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Creating Political Game

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Anonymous

I can’t exactly supply you with the ideas behind the game, because the ideas are very scattered and everyone would go: “what is this freak trying to say” therefore ideas will be posted later. The theme “politics” is something I have never done so I really do not know where to begin. Essentially what I’m asking is that any one who is familiar with this theme or has created a game with politics in it, please post some tips, etc. Another thing I would like to look at is other board games with politics in it, so also list some good political game titles.

Regards,
Garret

IngredientX
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Creating Political Game

If you've never been to boardgamegeek.com, do it now! It's a database containing thousands of games, and is invaluable when doing research. I found out about a lot of games I'd have never heard of otherwise.

Here are some political games off the top of my head, with links...

Diplomacy
Junta
Twilight Imperium
Rette Sich Wer Kann
Intrige
And of course, hpox's current GDW game, Escape or Die!

Hope this helps...

Joe_Huber
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Creating Political Game

IngredientX wrote:
Diplomacy
Rette Sich Wer Kann
Intrige

Interesting - when I hear "political game", I don't think of any of the above (I can see Junta; haven't played Twilight Imperium, so I can't say in that case). These are certainly negotiation games, but when I think of "political" games, I think of Candidate and Mr. President and The Game of Politics and Die Macher and Keywood and Saludos Amigos - in other words elections and actions of government, which may or may not involve negotiations.

So perhaps the first question is - which use of the word is intended?

Joe

IngredientX
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Creating Political Game

Joe_Huber wrote:
IngredientX wrote:
Diplomacy
Rette Sich Wer Kann
Intrige

Interesting - when I hear "political game", I don't think of any of the above (I can see Junta; haven't played Twilight Imperium, so I can't say in that case). These are certainly negotiation games, but when I think of "political" games, I think of Candidate and Mr. President and The Game of Politics and Die Macher and Keywood and Saludos Amigos - in other words elections and actions of government, which may or may not involve negotiations.

So perhaps the first question is - which use of the word is intended?

Joe

Ahhh, good point. First off, there's games with political themes, versus political mechanics. Lots of games with political themes have silly roll-and-move mechanics; they're just Monopoly knockoffs with an "election" theme pasted on. Others, like Die Macher, have original or innovative mechanics that don't include negotiation or mutual alliances (you can have a "koalition" in Die Macher, but I don't think both sides have to agree - one player just attaches himself to another).

I was thinking of games that had heavy negotiation in them, which resemble the political process much more than those politically-themed games (though Die Macher is an outstanding game). To me, convincing players that they shouldn't toss you off the lifeboat is just as political as any election-themed game.

Interestingly, I left Munchkin off the list... it's a negotiation game, but I'm not sure if I can see what happens in it as a "political" process. And I can't explain why... so I don't know how justifiable my point is. :)

Anyway, there's lots of directions you can take this question... I only took it one.

Oracle
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Creating Political Game

Ever since late 2000 (for obvious reasons), I've been toying with the idea for a game about the US electoral college. I haven't worked out many details, but basically, players would have popular votes which they'd use to bid secretly to win states, but at bidding time, you'd only know what region a state is in. So if it's a North-Eastern state, do you bet big hopping it's New York, or small expecting it to be Maine.

All players have to pay their bid, regardless of who won, and whoever bid the most wins that state and its electoral votes. The first player to win enough electoral votes to clinch the election wins the game.

There has to be a mechanic to get more popular votes though.

Jason

niktherake
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Creating Political Game

In Robert Heinlein’s “Double Star” there is a character who says of politics (the Intergalactic Council, natch) ‘It’s a great game – the only game fit for an adult to play’. I wouldn’t expect anyone on a Game Design forum to agree.

