Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Schoolhouse Review Crew: The Presidential Game

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Chef loves board games with strategy games being the all-time favorite. When Schoolhouse Review Crew came out with a chance to review a new board game - The Presidential Game - I thought it could be a fun one to try, especially since Chef often has trouble finding people to play some of his strategy games with (Risk, etc.) Though I didn't know much about the game just from the website, it also looked like it could be a fun way to help the kids understand so much of the political goings-on when elections come up. 

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The game is aimed at ages 11 and up, so we had to help the younger kids with "jobs" to do when we played. But there were little things they could get in on - counting out the chips to put on the board, helping read cards aloud, etc. that made it so we could include them as well. The idea behind the game is to help explain the Electoral College and how it affects who becomes the next president.

Three of the states could be used to drum up money (as you see in the close-up picture of the game board, they are indicated by a print off the $1 bill as in the state of California), and each state has a number written on it to indicate how many electoral votes that state receives. Unlike a game like Monopoly there was no paper money involved - it was all adding and removing chips from various states, which is where the strategy component entered play, and just using the board also provided an opportunity for geography for the day. 

 photo GameImage_zps8848e8d7.jpgThe game could be played either with two players or in teams of however many. We played with teams, of course. Each team decides at the beginning of the turn whether to try to raise funds or to campaign. Which one the team chooses will determine how they proceed within the turn.

The winner was the first person to reach 230 electoral votes (of course) in 30 turns.

This game is enjoyable, but we did have to play it a few times to get to a point where we could start talking about how the different aspects play out in real life. It is not an "Out of the Box" type game, and there is a slight learning curve (hence the 11+ age recommendation) and the creators estimated it would take an hour to play the full 30 rounds (representing 30 weeks of campaigning) of the game.

Re-reading the directions to make sure
we're doing things the right way!
For my own part, I hoped for more of an explanation of the electoral college to be included within the game. I know that is a tall order, and am not sure how they could have incorporated that better. In the very playing time required to do the whole thing, you do at least have ample time (if you're not dealing with Littles who are getting bored) to talk about and explain the ins and outs of the election process and just have family time together in general. 

4 year old Buttercup trying to work out
her part in all this
Chef's desire for a strategy component is there as well. You can "steal" states from the opposing team, just as happens in the real political world. Well, steal is perhaps not the right word, but the teams can gain or lose electoral votes in each state. The questions that go unanswered within the game are questions like why do we have an Electoral College to begin with or why do most states have to be an all-or-nothing deal. You know, the hard stuff that most of us adults don't even understand without revisiting the issue every time we're in an election year! Those questions opened up the floor for good discussion and research on the issue of the Electoral College at least. 

figuring out the votes on the tally sheet
(Math for the day!)
The is also a code included with the game that allows access to a tallying page on the website. This tallying page is not required to play (often as not, we chose to use that element of the game as our math lesson for the day!) but can be handy if you are deep in discussion and want to KISS in other elements of the game. 

Truthfully, I struggle with an imagination when it comes to this sort of thing so one thing I will be doing after reading other Crew Reviews (see the link box at bottom) is to tweak the game even more so that there is more included for the younger kids to do and understand. 

So what is my recommendation? 

First, as much as possible include the Littles, but know that they are not going to stick around for the whole thing and they will need something else to do while you complete the game with older players. Perhaps playing right around the time that the Littles are getting tired is good so that they go to bed as the game continues, and Olders can spend a bit of one-on-one/two-on-two time with Mom and Pop. In terms of raw understanding, this really is a game primarily for older players. 

Keeping the littles occupied, somewhat.
Second, have a computer or reference books nearby that will give you an easy chance to look up answers to questions about the EC. The game itself can get a little tedious without that conversational element (just as real elections do!) and so it is only smart to use that time to discuss the whys of what we do. 

The Presidential Game can be purchased directly from The Presidential Game official website for $35 and is intended for ages 11+. 

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