Welcome to the second of a planned three-part series of posts on 1960: The Making of the President by GMT Games. I was provided a copy of this game in exchange for some strategy posts, and while it took some time to get the opportunities to try the game out, I am very glad I could experience this one. This game definitely encourages many playthroughs to become familiar with the entire deck of cards and how they can impact/influence the game. But I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you are closer to my own skill level at the game: beginner. So rather than focusing on specific cards and maximizing their usefulness, I am going to cover some overall strategies that have proven helpful to me (or have been hard lessons learned) across the three phases of the game.
Part 1: The Early Turns
Part 2: The Debates
Part 3: Post-Debate through Election Day
Part 3: Post-Debate through Election Day
Now we come to what is, arguably, the most critical time in the game. Your early turns can see a lot of adaptability to the cards being drawn and just plunking down cubes wherever feels like it is a good place. The debates are the part of the game where you can either press to make a huge swing on the board or you can simply ignore them and accept the losses. But you can’t be so free and loose with the final rounds of the game if you want to have a chance to win. You get an extra card every round, although you still play only five of them, and every decision in these rounds will feel critical. These are the final attempts to shift the board into your favor going into Election Day, and the process of election itself which can have some pretty radical ramifications if things go your way.
Tactic#1 – Plan early for the cards you’re dedicating to the Election
In the first half of the game you are saving cards to use in the Debate phase and it needed to focus on candidate symbols, issue markers, and CP. The four cards you save here (two per round) have a very different focus: the state shown in the bottom corner. The cards you set aside will let you draw three cubes from the bag in the Election round to try and place them onto that shown state. So saving a card in a state you are already carrying, or one worth minimal points, might not be an effective use of those cards. On the other hand, there is no guarantee of pulling the cubes you need, so not playing a powerful event isn’t ideal, either.
My personal approach is to look and see if any of those states are controlled by my opponent with only 1 cube on that state. Then I look to see if any match a high-point state my opponent controls. Those are the ones I want to consider first for saving into the Election round. On the other hand, if there is a state I control that my opponent seems to be aiming for, I might keep that card for the election phase to either increase my cubes on there or to wrest it back from them.
Saving the right cards can be important, although not critical. If you really need to gain a particular state, it might be easier to spend the CP during these two turns and take it that way, especially with media support.
Tactic#2 – Media Support is so very important, yet so hard to come by
The power of Media Support going into the Election Day cannot be overstated. The original benefit, which allows you to bypass support checks if your opponent is carrying a state, is worthwhile enough to make spending CP on Media a good strategy. Yes, you have to pull cubes from the bag in order to gain that support, but that also makes it incredibly hard to lose the support to your opponent. Media Support also allows you to continue to flip the position of two adjacent issues on the Issue Track, a key component for gaining momentum and endorsements (more on that in Tactic#3). But even that isn’t the real reason to want to be doing well in Media Support…
In the early part of the Election round, you gain cubes into the bag equal to the Media Support cubes on the board. PLUS those cubes already out for Media Support. This helps to seed the bag with those cubes you want to pull, either when you are trying to win something or as a block when your opponent is pulling cubes. More cubes = better chance that the events during Election Day will go your way. It might be tough to get that Media Support out there. But if you are in a reasonably good position on the board, or if your CP would all be burned just moving or doing support checks, it might be better spent gaining that Media Support.
Tactic#3 – Endorsements can be a board-changing force.
Endorsements can be a funny thing: either they will be extremely ineffective and rendered useless, or they will be a critical piece of your strategy. The only way to gain Endorsements comes from having the 1st or 2nd place Issue at the end of each round. You draw a card, place an endorsement marker in the region shown (or remove one of your opponents’ markers from that area). It serves no purpose until Election day, and even then it only comes into play at the very end. If a state has no cubes on it AFTER the campaign cards are resolved and Election Day events are completed, then the person with Endorsements in that region claims that state’s votes.
This is a way that the Kennedy player, for example, can sweep up a lot of those states in the West that would otherwise default to Nixon.