Yet as a theme for gaming, I think politics is distinctly underrepresented, when you consider how many gazillions of games there are on the subject of a bunch of deadheads clumping down underground tunnels, offing the local inhabitants and grabbing conveniently placed piles of gold…

Looking tentatively for a taxonomy, I would identify three obvious sub-themes:
Electioneering (eg Election, Road to the White House, Die Macher)
Governing/Legislating (eg Westminster, Al Parlamento)
Internal Party Struggle (eg Kremlin)

And below these there are a host of possible choices:

What country is this set in, and is it real, historical or even fictional?
Does it have to be at national level? There’s some dastardly work done in local politics too.
Are you going to use real parties/people, at the risk of alienating those who take their politics very seriously? (see my own game project below)

As well as the standard question: do you want a simulation, a strong-theme or a weak theme?

I am currently working on a game with the theme of elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly. This body is currently suspended because although elections were held last autumn, the leading parties will not talk to each other to form a workable Executive.

I chose this theme for several reasons:
· local interest
· interest in the workings of the single transferable vote (STV)
· there are 4 major political parties (DUP, UUP, SDLP and SF) of the same general order of strength, plus a 5th (Alliance) which with a little wishful thinking might be treated as such. 4 or 5 are the golden numbers for a multi-player board game
· there are other mini-parties which under STV can affect the outcome.

(incidentally, I have decided to identify parties by colour rather than name, though which is which will be obvious: some people in Northern Ireland take politics very seriously and a Sinn Fein supporter might have problems roleplaying the DUP and vice-versa)

At the present my intent is that the game should cover the election campaign and end with the results, the winner being the player who gets the most candidates elected.

I am seeing a major problem of pacing here as, while I can work out some fun mechanisms to simulate STV, they all take some time during which the players are essentially spectators, ie a very long final score phase.

Allied to this, I cannot decide whether to represent all 18 constituencies or to abstract them into a smaller number of regions, possibly asymmetric in the number of seats on offer.

I shall be looking for useful tips on this forum and will advise of progress (if any..)

in peace

Peter

Anonymous
Creating Political Game

Oracle wrote:
Ever since late 2000 (for obvious reasons), I've been toying with the idea for a game about the US electoral college.

Jason,

Small world. Ever since this election season began I've been thinking along the same terms. I haven't gotten much beyond the basic concept stage. What I do know is I want the game to be playable by kids (ages 6 to 14-ish) so that teachers would be able to use the game to help teach about elections, the Electoral College, and presidential races in general. I haven't looked at mechanics or anything yet, just an idea in my mind (and I think I wrote it down somewhere).

- Geoff

Anonymous
Creating Political Game

As far as using politics as a theme goes, I suspect there is a feeling amongst publishers in both the mass and hobby markets that it can be a turn-off for many customers, as it is widely percieved to be very boring.

Personally, I think there are some superb themes and mechanics for games, and would probably find contemporary politics to be one of the most engaging themes. However, I suspect many games with political mechanics often get a historical theme, as the Reinaissance or medieval gloss has been going down well in the German industry for so long (although probably now near-exhausted!).

I'm working on one game at the moment with a Tammanay Hall theme. I've also been playing with two different ideas- a Presidential election-themed game and, more unusually, a game revolving around log-rolling and deal-making in congress (or a legislative assembly of your choice!).

The idea of the latter is that 4,6 or 8 players are equally divided into parties, but each have their own stance on issues. Thus, those who represent the moderate wing of their party on Tax will want to work with the opposition to prevent more radical voices in their own party willing the day. Obviously, such a game is very different from German-style games, which the other two designs I've mentioned are. But playing games with Diplomacy players, as I do, I thought something new in the negotiations line might be fun. It's obviously a legislating game, in terms of the 3 categories Peter suggested as convenient divisions.

On the topic of games modelling Presidential Elections in the United States, I think the electoral college makes things awkward for any designer. While I'd enjoy playing something that made it work, I would think anything that kept all the states, with their voting strengths, would have trouble making a balanced game. In game terms, surely you should just work on bidding for California, Flordia, Illinois, etc. for those with teens and better. It would be hard to simulate the fact that, in real life, such blatant electioneering would be frowned upon, and candidates are expected to make a nod towards appealling to and courting the whole country. I just fear anything with 50+ areas in is too cluttered and awkward. I've tried abstracting the Presidential race in my game, with a map representing six regions (meaning you can emphasise on the South, mid-West or whatever) and also a track mapping national perceptions on issues. The victory points therefore act as an abstraction of some of the factors in an election race-- you get some support for demonstrating local affinity, and other support from demonstrating the superiority of your platform on the national stage.

