Three Presidents for the Price of One: Inside Mr. President (Pt 2)

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Welcome back to this series of peeks inside Mr. President!

When last we left our intrepid Tri-Presidents, we had finished the game setup and were ready to begin the game’s first six-month Round. If you missed that first article, check it out here before you read on. And please remember, this game is still in the testing phase, so all the images you see in the article are playtest images, not final art.

As luck would have it, we forgot one step when we were finishing last week’s article. Before the game begins, the player(s) set the POTUS/Cabinet Focus for the round. The game gives you a Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense to handle the myriad of foreign policy issues the game will throw at you.  Your POTUS/Cabinet Focus represents the Priorities that you want your domestic cabinet to focus on over the coming six months.

We debate a bit, then settle on the following POTUS/Cabinet Focus for the round:

  • Improve Public and Press Relations
  • Improve Relations with Congress
  • Address Domestic Crises
  • Improve Homeland Security
  • Improve Economy

The way these work is twice during the round (every three months), we’ll have a segment where we roll for progress in these five areas. The first priority has an 83% chance (1-5 on a d6) to improve. Focus #2 gets a 67% chance to improve. #3 and #4 get 50%, and #5 gets a 33% chance. This is a simple way to handle results of focused effort by our cabinet, and it can be further thwarted by Cabinet Tensions. If there is a tension next to a particular focus when the time comes to roll for it, you skip that one. So part of your job is to keep the distractions away (good luck with that) so your team can focus on your agenda.

In this case, our Public Approval is only 40% at start, and past playtests have taught us that it can go south very quickly. Also, the media is taking a “let’s wait and see” posture toward our administration, so we decide we want to make a big P/R push early in the game. We also want to improve our Relations with Congress so we can get more movement on our legislative agenda. Our third priority is Domestic Crises. There’ll probably come a time in the game when this is our 1st priority, but for now, we see bigger needs early. Out lowest priorities for now are Homeland Security and Improving the Economy, not because they are not important, but because both ratings are in good shape for now.

We begin the round with up to two Friendly “+1 Actions” from POTUS and one of our key advisors. These allow the player to make a couple of pre-emptive or “fix it” actions before the game’s major antagonists’ actions begin. We decide to use Vice President Kim Richards’  +1 Action to perform a De-escalate Diplomatic action in Eastern Europe. You might remember from the initial article that during the pre-game seeding of Cascading Events, Russia launched very nasty hybrid “almost war” with Ukraine, moving the Russia/Ukraine Conflict level to 4 (5 is Russian Invasion and War). We really don’t want to see the Russians gobble up Ukraine, nor do we want NATO to go to war with Russia, so we send the Vice President to Moscow and Kiev to try to reason with them. It turns out she’s pretty good at her job, or maybe Putin just likes her. Either way, her De-escalate action succeeds, both sides back off a bit, and we move the Russia/Ukraine Conflict Track back to the 3 box. War averted, for now.

At least one of our triumvirate thinks that POTUS should just go about doing good in the world. Although the others think this may be a bit naive and that the world tends to hit back (or first), we relent and agree to spending POTUS’ +1 Diplomatic action on a Regional Trip to Africa.  There are some really nice goodwill and stability benefits to regional trips, especially to areas with low stability or Civil Wars, and Africa certainly fits that bill. Unfortunately, our President seems to not like Africa very much at all. (Or maybe he just rolls really badly!) The feeling is apparently mutual, and the POTUS trip is a resounding failure, with nothing good to show for the +1 Action spent. Note to self: Next time, SEND THE VP TO AFRICA!

We are now ready to begin the round’s 1st Activation Phase. There are four activation phases in a round, and they are somewhat asymmetrical, with opportunity for opponent reaction during each side’s Phase. We are still trying to figure out the best way to name these Phases. For now, we will call them the Red Activation Phase, where the game’s antagonists act, followed by a Blue Activation Phase, where the player Acts. 

The first segment of the Red Activation Phase allows either China or Russia to Act. By random selection, this time it’s China. Russia will act later in the turn (although both act many times through the game’s Crisis Cards, these are each country’s pro-active intentional acts aimed at achieving their automatic victory conditions for the game.)

First off, China attempts to Improve Strategic Capabilities: They succeed at improving Strategic Recon/Intel (moves from 4 to 5) and Fail to improve Naval Forces, Training, and Tech.

Next is a China Espionage Attempt: We got lucky – “they” rolled a 10! This is “US Counterintelligence ID’s Chinese Espionage ring in the west.” Very good for us. We have some options as to how to handle this. We choose to “Expose the spies, disrupt China’s networks, and embarrass China on the world stage.” We remove one China Influence from Asia/Pacific and one from C/S Asia. We also place a -1 AP marker on China, meaning that they’ll get one less action this turn due to the problems this intelligence failure has caused. Finally, we place a +2 (short term) Espionage marker on China, to note that this failure is going to have some ongoing effect – at least until the next time they attempt Espionage. So, for once, Chinese espionage, which can really be nasty, turned out well for us!

