Once every four years, fans and students of United States history and government can witness both in action with the U.S. Presidential Election. While this year’s contest promises to be tight, few were closer, or had more lasting effects, than the 1960 election between Vice-President Richard M. Nixon and Senator John F. Kennedy. “1960: The Making of the President.” is a big, beautiful, card-driven board game that allows two players to experience all the rigors and challenges of a national campaign, while reliving the historical events of this pivotal election, and maybe even changing history!
Planning and running a presidential campaign may be the ultimate challenge in limited resource management. “1960” captures that struggle with the myriad of choices the game’s cards present to the candidate-player. Stumping for votes, traveling from state to state, wooing the media, seeking endorsements, leading on the issues of the day, gathering momentum, taking advantage of fortunate news, capitalizing on opponent’s weaknesses, debating, and even snatching some much needed rest are all tasks a candidate must prioritize and work to achieve if he or she wants to win.
“1960” really comes to life when it moves beyond the generic campaigning activities of shaking hands and kissing babies and becomes a vibrant simulation of the actual Kennedy/Nixon contest. In less than two hours, the game presents a riveting history lesson of this election and this era. An entire turn is dedicated to the famous debate (the first to be televised), last turn Election Day shenanigans abound (Chicago never changes), and every one of the 91 “Campaign Cards” features a unique event, person or situation that has a specific, powerful effect on the game. “Nixon’s Knee”, “Eleanor Roosevelt’s Speaking Tour”, “Jackie Kennedy” and many other cards favor the Democrat, while events like “1960 Civil Rights Act”, “Compact of 5th Avenue”, and “Dwight Eisenhower” help the Republican. Cards like “Nikita Kruschev”, “Lunch Counter Sit-Ins”, and “Hurricane Donna” can be exploited by any candidate. Often, a player will be forced to use events that benefit the opponent, but no one said running for president would be easy.
It is also intriguing to compare the USA of 1960 with the country of today. Most obviously, the game board shows a very different Electoral Map than we have in 2016. New York is still a prize today with 29 electoral votes, but it pales in comparison to the 45 it commanded in 1960. California has grown from 32 to 55 votes, but Pennsylvania has withered from 32 votes to 20. The Democrats controlled the South, and the Republicans, the West. The top issues concerning Americans, according to the game, were national defense, the economy, and black civil rights. Without personal computers, smart phones, the internet, and more than a mere three national TV channels, media was still controlled by print and radio, although television’s influence was growing, and could not be ignored.
“1960: The Making of the President” is a terrific, entertaining experience, but it’s not the easiest or quickest game to play. The rules are pretty straight forward, but the slowdown will come with all the options available. Each card is unique, crammed with information, and can be played a half-dozen different ways. The game rewards multiple sessions, though, and it is highly recommended for older students and would-be campaign managers.
“1960” has run through its initial printing and is hard to find right now, but GMT Games has picked the game up and is hustling to get the Second Edition to game stores in time for Election Day! For much more information, visit BoardGameGeek.com!