My favourite politicall-themed game is definitel Election (sometimes called "Election X") by Intellect Games, which Peter mentioned in his summary. It has a few difficulties, as discussed at length elsewhere, but it does a smashing job of simulating locality and social groups (indeed- I guess it is a pretty distinctly 1970's British, or perhaps generally European, way to think of the electorate: in terms of classes) in a game.

Obviously one of such games' difficulties will always be including multiple players on an equal footing. In Britain and the United States, certainly, there have rarely been more than 2 parties with a realistic chance of winning. Indeed, since Election was designed and published, British politics has become even more dual-partisan than it was then. I've been wondering if I can include an Independent candidate in a US election game, with semi-realistic problems, but whose victory criterion is only to perform well *relatively* to their start position. (i.e. it is surely a relative win for Nader when he is in a position to have decided the 2000, and perhaps 2004, elections).

Richard Huzzey.

doho123
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Creating Political Game

I guess, to me, the actual realistic implementation of just having votes cast isn't as nearly as fun as the real aspect of politics, which is trying to shape other people's opinion to support your view. So, while throwing a bunch of bid values at a state might abstract some representative view of how politics work, it doesn't really capture any of the true process of applying spin to your views, deciding how to reflect your opponents views, and balancing the way you work with potential backlashes.

Anyway, other games that haven't been mentioned yet, which includes more of the above style politicing would be Werewolf/Mafia, and Jyhad/Vampire:The Eternal Struggle.

Anonymous
Creating Political Game

Richard_Huzzey wrote:

On the topic of games modelling Presidential Elections in the United States, I think the electoral college makes things awkward for any designer. While I'd enjoy playing something that made it work, I would think anything that kept all the states, with their voting strengths, would have trouble making a balanced game. In game terms, surely you should just work on bidding for California, Flordia, Illinois, etc. for those with teens and better. It would be hard to simulate the fact that, in real life, such blatant electioneering would be frowned upon, and candidates are expected to make a nod towards appealling to and courting the whole country.

Uh, which elections are you talking about? Every presidential candidate knows where his bread and butter states are at and, while they may "nod" at the other states, they spend their resources to win the states that will win them the election (or at least get them a tie where they can get the supreme court to help them out. :wink: ) Why shouldn't you make the game to reflect this fact? Yes, the game would boil down to a few key "battleground states" but that happens in the real world too. Elections don't hinge on if the candidate can win Maine or Rhode Island or Hawaii, they are elected if they can win in California and Texas and New York.

I'm not argueing that the game shouldn't be balanced, and if you could create a game about a presidential election that was balanced then I think we should let the politicians know so we can fix the real system!

Nah - on second thought, they'd just mess it up too. :D

Just my two pence.
- Geoff

Oracle
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Creating Political Game

paleogeoff wrote:
if you could create a game about a presidential election that was balanced then I think we should let the politicians know so we can fix the real system!

Fixing the real system is easy enough. Just let the popular vote pick the president.

I'm not american, but from what I understand of the Electoral College, it was developed because there wasn't enough communication for the average citizen to have information to vote.

doho123"I guess, to me, the actual realistic implementation of just having votes cast isn't as nearly as fun as the real aspect of politics, which is trying to shape other people's opinion to support your view.[/quote wrote:

I can understand your point, but there are a lot of games out there that concentrate on applying spin to your views, and using "politics" to manipulate your opponents.

Even in 3-player Warcraft, convincing someone to attack the other player instead of you falls under this category.

It seems like simulating a more abstract view of the election is a much emptier field to design a game in. It probably would have a smaller potential market, but there is room for a great game and it wouldn't have much competition.

What I described earlier on this thread isn't much of a game; so far it's about the same as blackjack in terms of luck/strategy. I do think there's a game there somewhere though.

Richard_Huzzey wrote:
As far as using politics as a theme goes, I suspect there is a feeling amongst publishers in both the mass and hobby markets that it can be a turn-off for many customers, as it is widely percieved to be very boring.

