to my toolbox. Not to mention was so much fun to play that I ordered my own copy the day after playing it. :-)
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R Larsen
Denmark
Naerum (Copenhagen)
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For a WWII european theater where the political decisions are elegantly designed as seasonal card-plays, check Totaler Krieg! Definitely my, and many others, favorite game on the subject.
 
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