A Few First Impressions [1960: The Making of the President]

1960: The Making of the President (GMT games) sees Kennedy and Nixon battle head to head in one of the most famous and tense elections in American history. Watch the events leading up to the 1960 election unfold as you try to gain popularity and the most votes across the country.

The contest is fought out on an electoral map of the United States as it stood in 1960, a map where Louisiana and Florida share the same number of electoral votes, as do California and Pennsylvania. Using a card-driven game system, all the major events which shaped the campaign are represented: Nixon’s lazy shave, President Eisenhower’s late endorsement, and the ‘Catholic question’ are all included as specific event cards.

The famous televised debates and final election day push are each handled with their own subsystems which I will talk about in a little bit more detail later on.

Candidates vie to capture each state’s electoral votes using campaign points in the four different regions of the country. At the same time, they must build momentum by dominating the issues of the day and attempt to gain control of the airwaves.

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I want to talk about the theme first because it’s something that initially I had no interest in and I’m not really sure why, I had heard that this game compared to Twilight Struggle and that’s genuinely the reason I wanted to play.

At first, I thought it may be because the 1960 election is something that I have no connection to. Playing a game about the Kennedy and Nixon election is just like playing a game about World War One, I am so far removed from the subject but I do usually enjoy those kind of games and lot of different war-games with a similar feeling to this game so I couldn’t put my finger on it. 

With that in mind, for my first game I totally ignored the subject matter but the more plays, the more immersed in the game I became and the more I started to enjoy and learn about the election and the real events that happened at the time. 1960: The Making of the President provided me with historical insight that I didn’t even realise I was looking for. Gameplay, combined with the clever artwork on the cards and the general aesthetic of the game really help with this. 

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The cards are something in particular that I love about this game, I am a massive fan of card driven games anyway and I like to think that I can play a good hand of cards usually but something about this game really frustrated me (this isn’t a bad thing).

How do the cards work?

At the beginning of each turn, the players are dealt a hand of cards that can be used in multiple ways. You can use the CP on the card to campaign around the country, you can use the CP to buy media support or you can use them to on the issue track to support the issues that were important at the time. Defense, Economy & Civil Rights. 

From experience, it is important to keep an eye on all of these things and try not to fall behind in one of the areas. 

The cards can also be used as an event card, using which ever event is printed on the card. Sounds great right? Not always. In the last game I played, in my first two hands of cards ALL of the events benefited Kennedy, being Nixon that obviously wasn’t ideal. I spent the first two rounds of the game, trying to prevent as much damage as I could which left me playing catch up for the rest of the game, frustrating right? Not in a bad way though, I love working hard, I love a challenge and I love trying to get myself out of tricky situations so this game is perfect for me. 

The game isn’t terribly complex, it is actually quite light compared to a lot of the games I play but something about the cards can really work in your favour, or not. I wouldn’t say the game is completely luck based but there is an element of that depending on what cards you have in your hand at a certain time.

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1960: The Making of the President is definitely one of those games that leaves you thinking “what if” after playing, there are so many crucial decisions to make, a game that is easy to learn but definitely takes a good few games to understand fully how to play and how to form a strategy. 

On top of playing the wonderful cards, there is a debate that happens during the game as well as remembering to keep on top of the issues track and media. There is a lot to think about during the game and I found that if you aren’t consistent in all of the areas, you can start to feel like you are losing control a little bit. I did anyway. 

As I mentioned earlier, I have found this game to be frustrating but satisfying in so many ways. I feel like this is the perfect entry level into a GMT game or a card driven game, the gameplay is simple yet effective and a perfect combination of hand management, area control and strategy.

It’s one I definitely recommend and am enjoying more and more each time I play it, I’m learning more about the election each time I play and excited to introduce this game to as many people as possible. 

If the theme doesn’t interest you, it is still worth playing in my opinion. An exciting game that is challenging, tense and immersive throughout. 

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Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoy 1960: The Making of the President as much as I do and please let me know what you thought of the game.

Thanks,

Katie. 

KA-Logo-Type-2

 

6 thoughts on “A Few First Impressions [1960: The Making of the President]

  1. Chris H. says:

    For a while I wasn’t sold on this game (probably the theme?), then I watched a review by Grant and Alexander from The Player’s Aid and I had to have it. Reading impressions from people on Twitter (such as yourself) justified my purchase.

    A fantastic time to be a GMT fan.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. wileyd says:

    Thanks for the impressions on this game. It definitely is a game I’d love to try, but I couldn’t ever justify buying because I am positive my wife would have no interest at all in playing this because of the theme. But I do have a few friends who are big into politics and into board games, so maybe I can convince one of them to pick up a copy of this and invite me over to try it out. Because I definitely do want to try it out, especially after these impressions from a gamer across the ocean.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Bob Cassells says:

    Bought it last week, got it to the table last night, loved it. Given that I think Twilight Struggle is probably the best game ever created, I was likely to enjoy 1960: the game mechanics are quite familiar and the whole sense of a backwards-and-forwards struggle is very reminiscent of TW. Like all good games, as soon as we finished I wanted to play again – largely because I lost decisively to Nixon. (I allowed him to dominate the Issues and he built up enough Momentum and Endorsements to roll right over me.) As with all GMT games, the quality of the components are outstanding. The company really is the Avalon Hill of our times. (Which I’m sure gives away my age…) This is a lot of fun as a gaming experience even if you’re not interested in the theme. Although I suspect most players will become engrossed with the story of the time once they’ve started playing. Not cheap (£70), but we’ll worth the money.

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  4. Bob Cassells says:

    Played half-a-dozen games of 1960 now and my current take on it is that I like it, but don’t love it. (Not that familiar with Facebook, but I worry that a few more plays might take me to the ‘It’s complicated’ stage.) Don’t get me wrong, this game will continue in my games library for the foreseeable future and all the positive thoughts I originally had about it are still there, but there’s a few things that detract from the fun. Some of these can be addressed with a bit of effort: we kept losing track of which phase were in and having to count the cards in our hands to check where we were – now whoever lost the initiative check at the beginning of each turn has the responsibility to move the cube along the phase counter at the end of each phase: we kept forgetting to remove cards completely from the game when they’d been played for the event – now we have two discard piles to remind us, with the one closest to the board being used for those cards still in the game. The biggest issue I have with 1969, though, is more fundamental: there are a lot of options available to the player each phase – I mean, a LOT – which is great, but the problem I feel is that there’s a bit of a disconnect between the choices you make and the outcome of the game. Clearly, one leads to the other, but it’s difficult to get a sense of how they relate. In most games I can point to the stupid mistakes I made which resulted in me getting hammered (again), but in 1960, not so much. The game feels entirely tactical with fire-fighting very much required – don’t let your opponent dominate the issues, watch he isn’t carrying New York, he’s ahead in media – do something! All of which makes trying to follow any kind of strategy really difficult to the point of almost being impossible. Part of the issue might, of course, be the sheer size of the event deck. Maybe after sufficient plays it will become possible to determine an overall strategy, but that’s likely to take some time. The overall impact of all of this is that I find these games engrossing (if a bit frustrating) and quite tiring! You really have to concentrate, not take your eye off the ball, and claw away at your opponent right up until election day. Probably just like in real life!

    Liked by 1 person

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