One could argue that the fact that the country perceives politics as boring is why Bush is in there ruining the country. :)

Jason

Anonymous
Creating Political Game

Garret,

Where to begin...

1. Narrow your scope as much as possible. What elements of politics do you want to simulate in your game?
2. Research the real world facts surrounding the limited scope you've chosen.
3. Look for the game in it all. What is the goal? What are the key decisions? What makes the decision making process interesting?
4. Start to envision the core of game inside your head. It's easier to work out the kinks in your head than it will be after hours of creating your prototype. Once you've got something that works for you...
5. Create a prototype.
6. Get some playtesters and start playing the prototype.
7. If there are game play issues, modify the design to overcome them and go back to step 6.

Lastly, you might want to buy/play a few of the noteworthy political games. Nothing will stimulate your creative juices as much as experience. Play lots and lots of designer games (whether or not they relate to your proposed theme).

Anonymous
Creating Political Game

paleogeoff wrote:
Richard_Huzzey wrote:

On the topic of games modelling Presidential Elections in the United States, I think the electoral college makes things awkward for any designer. While I'd enjoy playing something that made it work, I would think anything that kept all the states, with their voting strengths, would have trouble making a balanced game. In game terms, surely you should just work on bidding for California, Flordia, Illinois, etc. for those with teens and better. It would be hard to simulate the fact that, in real life, such blatant electioneering would be frowned upon, and candidates are expected to make a nod towards appealling to and courting the whole country.

Uh, which elections are you talking about? Every presidential candidate knows where his bread and butter states are at and, while they may "nod" at the other states, they spend their resources to win the states that will win them the election (or at least get them a tie where they can get the supreme court to help them out. :wink: ) Why shouldn't you make the game to reflect this fact? Yes, the game would boil down to a few key "battleground states" but that happens in the real world too. Elections don't hinge on if the candidate can win Maine or Rhode Island or Hawaii, they are elected if they can win in California and Texas and New York.

While the candidates will, naturally, give disproportionate funds to the states with the biggest votes, there is still some expectation, isn't there, of paying some service to an appeal to the whole nation? I may have got the wrong end of the stick, but I thought it was frowned on for a candidate not to bother with any time in the other states. Also, a game would seem odd if it discounted all the smaller states, as their count combined is still significant.

I take your point, and I may have underplayed how much candidates behave as gameplayers would, but I still think a simulation which included all the states would be problematic... even if most states were not influential, you'd have to track some form of information or count victory in them, which would probably be a bit tiresome.

Richard.

Pt314
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Creating Political Game

Oracle wrote:

Fixing the real system is easy enough. Just let the popular vote pick the president.

I'm not american, but from what I understand of the Electoral College, it was developed because there wasn't enough communication for the average citizen to have information to vote.

That is one of many reasons. However the electoral college was also another part of the great compromise between the views that each state should have just as many votes no matter what (Senators), or more people = more votes (Represenatives).

It may have many flaws, but it was a concern that if everything was done by popular vote than it would be easier for a slight majority always having their way. The electoral college somewhat counter-balances this, but California still is extremely influencial.

Of course I might be biased towards the EC because I live in a state with only five electoral votes, compared to Californias fiftysomething.

IngredientX
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Creating Political Game

Pt314 wrote:
It may have many flaws, but it was a concern that if everything was done by popular vote than it would be easier for a slight majority always having their way. The electoral college somewhat counter-balances this, but California still is extremely influencial.

Good point. If elections were decided via the popular vote, then a politician who takes New York and Los Angeles will have a huge percentage. The electoral college forces politicians to appeal to the entire country.

This can make for a great strategic choice... does a player focus on getting a few densely-populated, hotly-contested states, or should he shoot for a lot of less-populated, less-contested states?

Oracle
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Creating Political Game

IngredientX wrote:
Pt314 wrote:
It may have many flaws, but it was a concern that if everything was done by popular vote than it would be easier for a slight majority always having their way. The electoral college somewhat counter-balances this, but California still is extremely influencial.

