I know I learned how the electoral college works in school. I understood it- I mean, everyone campaigns for the popular vote, and then depending how that goes, they get electoral votes, and then those votes determine who becomes president of the United States. Easy Peasy, right? Well, not really, because there is more to becoming president than just that. I want my kids to really have a solid understanding of how the United States operates as part of their education- and for a topic like this, I really appreciate all the back up I can get. This month, we received The Presidential Game to review, so we could learn about the road to the presidency in a fun way.
This game comes with a large game board (which is a map of the United States), chips in red and blue, politics cards, dice in red and blue, a score pad, and an access code to use the online Electoral WebMap (optional for game play).
To play, you divide into two teams (Democrats and Republicans), and decide how long your election will run for. If you choose 30 weeks for instance, each time will take 30 turns, and the game will last about an hour long.
The chips represent electoral college votes, and you need at least 270 electoral votes on the map to win.
On your turn, you can choose to either go campaigning, or fundraising in a state. To campaign, you pick three states, and roll three dice. Each die accounts for the number of votes you get to place on a state. If I pick Colorado, Wyoming and Kansas, and roll a “1”, “3” and “2” I can put one chip on Colorado, three on Wyoming, and two on Kansas.
To fundraiser (which can only be done in California, New York, Florida and Texas), I roll two dice, and earn how ever many votes are shown on both die combined. Half the votes earned stay in the state I fund-raised in, and half go to any other states. When fundraising, you also pull politics cards, which say things like:
“You only drive American cars while your opponent owns several foreign cars. Add 4 votes to Michigan.”
“Silicon Valley tycoons host a successful fundraiser for you. Add 6 votes to California”
You keep score by keeping track of votes gained and lost in each state for each turn. For example, if the state you are campaigning in only has 8 votes, and the opposing team has 6 of them before you roll a 7- they have lost 6 votes, and you have gained 7. At the end of the game, the highest number of votes wins.
You can also keep score using the animated map on The Presidential Game website, which we didn’t do much because we don’t have a laptop currently. But- I did play around with it a little on the desktop, and it reminds me a little of the electoral map in newsrooms during election season. It does make score keeping a little easier, and it fun to use.
What We Thought
This game sounds complicated, but it plays a lot like another strategy game we own, so I wasn’t terribly overwhelmed learning to play and teaching Bug and Mason. When we play, we do play as a family with one adult for each team since the kids are so young.
My favorite part of the game are the politics cards, because that is where most of the educational opportunity lies. They say things like “Your Opponent mistakes where the Revolutionary War Battle of Lexington took place. Add 4 votes to Massachusetts.” Which then leads to conversations about why Massachusetts got votes for that, why people care, and what the battle was.
With each additional card pulled we learned a little bit more; about history, about popular culture, about geography, and about how politics work. What do people care about? Do the cars you drive really matter? How hard is it really to become president?
I feel like our family learned a ton from playing this game, and it really is a lot of fun. It has become a regular staple in our Family Game Night rotation, and we will take an even closer look at it in our studies when we study American government in the years to come.
In a Nutshell
The Presidential Game really is a painless way to teach your children about politics and how the electoral college works. It does not take into account every possibility for votes, but it does come very close to giving the kids a in depth look at everything from campaign politics, to local culture and how that plays into elections, to geography, and the electoral vote system. I am so impressed that a board game can pack such a huge educational punch. I think all homeschoolers and social science teachers should have this game on their shelves. It is recommended for ages 11+, but we did have good luck playing as a family with adults on teams with younger children.