Overheard in the Oval Office

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Mr. President is a game unlike any other I’ve ever attempted to design. It is a solitaire game that puts you in the shoes of the President of the United States, attempting to govern, with limited resources, in a complex and ever-changing world. It is not a game about getting elected, and it definitely does not have a political affiliation or point of view. It is about GOVERNING, and the choices and trade-offs you make to try and balance keeping your citizens protected and happy while the world seems to be disintegrating all around you.

As an aside, when I begin design work on Mr. President several years ago, I ran the idea by Andy Lewis just to see what he thought. What you need to know is this is THE game I’ve always wanted to design, and intend it to be (by far) my best design ever. But when I told Andy about it, he was very lukewarm to the idea (although in Andy’s defense he says now that he didn’t realize it was going to be a solitaire game), and didn’t really think a game like this would sell. I was a little disappointed, but, naturally, I totally forgave Andy for his lack of vision and faith and went on with the project, right? OK, well that’s NOT quite the whole story. When it came time to create the Advisor counters in Mr. President, I told John Welch, my design assistant, “We’re going to put Andy Lewis in the Advisor mix. And we’re going to make him by far the sorriest advisor in the Cabinet.”  Now for the record, I really like Andy Lewis and love working with him, and the rest of this is just all in good fun. But I DO remember…. 🙂

I hope you enjoy this brief look inside the world of Mr. President. We’ll post more as the design/development process advances.


“Mr. President! The rebels are advancing on Nairobi!

“Now wait just a minute, Higgins.  That can’t be right. I remember authorizing aid to the government there just last week.”

“Uh, sir, you sent a dozen aid workers and three crates of black-market AK-47s. It seems that neither was sufficient to demoralize the rebel forces.”

“So you’re telling me that when I decided to send 1 Action Point to support the US forces, that’s the only result I get?”

“In this case sir, that’s correct. The game system offers no guarantees when it comes to foreign aid. But more is generally better, and actual military forces can make a big difference.  In hindsight, we probably should have sent as many as 3 APs, plus some advisors, or maybe special forces and drones! I know how much you like your drones, Mr. President.”

“So what would you recommend, Mr. Higgins?”

“Well, sir, we have two carrier battle groups in the Arabian Sea. We could direct the Joint Chiefs to redeploy one of those groups off the coast of East Africa. Either the attached air wing or salvoes of Tomahawk missiles from the escorts could devastate the rebel spearhead and buy us some time to get some advisors and special ops troops on the group to support the government.”

“Ok, Higgins, make it so. But let’s lead with the Tomahawks. I don’t want to see captured US flyers on Al-Jazeera.”


The following week….

“This can’t be right! This latest poll says my Public Approval Rating is 28%!”

“I’m afraid that is what the poll says, Mr. President.”

“But I’m their leader, and I care about the people. They should love me!”

“Well, sir, I can’t be certain of course, but perhaps your veto of the minimum wage increase, coupled with your anti-immigration bill and your public stance against the “Clean Water for Everyone” movement has something to do with your drop in the polls.”

“What’s a President to do? You can’t be FOR everything!”


A few days later….

“Higgins, I need you to direct the Secretary of State to hop on a plane to Tokyo. Seems our Chinese and Japanese friends are crossing swords again over a couple of worthless specks of rock in the East China Sea.”

“Uh, sir, the Secretary of State is in Moscow for high-level meetings with the Russians.”

“Well, what about one of my other trusted advisors?  How about Mr. Sanchez or Miss Richards?”

“Both are also overseas, Mr. President. You sent them to the Middle East last week to try to talk some sense into those people.”

“You and I both know that’s probably a fool’s errand, but I had to try, as without Jewish support here at home I’ll never get re-elected. OK, they’re out. So who do we have available?”

“Uh, well sir, there’s only one, but you told me never to use him. We still have Andy Lewis available.”

“Holy Sweet Jehoshaphat! You mean all we have left in the bullpen is Andy Lewis?!?!?!”

“I’m sorry to say, that’s true, sir.”

“Andy Lewis!?!?!?!?! Why, I wouldn’t send that gum-chewing, Euro-game-loving neo-hippie to referee a bar fight, much less to mediate an international conflict! Don’t we have anyone else?”

“No sir.”

“Dang. If only I hadn’t needed Delaware to win that election! If I’d only known it was going to cost me having that Lewis character on my cabinet, I’d have let them have the election and made a fortune on the lecture circuit.”