Good point. If elections were decided via the popular vote, then a politician who takes New York and Los Angeles will have a huge percentage. The electoral college forces politicians to appeal to the entire country.

It seems to be the exact opposite to me. A candidate with a slight majority in New York and California will win the presidency even if the vast majority of the population voted for someone else.

Using the popular vote, more than half the entire population will have to support the candidate.

Jason

jwarrend
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Creating Political Game

Oracle wrote:

It seems to be the exact opposite to me. A candidate with a slight majority in New York and California will win the presidency even if the vast majority of the population voted for someone else.

Not in practice. 270 votes are needed, and NY and CA deliver only 87 combined. Even carrying Texas (32) and Florida (25) only gets you a little over halfway there. I think one is free to debate the merits or detriments of the electoral college all day long, but it really does seem to work quite a bit better than you might think. As evidence, consider that there have only been two elections in US history where the candidate who carried the popular vote failed to carry the electoral vote as well.

From a game design standpoint, it is a nice system because winning "states" just lends itself more easily to something you can develop a mechanic to simulate. There was an old Avalon Hill game called Mr. President where you visit the different states and campaign in them, and I think it was a pretty solid game.

That said, I feel like "trying to win states" is an interesting idea but I'd be more interested in a game that was more about "trying to win issues", but I'm not sure if that can be done in a way that keeps the game connected to reality (by using realistic issues) but doesn't result in people getting mad and walking away from the table.

-Jeff

Pt314
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Creating Political Game

I think it would be very interesting if somebody can pull off a fun electoral college game. It would mix three of my interests, games, maps, and politics.

I have entertained the idea, but I have always shifted my attention to other games.

Oracle
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Creating Political Game

jwarrend wrote:
Not in practice. 270 votes are needed, and NY and CA deliver only 87 combined. Even carrying Texas (32) and Florida (25) only gets you a little over halfway there. I think one is free to debate the merits or detriments of the electoral college all day long, but it really does seem to work quite a bit better than you might think. As evidence, consider that there have only been two elections in US history where the candidate who carried the popular vote failed to carry the electoral vote as well.

I thought CA and NY were each in the 80's out of around 600 total votes. Even so, you can in theory in the presidency with 51% of the electoral vote, which you can get with 51% of the vote in those states, for a total of 26% of the popular vote.

Even your comment that there have only been two elections where the candidate who won the popular vote lost the election implies you consider the system to have worked when the popular vote wins. In that case, why not just use the popular vote?

jwarrend wrote:
From a game design standpoint, it is a nice system because winning "states" just lends itself more easily to something you can develop a mechanic to simulate.

That's something I can certainly agree with, which is why I'm looking at the electoral college for a mechanic instead of Canada's system.

jwarrend wrote:
That said, I feel like "trying to win states" is an interesting idea but I'd be more interested in a game that was more about "trying to win issues", but I'm not sure if that can be done in a way that keeps the game connected to reality (by using realistic issues) but doesn't result in people getting mad and walking away from the table.

It seems like trying to win issues involves dealing with the real issues; ie convince the other players to vote in favor of capital punishment. That would be more of a party game. To keep it as a pure strategy game, the true issues would have to be abstracted.

Jason

Anonymous
Creating Political Game

Sorry for not posting early but my internet has been down and I had to wait for the service call to go through. Anyway, I should probably thank everyone for the input on this topic.

I recently bought an ideology textbook to read since I was low on reading material and it has set many new ideas in my head, and I think a game with ideologies would be enjoyable. I recently found some time to look at other board games that tried to take this approach and they usually deal with political mechanics, war, negotiation, etc. Now I’m kind of moving away from my original theme politics but that’s sometimes a part of planning. Now, what do I have on the table so far? So far the game is based off ideologies so each player will appoint an ideology to play. The players will now need to compete to convince certain “groups” of people in society e.g. intellects, conservatives, liberals, hippies, etc. Each ideology will either favor a group or not favor a group. To allow for groups to have mixed moods towards ideologies they would need to be considered variables where they can change moods each turn. The change would be based on the actions applied to society e.g. society government approves nuclear bomb testing, thus the hippies are against ideologies that approve advances in science, and approve of the players with environmental ideologies. The society changes would be determined by the draw of event cards. I’m going to stop here but I think this gives people something to work off. Moreover, I think the toughest part is that the ideologies would have to very balanced to ensure a balanced game. Anyway, I hope you can supply me with more ideas and I will also try to formulate more information to work off.

