Monday, September 23, 2013

The Presidential Game {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

My kids usually enjoy playing board games, so a game that is both educational and fun to play is something I'm willing to try. We had an opportunity to do just that when we received The Presidential Game to review.
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I love the idea of The Presidential Game - an entertaining board game that combines strategy and a bit of luck, while familiarizing players with the electoral college system. And let's face it, most of us could stand to learn a little more about that! Personally, I am fascinated by politics and follow much of what's going on during campaigns and elections because it hold so much interest for me, as well as my desire to be aware of how my country is being governed. That said, I know I wouldn't do a good job at all of explaining the electoral college to my kids, and I am often baffled by the maps on the news during election coverage. The Presidential Game takes up the challenge of helping us understand how that works, and thankfully there is a great "fun factor" involved.
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Now, don't worry about having to back the ideology of either party, because there's no campaigning on the issues in this game. This is all about how American elections work. You'll be fundraising and campaigning for votes, but without having to agree with (or even know about) the party platforms or positions on anything controversial. So you can learn something without getting into a heated debate. Unless you want to, but that's up to you. ;-)

To summarize the game play, there are two teams - Democrats and Republicans. It's a two-party system, so it's a two-team game. It can be played by just two players or more players can work as teams. The game board itself is a US map with each state displaying how many electoral college votes it has. For this game, just four states are designated for fundraising - California, Florida, New York, and Texas. On each turn, the team must decide whether to do fundraising or to campaign. If they are campaigning, they announce the three states they'll campaign in, and each state may be visited only once per turn. Roll the three dice and decide which die corresponds to which state, because those are the number of votes won. If the team chooses to go fundraising, they choose a state to work in, roll dice and pick up a politics card. Essentially, it's a lot like the world domination strategy games played on the electoral college map!

How did we use it? To my delight (and slight surprise), as soon as the game arrived, my kids opened it up and asked if they could play. I've been letting them play on their own, and they've chosen to do that during their lunch break on numerous occasions, and have taken the game along to a homeschool co-op meeting in order to play with some friends. They were able to follow the directions for play on their own, and told me that they figured it out quite easily, except for what to do about "stealing" states. They tried a couple different approaches, then re-read the instructions, and then they got that too. We didn't use the interactive webmap offered on The Presidential Game website, but Landon had no trouble keeping tabs on the vote count using the colorful tally pad included with the game.

Since I have two students, they've been playing as individuals and haven't had much chance to try the game with teams. Kennady says she thinks it would be harder with teams, because everyone on the team would have to agree whether to fundraise or campaign, and how to apportion the votes and so on. And I guess she's right - there would be some politics involved there! Kennady and Landon both agreed that fundraising was more fun than campaigning, which makes it sound like they've learned that financial backing is key to winning elections, and maybe they are right about that too.

What we liked best:
  • colorful, high quality game board and pieces with great graphics
  • counting the electoral college votes actually starts to make sense when presented in a strategy game! Learning about the American electoral system was made fun and competitive.
  • You can play the game without having to debate anything controversial.
  • You can decide how long the game will go by choosing how many weeks until the election. My kids usually went with a 12-week game, which lasted just under an hour on average.
  • did I mention that it's FUN?!
What I need to mention:
  • you may need to do some math if you're keeping track of your own votes rather than using the webmap tool, and if you're like us, you may need to read over the directions a couple times and refer to them during the game before you catch on to some of the details. 
Our bottom line: I think it's safe to say my kids enjoyed playing this game AND they learned about the electoral college. I may be asking them to interpret the data for me next election cycle! This game would be a fun addition to a homeschool learning about Civics, and something unique for family game night or for a party game. There's nothing 'childish' about it so it would be just as appropriate for adults as for kids, and the strategy and teamwork aspects would make it entertaining for almost anyone who enjoys a good board game, whether they enjoy and follow politics or not. This game got plenty of votes at our house!

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Would you like to play the most powerful game in the world? Here's what you need to know:
Visit the website at:
Check out the FAQs, and read the game rules. Visit The Briefing Room to find links to The Presidential Blog, photos, contests, and more.

Pricing: The Presidential Game may be purchased through the website's shop for $35. They also offer a "New Deal" package, which is the game and a hat for $50. See The Presidential Game website for a list of retailers that carry the game as well.

Recommended Ages: 11 years old and up.

Follow The Presidential Game on Facebook, on Twitter, or on YouTube.

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more information and to read other Crew member reviews. 

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