The candidates are chosen, the campaigns are underway, let’s roll the dice! Tabletop games are an excellent way to play out your political fantasies, unleash your aspirations for power, and maybe just blow off a little steam you’ve built up engaging with opposing viewpoints online. Let’s take a look at a few tabletops that have a chance at satiating your appetite for political game.
1960: The Making of a President
Let’s start this baby off with what is widely considered the best presidential elections tabletop game in existence. 1960: The Making of a President is an award winning head-to-head match in which one player takes control over the Kennedy campaign and one the Nixon campaign in the pivotal 44th quadrennial US presidential election. This incredibly close race plays out like a real one, with players sending their candidate campaigning for dominance in key states, constantly creating political diversions, and keeping careful math of the electoral college votes. If you and your friends are armchair politicos, this is probably a game for you. It’s got all the important elements of a modern election, without all that pesky social media stuff.
Set in what is arguably the most corrupt time and place in American political history, Tammany Hall is a game of “elections” in lower Manhattan in the 1860’s-70’s. It’s racial politics amid an evolving landscape, as groups change over time and your politicians are forced to adapt, “helping” new immigrant groups find places to live that are politically advantageous to you. It’s corruption and scare tactics; slander and favor-trading. This is a beautiful and beloved game that reminds us that what we’re going through right now might not be the worse we’ve ever been. Or maybe it serves as a warning for the future. Any way, it’s fun stuff and a bit of history at the same time.
A Game of Thrones
A Game of Thrones: The Board Game has a reputation for destroying friendships. It’s well earned, I’ve seen tears and heard screams. This is not only a fun “wargame,” it’s a political arena of the highest order. Houses vie for the Iron Throne in wake of King Robert Baratheon’s death, striking at each other from every conceivable angle, utilizing whatever advantage is at their particular disposal, and employing the game’s built-in betrayal mechanics. This is an asymmetrical game, with some Houses in a clear advantage on certain fronts. It also crystallizes one of the most important political lessons of the series: that factions will often ignore an emerging threat to all of them, at their own peril, if it means winning. Winter is coming and none are prepared to deal with white walkers that come with it. Few games simulate the tragedy of politics so well, by enticing us to be the terrible person and ruin everyone else’s day.
Hope this gets you started on your tabletop political career. Remember the little people who got you there when you’re ruling New York or the Seven Kingdoms with an iron fist. And be sure to tell us about your machinations in the comments.
Featured Image Credit: StrataMax Games
Image credits: Z-Man Games, StrataMax Games, Fantasy Flight