Regards,
Garret Kinjerski

Anonymous
Creating Political Game

Back in the early 70's (when I was in my late teens) there was a game called 'Election' in the UK which I used to play regularly with 3 friends. Unfortunately I've no idea who pblished it and I've never seen it since - in fact, the only copy I ever saw was my friends'.

Anyway, from what I can remember, the game was played on a map of the UK (including Northern Ireland) divided up into about 12 regions e.g. Greater London, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Yorkshire, East Anglia etc etc).

In each region was printed about 10 squares with one of maybe a dozen symbols in each square representing the various voting groups, such as Manual Workers, Professionals, Farmers, Homemakers. An industrial region may have, say, 6 Manual Worker squares, 3 homemakers, 1 farmer, 1 professional etc etc. (The total number of squares in a region varied according to the size of the population.)

Players took the part of a political party each having a set of markers in their party's colour with one of the voting groups printed on each. The numbers of markers for each voting group a player received varied according to the party - left wing parties got lots of Manual Worker markers whilst the right wing parties got mostly professionals and farmers. All players got a few homemakers, senior citizens and so on.

Players moved their plastic candidate figure around the board in turns and placed a marker face down on a square in the region that they'd moved into and another in an adjacent region. Movement around the board may have been controlled by a dice. (There may also have been chance cards to hamper your movements and allow you to pick up oppenents markers.)

When all squares on the board had been covered, it was assumed the canvassing had finished, the voting in the election had taken place and the counting could begin.

In each region, the markers were turned-over and the voting group symbol on the marker matched against the symbol on the square. Any that didn't match were discarded and those that did went towards that party's total markers in that region. The parties were then ranked 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc according to how many markers they had in a region, and were awarded a number of seats in the House of Commons according to their ranking. This varied according to the region (populous regions had lots of seats) and the number of parties contesting a region.

When all regions had been assessed, the total seats were counted and the player with the most was declared the winner.

The skill lay in not playing any more markers in a region than was needed to win it. Often you could pick up a third place in a region with just one marker, while two stronger parties went head-to-head by playing five or six markers each.

The beauty of the game lay in not knowing who was winning until the votes were finally counted. With markers being placed face down, you could not be certain that every marker placed in a region by a party would be counted - a player might have run out of the appropriate counters and been forced to offload ones they didn't need. There may even been blank counters that they would have been forced to get rid of as well.

So, I think you'll agree, a pretty unusual game. Not very accurate, I'll admit - no party ever got more than 50% of the seats - but great fun nevertheless, though how it would translate into other countries electoral systems, I've no idea.

Certainly food for thought.

Mike

IngredientX
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Creating Political Game

mike_hinton wrote:
Back in the early 70's (when I was in my late teens) there was a game called 'Election' in the UK which I used to play regularly with 3 friends. Unfortunately I've no idea who pblished it and I've never seen it since - in fact, the only copy I ever saw was my friends'.

Boardgamegeek is your friend... :)

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/835

Anonymous
Creating Political Game

IngredientX wrote:
mike_hinton wrote:
Back in the early 70's (when I was in my late teens) there was a game called 'Election' in the UK which I used to play regularly with 3 friends. Unfortunately I've no idea who pblished it and I've never seen it since - in fact, the only copy I ever saw was my friends'.

Boardgamegeek is your friend... :)

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/835

Election, I agree, is a very nice game.

Copies do come up on Ebay Uk occasionally, but tend to change hands for £30-50 depending on condition.

Best wishes,

Richard.

Brykovian
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Creating Political Game

For those who have been discussing the US's Electoral College, you might find this link a good resource: http://www.fec.gov/pages/ecmenu2.htm

It gives actual state-by-state elector counts as well as a nice history and pro/con discussion for the thing.

Cheers,
-Bryk

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