“I guess there’s a price for everything, sir.”

“OK, I’m going to officially say that this game is broken!  If my choices boil down to seeing China and Japan go to war and perhaps incinerating a third of the world in the process or sending Andy Lewis to try and make things better, the world is going to blow up EVERY SINGLE TIME! So we need more development….”


Later that month (turn) …

“Sir, Congress has just voted to block your landmark Education bill!”

“What? That bill is my legacy! What happened?”

“Well, sir, as you know, you do have quite a few political enemies, and they’re ganging up on you on this one. Three of them have ratings of “6” or higher on the Political Enemies Track.”

“Hmmph. Play a few dirty tricks while winning the election, and suddenly everyone wants to be your enemy. What kind of country is this?”


This is just an example of some of the things you will say and think when you play Mr. President. That’s just the beginning, really. With over 150 Crisis and Action/Event cards in the mix and multiple sub-systems representing the US Economy, Congress, Homeland Security, the Press, Presidential Prestige, Russia, China, Hostile Rogue States, and staunch Allies, no two games of Mr. President will every play remotely alike. As development progresses, we’ll clue you in on more of the details. For now, just picture yourself behind the desk in the Oval Office, and let your imagination run wild!






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34 thoughts on “Overheard in the Oval Office

  1. I love the concept of the game, Gene, and would likely buy it no matter what that wet blanket Lewis says. (JK, Andy! Don’t hate me!) But I do wonder if something like “The Oval Office” or “The West Wing” wouldn’t be a better title? When I first saw “Mr. President,” I thought you guys were thinking of reprinting the old 3M election game from the ’60s!

    • Glad you like the concept, Thomas, and thanks for the suggestions. We’re pretty sold on the MP title right now, mostly because we have a series planned. But that’s almost giving too much away….. 🙂

      • I concur that the title might need more work: don’t you think it sounds a bit sexist, especially we might have a female President in the (near) future? I have no clues about your planned series, but maybe just change it to: M. President? 🙂

  2. Great idea, I like what I see so far. A game about the competition to get elected doesn’t sound interesting but about governing would be great.

    • Glad you like it so far, Alan. I agree with you. I am completely uninterested in election games (although 1960 is pretty doggone good), but I’ve never played a game like Mr. President, where I actually get to govern. I wanted to play one, so I designed it. 🙂

  3. Looks like a fun design. I look forward to following its development. If I ever get to own the game I can say in an Aussie accent “send in the carriers mate!”

    • Hopefully later this year, Elihu. We’re locking down the final design pieces now and then will send to a broader group of our testers. Once we get their feedback and know the core is solid, we’ll post it on P500.

    • Thanks Lucas! I’m having a blast designing and testing it. I’ve got a week with all the kids gone next week and plan to do a lot of testing – wish some of you guys were out here in Central CA to come over and play!

  4. Ah, this sounds like fun, Gene! Again, something from GMT I wouldn’t normally be interested in, but you guys manage to get my attention with these designs by making them so darn intriguing. And it’s great to see John Welch involved too – he’s a great guy and a great designer. This will be ordered!

    • Thanks Hermann! I really enjoy working with John – heckuva good guy! And I hope Mr President will indeed intrigue you. I have played a lot (though with different test versions, as you might imagine) and I am still very surprised by the combinations and situations that this game delivers. And I’m aiming to make it better yet before we release it.

  5. I’m in!! As an old government junkie, I’ve been looking for this game for decades! I retired from federal civil service with more than 30 years in the catacombs, was a full-time consultant to government agencies for another 10 years, and now retired again to part-time occasional consulting that I still do. Watch C-span hearings for amusement, and while many people think the British TV series “Yes Minister” is a comedy, to a government insider it is actually a documentary! The other day I was toying with a four-sided government issue that I was involved in during 1996, and worked out a pretty decent concept of it all using Volko’s “COIN” system. Mark’s “Churchill” looks very promising too, and I have a three-sided issue from the late 1980s that might fit that model. One of my main gaming buddies, who has very wide-ranging interests, said he absolutely would not play these games with me … My little issues would have a very narrow appeal, but I like doodling around with them, and would really enjoy playing the more broadly appealing “Mr. President.” I hope this game is on the fast track, because now that you’ve revealed it, I’m eager to have it!

