## Tuesday, September 24, 2013

### The Presidential Game {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

I've mentioned a few times before how much I enjoy playing games with my children. It's a bonus if we find a game that's both educational and fun. Recently, we've been playing The Presidential Game, and it's catapulted its way into our "favorites" list.

The basic premise of The Presidential Game is that two teams (Republicans and Democrats) are each running their election campaigns. At the end of the election season, votes are tallied and the team with the most electoral votes is declared the new President. (And, in our house, the winner cleans up the game.)

The game is fairly easy to play, but we found ourselves really analyzing the situation and trying to figure out the best strategy to win votes.

On each turn, the team chooses whether to fundraise or to campaign. In either case, they roll the dice, receive that number of vote tokens, and then distribute them among the states. On a fundraising turn, at least half the votes must go in the chosen fundraising state (one out of four on the board). On a campaign turn, the voting chips are divided among three states. As we played, we experimented with various strategies -- putting most of our chips in larger states, trying to win a large number of the smaller states, or finding the right balance between large and small states.

The game comes with a pad of paper to keep a running score or you can use an online scorekeeper. We tried using the paper tracker and found it to be a bit more math intensive than what we wanted. (We were too busy thinking about election strategy to tally electoral votes.) It was much easier to keep up with the score when we used the online scorekeeper, which worked equally well on a laptop computer and on an iPad.

The biggest lesson my kids learned was an understanding of how the electoral college works. It was not necessarily the team with the greatest number of voting chips that won, and it also wasn't necessarily the team that had won the greatest number of states. It all came down to the all-important electoral votes.

In one of our games, it came down to the last week of the election campaign. Brennan (the Republicans) had been winning for most of the game. Addison and I were playing as the Democrats and had just taken over the state of California. Brennan had a chance to win back California and clinch the election.

Alas, his roll in the thirtieth week of the campaign was not large enough to allow him to take over the lead in the state of California. Addison and I won the election.

The Presidential Game suggests playing for a 30-week election campaign (each team has thirty moves). It took us a full two hours to play a game that long, and we were all growing tired and a bit less enthusiastic towards the end. We typically set a shorter length for the campaigns based on our apparently short attention spans.

According to the box, this game is suitable for ages 11 and up. We promptly ignored that suggestion and let Lauren (age 7) play along with us. There's a reason for the higher age recommendation. I knew Lauren wouldn't completely grasp the political concepts, but I underestimated how quickly she'd become bored. We also had several instances where she accidentally bumped the board and made all the voting chips shift out of place. We now only play this game after her bedtime.

The Presidential Game gets two big thumbs up from my big kids and extra praises from a parent who loves finding educational games. It's a perfect addition to any American Government study and is a "must-play" game for any presidential election season.

It is available to purchase at The Presidential Game online store for \$35.