Friday, August 17, 2007

A Rules Preview of 1960: The Making of the President

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about games that the Appalachian Gamers were looking forward to. I don’t remember who put 1960: The Making of the President on the list, but I don’t think it was me. I had other priorities.

But Z-Man Games just posted the rules for 1960 (designed by Jason Matthews and Christian Leonhard), and I’ve become much more intrigued. The game seems to be fine combination of Twilight Struggle and Die Macher without being quite as complicated as either.

In spite of its presidential election theme, 1960 is derived from the card-driven wargame model that has been made very popular by GMT games. In this kind of game, players spend their turns playing cards either to activate an event on the card, or to use operations points (also listed on the card) to do various activities. Twilight Struggle (designed by Mr. Matthews and Ananda Gupta) was one of the first games to use this model in a game about a non-military struggle, and 1960 further demonstrates the adaptability of the card-driven game system.

In 1960, each player represents one of the two presidential candidates: John F. Kennedy or Richard M. Nixon. Players campaign by placing cubes in the various states; these cubes represent political support. Opposing cubes eliminate each other on a one-for-one basis, so that when a player adds cubes to a state, his cubes are first used to eliminate opposing cubes. Because of this system, only one player can have cubes in a state at a given time, and it will be very easy to see who controls each state’s votes.

The most basic decision built into the card-driven game model is whether to play a card for its event, or to use its point value. 1960 complicates this model by adding momentum points that can be used to trigger an event on a card played by an opponent, or to stop opposing players from triggering events on your own cards.

But I suspect what will really make the game shine are game systems that seem to have been inspired by Die Macher. Players can try to place their influence cubes on media spaces for the four regions of the game map. Control of the media in a given region gives candidates special abilities in that region.

Candidates can also place cubes on one of the three issues in the campaign: defense, the economy, or civil rights. Controlling these issues can earn players extra momentum points or important endorsements.

Another part of every turn is selecting a card to be saved for the televised debates. Late in the game, players will face off on TV and then use their saved cards to try to take control of the three issues once again. Cubes earned during the debates can be placed anywhere on the map.

Are we getting a sense of the multitude of decisions players face each turn?

Die Macher may be the best election game invented so far, and it will certainly remain one of the best election games to play with more than two players. But Die Macher is also a long game, and simply doesn’t hit the table very often. 1960 promises some of the smart design that made Die Macher great while cutting down on complexity and playing time.

Based on the game rules, I think 1960 could become one of the most popular two-player election games around. If you don’t believe me, download the rules and check them out for yourself.


Anonymous said...

The problem with this game is that someone is going to have to be Nixon. And who wants to be Nixon?

ekted said...

With Twilight Struggle and Die Macher both in the top 10, I think there's a good chance of 1960 making it there as well.