Friday, October 26, 2007

A Short Happy Look At 1960

CharCon, the gaming con of Charleston, West Virginia, was last weekend, and for me the big event of the con was the appearance of Jason Matthews, the co-designer of 1960: the Making of the President (co-designed with Christian Leonhard). Mr. Matthews taught me the game, and I played two games of it, and I would have gladly played two more.

1960 is a card-driven, area majority, presidential-election game in the same vein as Twilight Stuggle, the game of Cold War conflict designed by Mr. Matthews and Ananda Gupta. In 1960 players play cards for their events or campaign points as they try to increase their support in the most important states of the U.S. Players can also use cards to advertise in each of the four regions, and thus handicap the opposing players. Or they can use their cards to dominate three important issues in the election (defense, the economy, and civil rights) with the most successful player gaining endorsements and momentum points.

As in Twilight Struggle, a lot of the game is damage control. Some of the events on the cards only help one of the two political parties, and each player is likely to have one or more cards in his hand each turn with events that only benefit his opponent. Players can activate events favorable to them on cards played by their opponent by spending momentum points. Players can also stop opposing players from activating events by preemptively spending two momentum points when playing a card. Naturally, there never seems to be enough momentum points, and players often face the agony of letting an opponent activate one event in order to save momentum points to neutralize a worse event to be played later.

In the first game I played, I seemed to get cards every turn that allowed me to pummel my Republican opponent, but Richard Nixon (cleverly played by Charlie Davis) still managed to steal New York state from me on the last turn, and win the election. While I wasn’t happy about losing, I was glad to see that every turn counted, and that the election can be unpredictable right up to the end of the game.

1960 can be played in ninety minutes or less, and it may be one of those fine games that are meaty enough for gamers, but that can be enjoyed by non-gamers as well. For me, 1960 is one of the year’s best games. If I don’t get it for Christmas, I’ll have to buy a copy.

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