AUTHOR’S NOTE: I have a thing for shifty politicians once featured on tin lunch pails in anti-establishment comedic family sitcoms… so I may be slightly biased in my review.

Number of Players: 2
Grade Levels: High School
Length: 2 to 3 hours

NYS Standards:
Social Studies Standard 3: Geography
Social Studies Standard 5: Civics, Citizenship, and Government
AASL Standards:

1.1.2: Use prior/background knowledge as context for new learning
1.2.5: Adapt by changing the focus and strategies to achieve success
2.1.1: Apply critical thinking skills in order to draw conclusions and build new knowledge
3.1.5: Connect learning to community issues

1960: The Making of the President is one of two sophisticated political offerings from Z-Man Games. It is a two-player card driven simulation game. Each player takes on the role of a political candidate in the 1960 election: John F. Kennedy or Richard Nixon. The goal of the game is simple; maneuver through the delicate political landscape of 1960 in an effort to win state support and take the election.

Game play consists of several rounds, each broken up into phases. Players use cards from their hand to sway the political climate their way. Each card features an event from the time period that had an influence on the campaign.

Players may trigger the event or play the card for campaign points. Events may be of immediate value to one of the political parties or they may have a longer effect on the debates or the electoral count itself. If a player chooses not to use the event, he may use the card’s campaign points value to a few ends. He may use them to directly campaign in states in an effort to swing its leaning or strengthen his hold; he may invest in advertising with the hopes of overriding the power of a carried state or to pick up any undecided voters come election day; or he can strengthen his hold on the issues of the day: the economy, defense or civil rights.

The attention to detail in this game is breathtaking. The gameboard, a representation of the United States in 1960, accurately reflects the electoral votes at the time and serves as a great discussion point for the shifting of political influence over the years. Each of the cards has event specific photographs from the era, helping students to visualize how social, cultural and economic factors can influence the American political process.

All of these great American History and Government connections come with price… two to three hours of gameplay. This game demands a lot… but delivers. In a school setting, 1960 could work well with a small group, working in teams, for enrichment. Another option could be to use two copies of the game and split the class in half, having each group split into teams and play. After both games have finished, have the students come together as a class and discuss the outcomes of their games. What factors were key to the outcome and how do they compare with the other team’s game?

Overall, this is an outstanding game that requires some planning to implement effectively. The effort is worth it in the end. 1960’s ability to encompass the rigors of an election along with the myriad of mitigating circumstances that influence the process while packaging it all in an engaging manner is impressive to say the least.