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Top 10 Political Games

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They say that politics makes for strange bedfellows. These political board games and card games make for some good times. They are my picks for the best political games. (I have also posted an article featuring many other political-themed games.)

1. 1960: The Making of the President

1960: The Making of the President
Image courtesy of Z-Man Games

For 2 players, ages 12 and up. Designed by Christian Leonhard and Jason Matthews, published by Z-Man Games.
The 1960 U.S. presidential election was a contest between two dramatically different personalities: John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon. Although Kennedy won the real-life election, this tremendous board game allows players to relive the event for themselves. Everything about this game is top-notch. The gameplay is superb, while the components perfectly evoke the feeling of a mid-20th century presidential campaign. 1960: The Making of the President takes 90 to 120 minutes per game.

2. Die Macher

Die Macher
Image courtesy of Valley Games

For 3 to 5 players, ages 14 and up. Designed by Karl-Heinz Schmiel, published by Valley Games.
Seven regional political races take place in Germany, followed by the general election, to determine who will set policy for the next four years. Players have their party's philosophy, poll results, the ability to influence the media, and other tools at their disposal. I'm not alone in thinking this is a great political game -- it's rated in the top 25 games of all time at BoardGameGeek.com. Die Macher takes about 240 minutes (four hours) per game.

3. Twilight Struggle

Twilight Struggle
Image courtesy of GMT Games

For 2 players, ages 14 and up. Designed by Ananda Gupta and Jason Matthews, published by GMT Games.
Twilight Struggle is a brilliantly designed wargame that has received widespread acclaim. One player is the United States; the other is the Soviet Union. They compete during the 45 years of the Cold War, covering such events as the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War, and the possibility of nuclear war. Gameplay is driven by a deck of about 100 cards that is divided into "early war" and "late war" sections. Experienced players have a definite advantage by knowing what cards might come up, but the deck is very well balanced. About 180 minutes (three hours) per game.

4. Campaign Manager 2008

Campaign Manager
Image courtesy of Z-Man Games

For 2 players, ages 10 and up. Designed by Christian Leonhard and Jason Matthews, published by Z-Man Games.
Campaign Manager 2008 opens with players building a deck of 15 cards (out of 45 possible cards) that they will use throughout the game to win electoral votes in battleground states like Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio. The first player to get past 270 electoral votes is the winner. Every game I've played has been tense to the end, exactly what I want in a political game. About 45 to 60 minutes per game.

5. Quo Vadis?

For 3 to 5 players, ages 12 and up. Designed by Reiner Knizia, published by Mayfair Games.
Who can best influence outcomes in the Roman Senate? The answer to that question will determine the winner of this game. Players try to maneuver their politicians through the committee structure and into the best positions. But along the way, they have to help their opponents because that's the only way to win all-important prestige points. Quo Vadis? takes about 45 minutes per game.

6. Junta

Junta
Image courtesy of West End Games

For 2 to 7 players, ages 12 and up. Designed by Eric Goldberg, Vincent Tsao and Ben Grossman, published by West End Games.
Politics is never more dangerous than it is in the Republica of Los Bananas. Players first elect El Presidente, who then proposes a budget that everyone must vote on. But players must watch their backs -- someone is always plotting a coup, and assassination attempts are common. Junta takes about 240 minutes (four hours) per game.

7. Koalition

For 4 to 10 players, ages 12 and up. Designed by Hartmut Witt, published by Hexagames.
This is a card game about elections in 12 European countries, with each player trying to obtain power in as many places as possible. Because there are so many political parties involved, winning with a simple majority is unusual. More often, players will need to form coalitions. Koalition takes about 150 minutes (two and a half hours) per game.

8. Louis XIV

For 2 to 4 players, ages 12 and up. Designed by Rüdiger Dorn, published by Rio Grande Games / Alea.
The French court of the late 1600s is the setting for this strategy game, in which players become members of the court and try to influence various court advisors. Being able to do so allows players to complete missions, earning benefits and scoring victory points. There is a lot of player interaction as they try to take influence away from their opponents while securing it for themselves. About 90 to 120 minutes per game.

9. Kremlin

For 3 to 6 players, ages 12 and up. Designed by Urs Hostettler, published by Avalon Hill.
At the height of its power, politicians worked to move up the hierarchy of the Soviet Politburo. Kremlin gives players the chance to secretly shape that process, promoting some leaders and sending others to exile in Siberia. The player who is able to get their Party Chief to wave to the audience three times at the May Day parade wins. About 75 minutes per game.

10. Mr. President

For 2 or 4 players, ages 12 and up. Designed by Jack Carmichael, published by 3M.
Interestingly, 3M released three separate games titled Mr. President, the first in 1965 and a second, much better-known, version in 1967. (A 1971 version also included significant changes to the gameplay.) Mr. President covers every major aspect of the election process, including nominee selection, advertising, fund-raising and debating. In the two-player game, one player controls the president and vice-president of a party. In the four-player game, two teams of candidates compete. About 60 minutes per game.

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