    • Hi Jan Paul! Wow, you have a background that sounds tailor-made for this game! As for fast-track, well, it definitely is on my personal design fast-track, but then it’s going to go through a rigorous development/testing period. We’ll see how that goes, and then I’ll have a better idea of when you might see Mr President in a GMT box.

  6. This sounds all so familiar….nonetheless I’m all in. I can just imagine the possibilities of titles, “Mr. President:JFK”, “Mr. President: Lincoln”, and what about “Mr. Premier: Gorbachev”. The potential is almost limitless for a whole series of games.

    • Hi Bryan!

      Yes, we do have a lot of potential down the road for other titles in the series. We have definitely planned our work that way. I am doing the bulk of the system design and John is creating content – putting current events on the bones of the system, if you will (as well as doing all the card, counter, and map prototyping, which I would never have the time to do alone). So as we look at historical versions of MP down the road, I’m endeavoring to make sure that the system structure works not only for this game, but for historical games, and John, who is a history teacher with plenty of favorite Presidents and world leaders, will integrate historical events and “might-haves” into the system to fit the players and challenges of each era.

      So we think there is TONS of fun and insight for this series in its future, but for now, we need to finish Game 1!

      • Gene, This is getting better and better!! With the help of “The Halls of Montezuma,” “Gringo,” and “The Battles with the Gringos,” along with several recent and old books, I’ve recently rekindled my interest from high school days and my old Jack Scruby miniatures in the Mexican-American War. So, here’s my vote for “MP: Polk” when you get down the road on the historical versions. One of the fascinating things in reading this history from the 1840s is that if you change Polk to Bush and Obama and Mexico to Iraq and Afghanistan, you think you’re reading something from today’s headlines! Incremental escalation, full measures politically weakened in Washington to half measures, egotistical Senators, recalcitrant Representatives, the leading generals are all Whigs and too much fame and glory for them in the war gives a political advantage against Polk’s (a Democrat) potential successor in the next election (Polk said at the outset he was a one-term president), anyway enough of all that, I’m in for the first edition, and hoping for a Polk historical version to come along in the fullness of time!!

        • Jan Paul, I’m not sure exactly what’s on John’s priority list for historical games just yet. Like you, I have my personal favorites. But since John is going to be adding most of the history in future games, while I just mostly update and streamline systems to fit the era, I’m going to let John’s interests drive where we take the system. Nice analogy/insight about Polk, btw – hadn’t really thought about it that way until I read your post. Thanks!

  7. If you have MP: Lincoln in the pipeline, you gotta have MP: Davis too, doncha think? Anyway, I think you got a winner here, Mr GMT President!

    • I’m not getting into THAT hornet’s nest Ken! 🙂 Glad you like the system concept, though. I’m hoping to have a pretty decent prototype ready to show you guys at the GMT Weekend in October, so you can take it for a spin yourself.

      • Sure would like to take that spin and I don’t need to buy a vowel! (None in the letters: GMT!) Just so that it’s clear…Mr President is going to be an entire term or terms of any President? It’s not thematic such as MP: The War on Terror 2001-?, which would cover two terms similar to MP: Vietnam? It will just be, let’s say only about Bush 43 only, not Bush 43 and Obama, correct?

      • Thank you very much Gene.

        Looking forward tis one. We definitively need more political game or wargame with politic in the future.

        Politic is one of a big part in a conflict which is rarely simulate.

  8. Gene, I have a feeling that you’ve been up to your eyebrows lately in challenges, but I’m curious if you have an update on the progress of Mr. President? I’m looking forward to this new game with keen anticipation!

    • Hi Jan Paul,

      Actually, I’ve been working quite a bit on Mr. President of late. Of course, as you note, I mostly work on it “in between” a bunch of other responsibilities, but I’m making decent progress. Last weekend I started doing a top to bottom update of all the Crisis Cards, and I’m about 60% through that process now. My hope is to get all of the cards updated, do a map update, and rework the Russia and China AI, and hopefully have something that people can look at by Consimworld Expo in late June.

      Thanks for your interest in the game. Once I have the systems updated, I’ll work on another article for the blog – probably a one-turn (18 card) replay, or something like that.

  9. Certainly sounds an interesting game, I’m just wondering as a Brit how much I’d need to know about your political system to be able to play effectively?
    I’d be interested in a UK version as well, getting your policies trhough while struggling to win that by-election that might rob you of your majority etc. Not sure how well the system would cope though as the office of Prime Minister and that of President are rather different in scope. Still the US version looks really like a really good idea and a top notch solo game.