Just played through a game of The Presidential tonight and thought I'd post a review of the game.
What you get:
The game board is a multifold board with 6 panels. It is mounted on very thick (1/8th") cardboard. Our board laid perfectly flat on the table. No reason to weight or back fold the board. The board is a map of the United States. Each state has its electoral vote number printed on it. The tiny states (Rhode Island for instance) states have balloons in the ocean with a line going back to the state. I actually missed these in the first turns of play.
There is a pack of cards that come with the game. These cards are special events cards that can garner or lose f=votes for you. You get them if you decide to fund raise in one of the fund raising states. There is also a deck of blank cards (40 I think) for you to write your own cards and effects.
There are chips in the game that mark which states you control. The more chips in a given state the better your control.
The game comes with 6 dice. 3 dice for each player.
The rule book is an ultra-slim pamphlet. The rules are only 4 pages long.
The game is a two player game. Each player takes a turn before a new turn begins. In a turn a player decides if he will fund raise or go campaigning.
With fund raising, the player rolls 2 dice. Half of the total (round up) must be placed in the designated fund raising state (Texas, Florida, California or New York) and the left over votes may be placed in any state or states as the player wishes.
With campaigning, the player designates 3 states he will campaign in and rolls 3 dice. He must allocate each die to the 3 states. There is no breaking up a single die. So if a player rolls a 5, 3 and 1, he must place the 5 in one state, the 3 in another and the 1 in the last.
Which ever is decided, the player places the designated amount of chips in those states he chose. If the opposing player already controls the state, the player eliminates the opposing players chips on a 1 for 1 basis. If the player has a surplus, he gains control of the state.
The whole process can be kept track of via the score pad or on a handy web app at http://www.thepresidentialgame.com. I do recommend the web app as it does all the math for you in terms of who is ahead in votes.
After the allotted amount of turns are passed, the game is over. If neither player is at 270 votes, a roll off for each neutral state takes place until one player reaches 270 votes. If the game ends with one player having 270 or more electoral votes, then he is declared the winner.
At first, second and third glance, the game is extremely simple and easy to understand. As the game went on for me, I found there was some subtle strategy to be had.
The game revolves around two simple decisions. Do I campaign or do I fund raise? Not only that, but which states will I go for? Do I directly attack my opponents states or do I grab neutral states? Maybe I should concentrate on states of my own and strengthen my influence there? It is important to do both. Fundraising, occurs in the top 4 vote getting states and half of your funds (votes) must go there. You get a card as well which can be very useful in the end game. They can sometimes help your opponent but usually help you.
If the game did not have cards, there would be a fair amount of luck involved and it would definitely not be all that interesting. It is the cards, that makes the game. Each card is either "Play Immediately" or "Play when you like". However, you can only play a maximum of one card per turn. So if you are holding 5 cards, you best be starting to use them by the 5th to last turn of the game or you will be left with a few in the hole.
In the game I played, my opponent lead by a fair margin right up to the end. because I got to go last, I managed to turn (just barely) some key states in my favor and keep it close. I also had a card at the end of the game that allowed me to place 5 votes anywhere I liked. I flipped two states to my favor and turned another neutral state to my side as well. It was 260 to 243 and the first time in the game where I lead. I won on a roll-off winning the next 2 out of 3 states.
I thought the web app might be a barrier for this game as you would need a computer at the table. However, it does run on a tablet or smart phone as well so...maybe not such a big deal after all. It is very useful for keeping score.