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.
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.
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.
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.
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.