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1960: The Making of the President» Forums » Reviews

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Dave Lartigue
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Springfield
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It's taken me three days to start writing this review, and the reason is because I don't know what to say other than, "OH MY GOD THIS GAME IS SO FREAKIN' GOOD!!!" So let's just get that out of the way.

OH MY GOD THIS GAME IS SO FREAKIN' GOOD!!!

Now, let's back up. What is 1960: Making of a President ? It's a two player game by Jason Matthews and Christian Leonhard, available from Z-Man Games. As you can deduce from the title, it simulates the US presidential election of 1960, starring two gentlemen you may have heard of: Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy. Since I went to American public schools I can't tell you who actually won, or what year it took place, but that doesn't matter, because in this game you're in control of presidential destiny!

Jason Matthews also created the smash hit Cold War game Twilight Struggle, and you'll definitely know that going into this game. A lot of similar mechanics are on display here, though with significant improvements over the previous game (which I still like a lot.)

The map is a map of the US and looks gorgeous:



On the map you will track which states support whom, and how much, as well as where the candidates are currently located (it's tough to campaign in the state where your opponent is). There are also places for permanent events, media blitzes, issue positions, and endorsements. It seems like a lot to keep track of, but it really isn't, once you get going.

1960 is played in five rounds, then the debates, then two more rounds, then the elections. In the first five rounds, players are dealt six cards. These cards can be played for the events on them (actual historical events and characters) or for Campaign Points (CPs). Campaign points can be used for campaigning, media, and issues. The players also have "momentum" tokens that they can use to "activate" the events on the other player's card. For example, if I am Kennedy and play a card for CPs instead of the event, the Nixon player can pay a momentum token to make the event happen anyway. (I could also pay two momentum tokens to prevent him from being able to do this.) In Twilight Struggle, events that favored the opponent happened automatically when played for Operations Points. In 1960, the opponent must keep momentum tokens handy to trigger them and decide if spending them or saving them for a better future event is wise.

In each of these first five rounds, one leftover card is tucked away for the debates, which happen in round six. For the Debates, those cards are used to position your candidate on three issues: Defense, Economy, and Civil Rights. The Debates round is a little odd, but the fact that you want to make sure the cards you tucked away favor your candidate and have a high CP value make your decisions in rounds one through five even trickier.

After the debates there are two more "regular" rounds which are the same as before except each player gets an extra card and tucks two away at the end of the round. Finally, you have the election. You see which states support whom (this is where endorsements) come into play, use the cards you tucked away to make final, last-ditch attempts at the states on those cards, and then count up the state tokens. Whoever has at least 269 electoral votes wins the election. In case of a tie the victor is chosen by the House of Representatives, and there is an address in the rule booklet where you can contact a Congressional aide who will get your game's resolution added to the House agenda.



Okay, so that's the gist of the game (there are more details, but it should tell you what you need to know.) How does it play?

Very well. for one thing, it plays surprisingly fast. I've played three games so far and each hasn't gone over a couple of hours, with the third one (where both had played before and so no rules explanation was needed) clocking in at 1.5 hours. Not at all what you would expect from a game of this complexity. It plays smoothly too, with the actions flowing from each other in a way that makes sense. Unlike another political game I've played, Die Macher, you don't get the feeling that you're just doing the same things over and over for no apparent reason. The gameplay doesn't get bogged down in mechanics, it just goes along.

Poor card draws can still harm you, but there are now plenty of mitigating factors. As I noted above, the momentum tokens make triggering events played by your opponent a dicey situation, and add an element of bluff. Is he hoping you'll trigger this one so you won't have the token in your hand to trigger a better one later this turn? And for the player with the event, you can pay two momentum tokens to prevent your opponent from triggering it, but then that's two of your own events you can't trigger on his turn. Is it worth it? In addition, there are "rest cubes" that get seeded into the bag to determine advertising success, campaign success in hostile states, and initiative. Having more cubes in the bag is a good thing, and cards with low CP values have high rest cube values and vice-versa. Getting a dud hand really can set you up for a good one down the road.

There's also the randomness of the events themselves. Like Twilight Struggle, players who have an idea what's in the deck will have an advantage over those who don't. For example, there are exactly one billion events in the deck that favor whoever is in the lead on the Defense Issue. And there are exactly one events that favor whoever leads on the Economy. Someone who knows this fact (you, now. You're welcome) will have a definite advantage over someone who doesn't.

You also have a candidate card worth five CPs, more than any other card. But once he's used, he's "Exhausted" and won't get a good night's sleep until the one card that unexhausts him is played (possibly never). Again, someone who isn't aware that there's only one card that will flip Nixon back over to active status will use him a lot more recklessly than someone who knows this.

Are there any bad points to the game? Other than the fact that it's only for two players, no. It's really a great game, tons of fun, which has taken the already good mechanics of Twilight Struggle and improved them. The production values are stellar. My copy was delivered on Wednesday and by Sunday I had played it three times. Because I want to stay married, I didn't play it more in that time period.

