With the Republican candidates fighting state-by-state for the GOP presidential nomination, the winner may be decided not so much by the best candidate as the best campaign manager. Most of us will never have the chance to ride the campaign bus, but we can play Campaign Manager 2008, the board game of presidential electioneering. And for just $29.99, you won't have to suck up to Wall Street bankers or union bosses for campaign contributions.
True, the game is set in 2008, with Obama and McCain as the dueling candidates. It is unlikely that the Republican will again field a vice-presidential candidate from an alternate universe where Alaska annexed Siberia and Obama really was a Muslim. Nonetheless, the Democratic candidate is the same in 2008 and 2012, while the Republican candidate will likely face many of the same polarizing social issues and fight for the same key states, such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, as McCain did.
But first, let's briefly describe Campaign Manager 2008, which won an International Gamers Award (an important consideration if you plan to appeal to the geek vote). The game was designed by Jason Matthews, a former Hill staffer and now director of public and congressional affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Campaign Manager blends the fun of a card game with the intricate strategizing of a presidential campaign. The game consists of 20 battleground states (the other 30 are considered locked up by either camp), each represented by a big cardboard rectangle. Four of those states will be in play at any given moment. Each state has a certain number of voter groups (three for a small state such as New Hampshire, versus five for big states like Ohio) that are depicted by circles on the rectangle. Placing a blue or red wooden token in the circle signifies that it has gone Democrat or Republican. Whichever candidate is first to capture all the voter circles takes the state and its electoral votes. And, of course, like in real life, the victor is the first candidate to cross the 270-electoral-vote finish line (both candidates need about 115 votes from the battleground states to win).
But collecting voters isn't that easy. There are two umbrella issues in each state, labeled "Economy" and "Defense." One of those two will always be the primary issue. To win a state, a candidate must win all the voters, and the voters must all identify Economy or Defense as their primary issue.