Type: Area Control

Time to play: < 120 minutes (Teaching: 20 minutes)

Best played with: 2 players

It’s perhaps a year too late to be talking about the American Presidency or indeed the tough balancing act of finding the road to the white house across the 50 states. However, if you enjoy a tense two player with card driven actions and difficult choices then there is no better time to be talking about GMT’s reprint of 1960: The Making of the President.

This game is set in the battle for the presidency between Nixon and Kennedy – two men set to each take up the Whitehouse. As a pair of players you have the chance to rewrite or repeat history – managing a campaign that traces it’s path across the key battleground states of the Midwest, South, East and West. You do so placing influence cubes for your candidate over each and every state with the aim to have your cubes in place by the end of the game in states with enough college points.

Every action in this game is driven by the selection of a card – either as an event driven by the text on it, or by the action points marked on the card. If you take the event, a specific action from the 1960 campaign is played out with an impact dictated by the card. If not, then the action points allow you to progress you support on an issues, with the media or on a key issue of the campaign. The events are intriguing as most are focused towards one and only one party – if that happens to be your opponent, they may be able to seize the event by using momentum markers.

These normal rounds of card selection – events or points – are broken up by a small debates round where the selection of cards from the previous rounds impacts your chances to win on the key issues. Those victories at the debate can give you political capital to expend on the key swing states. Then finally, on election day, there is a few key last minute swings to be factored in.

All these events are unique and leave a real theme running through the heart of this game. The theme pushes you through the key actions of the race and through the trade offs when a candidate drops a key issue, to (use the points and) win back a key state. These choices are genuinely tough – would you take 5 influence but only 1 in each state or 4 influence from the points which you can cluster into New York – a state worth the most points on the board. How you run your campaign will offer options to your opponent which they must exploit to have a chance.

The media and issues support adds elements to the game – these allow you to gain momentum and endorsements between turns. Leading on these can help deliver the incremental gains to seize the election.

This game takes the core mechanics of Twilight Struggle and builds a US focused and highly thematic game. However, it still suffers from the structure of the Twilight Struggle game – if you are playing this as an experienced player against a new player, the advantage of knowing the cards is so significant you will likely dominate. Playing two experienced or equal players presents a challenge, but with the board accurately focused to a small number of high value states there will be a lot of similarity between each game. There’s enough difference to keep you interested for 10-30 games but it’s unlikely to achieve the classic status of GMT’s top production.

Nonetheless, this doesn’t take away from a great playing experience and a reasonable play time. The game is also compelling in that whilst one player can be dominating the board – the balance of cards can always leave the opportunity for the other player to quickly regain a strong position. Also, with key states being so influential there is a significant opportunity to turn the tables on the opponent with just one change of state!

Last notes:

  • If you like a strong thematic and historic game with a tense run up to a big reveal – this is a clever and well balanced game
  • If you like to a game to build in efficiency and allow you to take a few final major turns – this game feels the same at the end as it does at the start.
  • If you win at this game have a go with the other candidate – both offer unique advantages and disadvantages.