In those games I won (barely) as Kennedy against pronoblem. I then lost (barely) as Kennedy against Matt. Finally I lost (pathetically) as Nixon against Matt. From this it's clear that you should not play against Matt.



This is going to be on a lot of top ten lists soon, and it very much deserves it. I had a good feeling about this one when I first saw it and it has surpassed even my very high expectations.

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Christopher Taylor
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Awesome review.

You had my thumb at:

Quote:
Since I went to American public schools I can't tell you who actually won, or what year it took place, but that doesn't matter, because in this game you're in control of presidential destiny!
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Josh Goodall
United States
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anarchy wrote:
Awesome review.

You had my thumb at:

Quote:
Since I went to American public schools I can't tell you who actually won, or what year it took place, but that doesn't matter, because in this game you're in control of presidential destiny!


This line won me also.
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E J
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Great review. I just obtained my copy via Fed-Ex and can't wait to play it.
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duncan easton
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Quote:
I went to American public schools too, and there were a lot of things I didn't learn there either. But then I tend to hold myself responsible for not learning what I could have or should have learned. By the way, like you, I never learned of the outcome of the 1960 election from school books either. I learned the outcome after exercising for the first time (I was 21) my right and privilege to vote in a presidential election.

That said, I liked your review, but I would have liked it better without the cheap shot at public schools and the insult to teachers who work in them, among whose ranks I labored proudly for over 40 years.

And yes, I own the game, two copies, in fact.


Not that teachers lack a sense of humour or anything......
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Dave Lartigue
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gamerbut wrote:
I went to American public schools too, and there were a lot of things I didn't learn there either. But then I tend to hold myself responsible for not learning what I could have or should have learned. By the way, like you, I never learned of the outcome of the 1960 election from school books either. I learned the outcome after exercising for the first time (I was 21) my right and privilege to vote in a presidential election.

That said, I liked your review, but I would have liked it better without the cheap shot at public schools and the insult to teachers who work in them, among whose ranks I labored proudly for over 40 years.

And yes, I own the game, two copies, in fact.


Sorry, they never taught me how to read, either.
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Nathan Baumbach
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Omaha
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gamerbut wrote:


That said, I liked your review, but I would have liked it better without the cheap shot at public schools and the insult to teachers who work in them, among whose ranks I labored proudly for over 40 years.



I showed this to my mother, who's been in the system for 30 years and is a principle at a grade school now. She laughed at first, then she said it's sad, but true. She acknowledges that the cirriculum taught in school books sometimes neglects details such as these, and sometimes the teachers never think to actually add that detail (especially in the case of history) to help students.

 
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Man_in The_box
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Quote:
I never learned of the outcome of the 1960 election from school books either. I learned the outcome after exercising for the first time (I was 21) my right and privilege to vote in a presidential election.


You honestly DIDN'T know that Kennedy defeated Nixon in 1960 until you were 21?? Jeepers... Have you learned why Kennedy wasn't re-elected yet?


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Chris May
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Man_in_the_box wrote:
Quote:
I never learned of the outcome of the 1960 election from school books either. I learned the outcome after exercising for the first time (I was 21) my right and privilege to vote in a presidential election.


You honestly DIDN'T know that Kennedy defeated Nixon in 1960 until you were 21?? Jeepers... Have you learned why Kennedy wasn't re-elected yet?





Was it because he was catholic?
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Chuck Pierce
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Quote:
Quote:
You honestly DIDN'T know that Kennedy defeated Nixon in 1960 until you were 21?? Jeepers... Have you learned why Kennedy wasn't re-elected yet

Was it because he was catholic?


[gallowshumor] It was because he had a headache, right? [/gallowshumor]
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Brendon Faithfull
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Nah, it was because he didn't want to run twice. His first term was shotty enough.
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Rick Hendricks
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Man_in_the_box wrote:
Quote:
I never learned of the outcome of the 1960 election from school books either. I learned the outcome after exercising for the first time (I was 21) my right and privilege to vote in a presidential election.


You honestly DIDN'T know that Kennedy defeated Nixon in 1960 until you were 21?? Jeepers... Have you learned why Kennedy wasn't re-elected yet?




Perhaps he is 69, and was 21 when Kennedy defeated Nixon.
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Carlos Abrunhosa
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This is one of a game to win the JogoEu User's Game 2007.

Hello everybody!
It would be a pleasure for us to have your opinion on which was the best 2007 boardgame.

Please vote! The results of The JogoEu User´s Game 2007 will be announced in early September 2008.

Keep in touch and thanks for your vote in http://jogoeu.blogspot.com

JogoEu Team
 
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Eric Reinhardt
United States
Decatur
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Quote:
Man_in_the_box wrote:
Quote:
I never learned of the outcome of the 1960 election from school books either. I learned the outcome after exercising for the first time (I was 21) my right and privilege to vote in a presidential election.


You honestly DIDN'T know that Kennedy defeated Nixon in 1960 until you were 21?? Jeepers... Have you learned why Kennedy wasn't re-elected yet?


Yes, Man_in_the_box clearly meant that 1960 was the first presidential election he voted in. Here's to you, Man_in_the_box, for exercising your right to vote when first eligible.
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