Tomello Visello
United States
Reston
Virginia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I have a friend who worked for more than a decade as a staff member in the U.S. House of Representatives and he remains interested in government and politics. After discovering the Sid Sackson book Calculate! with the rules for this pencil-and-paper game which mimics the Electoral College system, I got him to play along so that I could see how well it worked out. I figured that a proper run-through should be more informative than simply reading the rules and he might provide extra insight.

The calculator is used to generate random numbers that represent votes a player wins. The calculator provides a random starting number at the beginning of the game when of two of the players each supply a multiple-digit number and a division operation is performed on the pair. From this point, the players take turns multiplying the existing display by any number they choose between 2 and 9.

Following each multiplication with the chosen number, the calculator display is examined for the three left-most digits. The first two tell the State to which the votes are applied, and the third digit identifies how many votes (zero represents 10) are collected. Players use markers of separate colors to distinguish and record their own votes on the common scoresheet. If the calculator goes into overflow it is simply cleared and replaced with the 3 digits observed from the previous operation.

After some shorter loops at the beginning, each player will perform this series of steps before passing the calculator: a) pick a new one-digit number; b) use that same number to perform the Multiply/Examine/Record process four individual times.

The score sheet contains empty boxes for each State. Small population States have only 4 boxes while the large States have 12. The game ends when every State has at least one entry. Then there is whole bunch more math to add up all the Electoral Votes won by each player.

Strategy? Golly, if there are no campaign speeches involved, then what strategy is there for the players? Can you out maneuver your opponent by specializing in large population states, perhaps? Like I said: pick a number; pound the calculator four times; pass the calculator.

Does it create Competitive Tension? Well, sort of. District results come in bit by bit and after a while another State is decided. Players will momentarily ponder the meaning of that tiny increment. It has a gradual suspense while you watch the balance slowly tilt as the minutes pass. Yup, it feels just about exactly like watching telvision to follow the returns on election night (which does indeed seem to mesmerize some viewers) ... and your ability to control the outcome is equally out of reach (no matter how much you grit your teeth and pound the arm of your chair). Even once all the boxes for yet another State are filled there are still all those other States that remain up for grabs until the polls close, so the game continues.

Thankfully I note that not every box on the scoresheet needs to be filled (otherwise it could seem like you had stayed up all night, after all). An important rule says that once a small State has all its boxes filled then additional votes there are instead directed to a box in a State that has no entries. Say “Whew” in relief and wipe your brow for dramatic effect.

Eventually you add up the boxes for each State to determine the Winner there. Then take the Electoral Votes attributed to that State and give them to the winning player. Add up all the Electoral Votes for each player and that tells you the overall Winner … without ever having to go through a Supreme Court decision.

Is this valuable? I can readily envision merit in using this as a classroom demonstration project for perhaps Middle School students. They would see more vividly how the process of Electoral College votes gets translated into a Winner. There might also be a worthy lesson in something we observed in our game exposure: several of the smaller States had their boxes completely filled yet some of the biggest States were decided by a single entry. A big tally hinged on something fairly small. Could that be comparable to one big metropolitan area overpowering the rest of the State? Is that nothing more than just a really tight race? Discussion possibilities to explore.

Will I play again? Mentally I was tallying some states with anxious curiosity as they progressed, but overall I found things dragged on longer than my enthusiasm could hold. Even my political friend was too weary at the end to provide much insight. I do believe this is worth experiencing, but I also believe I’m done with it…(well, for at least another four years anyway).

3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tomello Visello
United States
Reston
Virginia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
TVis wrote:
… without ever having to go through a Supreme Court decision.

Taking a fresh look years later I recognize that this is a historical reference which will be losing its meaning to an increasing number of readers in the future. Suffice it to say that Al Gore won't be among those on whom it is lost .

(although that reference itself is already dated, too, it will at least give clues as to suitable search terms for the properly curious).

1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.