If there are a good number of vacant states, or if you are playing cards that have a chance of emptying a state your opponent controls, then Endorsements can be really vital as part of your strategy. On the other hand, a board where most worthwhile states already have cubes on them, this might be something you can ignore completely.
The good thing about getting Endorsements in a certain region, though, is that it forces your opponent to react. Such as in the case of being Kennedy, and getting control of Endorsements in the West region. All those states that Nixon was ignoring, assuming they would fall to him, are now up for grabs. This may force them to play defense, moving and spending that critical CP to place cubes over there instead of doing something more devastating.
Tactic#4 – Know when to cut your losses and focus elsewhere
This is something that can be difficult to do. You’re wanting those points in a California or a New York. You feel like you’re behind and that could swing the game in your favor. But they are carrying the state (or, worse, they have their candidate there). You could spend CP after CP pulling cubes from a bag in a desperate attempt to wrest it from them.
Or you could focus elsewhere, and make actual progress that isn’t up to random chance.
The problem with high-scoring states is that they are tempting targets. The good thing is that your opponent likely has more than a few decent states that aren’t nearly as hard to crack. You are more likely to win those battles than getting stuck in a power struggle over a single spot on the board. Trying to get that 45-point state and failing is far worse than picking up 25-30 points in other states. Every point you take from them is really a 2-point swing for you. They can win the five biggest states on the board and still lose if you control enough area. Don’t forget that!
Tactic#5 – Look for events that let you place 5+ cubes throughout the board
One of my best plays in this game came in the final round, playing a card that essentially wiped my opponent out of the South and allowed me to pick them up. He had focused no time down there and had a ton of states with just 1-2 cubes. I was able to spend 7 cubes down there, no more than 2 per state. While he was off winning California from me, I took far more points in two actions (that card, and then an Election Event that took 2 additional states he controlled in the South and made their votes not count). It had been a very close contest until that point, and even though he had a bag seeded full of his cubes the rest of what followed didn’t matter. It caught him off guard and flipped the board in a very meaningful way.
Cards cap out at 4CP. Anything that lets you place 5 or more with a single action are almost always going to be worth playing for the event. This is the time of the game when you need to be dropping cubes like a madman, whether they go onto the map, into the Media Support, or onto the Issue Track. Anything else almost feels like a wasted action.
Tactic#6 – Shoot for 269, but don’t forget to have fun
This part of the game can become mathy. With the wrong players, this can really bog things down if a person looks at their hand and tries to add up the best sequence of cards to play in those final rounds. Be considerate of the person sitting across from you. Yes, this is a game and you’re likely trying to win. So are they, and only one of you will walk away victorious. Don’t suck the joy out of the experience by trying to math out every possible move here.
Instead, target something that you know will provide a strong swing if successful. It doesn’t have to be the “perfect move” to be the right move.
This isn’t a game where you’re simply trying to score more points than your opponent. Every point you score is also a point taken away from them. It is more of a tug-of-war struggle than it is a points race. This can open wounds that you wouldn’t expect as you sweep the board under your dominion.
The point of gaming is to win, but more importantly to have fun. Don’t sacrifice the fun, for either side, in the interest of trying to win. A close game is more likely to earn you a rematch than a one-sided beatdown, after all.
There you have it, the final piece of the strategy guide for 1960: The Making of the President. This is, overall, a really fun and challenging game. It is far more interesting than the theme might make it sound, and there is a lot of tension to be found from round to round. This is a game that rewards repeated plays, as getting to know the various cards in that deck will help you be able to plan better and know what events should get prioritized for play. I have a long, long way to go to reach that point where I feel like I’ve mastered the game enough to know those things. But these three articles should, hopefully, help you get started down the path of making subtle changes to improve your overall results in the game.
What are some other strategies you might pass along to a newer player of this game?
Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at some strategies to employ for the game. If you’re interested in providing support for Cardboard Clash so I can continue to improve what we offer, check out my page over on Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/CardboardClash.