China’s State of the Economy is 5, so they will receive 5 Actions (from their AI list of actions). They also have a -1 AP marker due to the intel debacle, so that’s a net 4 actions. Here’s how they spend them.

  1. Attempt to Improve their economy. It’s a Success. Place Improving Econ marker on China’s SoE Track.
  2. Cyber Attack (1 attack). Target is “Discredit and Replace US as Major Trade Partner in Asia/Pacific.” Mercifully, the attempt fails.
  3. Attempt to expand influence in Asia/Pacific. This one succeeds. We place a China Influence marker in Asia/Pacific (two there total now). 
  4. Attempt to expand influence in South America. Success here, too. We place a China Influence marker in South America (two there total now).

That’s the end of China’s actions. Now the US player gets a Reaction, any mix of two diplomatic or military actions. We choose these two. 

  1. Attempt to improve Regional Alignment in S. America. +2 drm due to 2 China Influence -1 for our Sec State. Rolled a 9 – Failure.
  2. Attempt Crisis Relief in Africa, where the Regional Crisis is 3, a dangerously high level. This represents the efforts of humanitarian aid, security assistance, relief funds, etc. We get a Major Success and move Regional Crises down from 3 to 1. Way to go, NGOs!

Each Red Activation Phase includes a Chit Draw segment, which we begin now. We Draw: “Draw one Crisis Card+”. The “+” means that we’re going to draw another chit after we resolve this one (this can continue to a max of three chits drawn total, or ends anytime you draw a chit without a “+”).

We draw one card from the Crisis Card deck. It’s Card 120: Military Coup in Thailand. We increase Regional Crises in Asia/Pacific by one (to 2 now). Add one Tensions to India and Australia. We choose to spend 1 Pres. AP to influence the consequences die roll. Looks like POTUS is not on his game yet. We get a lousy result, which results in Placing a Trending “Anti-US” marker in Asia/Pacific. The US public isn’t too wild about our failure, so we decrease Public Approval by one box (to 36%).

We now draw the next chit: It’s “Domestic Crisis +”: We roll for the crisis, and it’s “Perform Terror Attack in US.” Fortunately for us, there are currently no Terror Groups in US, so we ignore the Terror Attack, but place a new Lvl 2 Terror Group in US, to show that there’s one here now, and they’re plotting.

For our final chit draw of the Red Activation, we draw the 2nd “Domestic Crisis.”: Unbelievable. There are really big odds against drawing this and rolling another Terror Attack, but we rolled the exact event again!) This time there is a Terror Group in the US, so we make a Homeland Security Check, which we Fail.  The Terror Attack occurs in Chicago. It is a Minor Success, and enough of the Terror Group survives to learn from the experience. The public doesn’t like it, so we drop 2 boxes of Public Approval (now at 32%) and increase the Terror Group to Lvl 3.

This concludes the 1st Red Activation Phase. Now we start the Blue Activations, always with one of four (Grouped A-D) Groups of Ally and Rogue State actions.

We choose the group to activate randomly. This time it’s Group D: Canada, Gulf States/Saudi Arabia, and a Rogue State Activation.

When an ally activates, depending on the Ally Relationship, you get to choose 0 (for Estranged),1 (for Close),or 2 (for Very Close) Combined actions. These are actions you choose from a list of seven possible Combined Actions. Also, the Ally always gets one Unlilateral action, regardless of the Ally Relationship status. As we activate our first ally, Canada, we see that our Ally Relationship is Very Close, so we get two Combined Actions +1 Unilateral Action. The actions we choose are 1) UN Aid to Central America. Success! Reduce Central America Reg. Crisis by one to 1. 2) Intel operation in Central America. Success. We move a Lvl 2 Terror Group to the Gathering Intel Box.

For Canada’s Unilateral Action, we roll on their Action Table and get “Oil to Europe.” We remove one Russia Influence from the Eurozone, as Canada is supplying Europe with cheap oil.

Gulf States/Saudi Arabia: Relationship is Very Close, so we get two Combined Actions +1 Unilateral Action. The Combined Actions are 1) UN Humanitarian Aid to Middle East. Success. Reduce Regional Crisis from 3 to 2. 2) Stabilize Region. The Middle East has a Stability of 5, and one of the best ways to improve Stability is through the joint efforts of regional allies or the UN.Success; you can’t do it alone. In this case, the attempt succeeds, so we increase Middle East Stability from 5 to 6 – a rare sight, in our experience. The Unilateral Result is “Build Air and Naval Forces.” So we increase the Relative Strength vs Iran to on the Iran/GS/SA Conflict Track to Neutral. This increases tensions with Iran, so we increase the Conflict Track with Iran from 2 to 3, still a safe distance from war, but things are definitely heating up.

Now we perform the Rogue State Activation. We randomly select the Lvl 2 Rogue State in the Middle East. They are at War (with the US and allies), so their action is recruit/reinforce: Add +1 Strength to the War (their strength now 6). 

The final action we perform for each Ally/Rogue Group Activation is to check all the Unstable States in the two regions listed on the Group’s card. In this case, those regions are Central/South Asia and Asia/Pacific. There are thankfully no Unstable States in either region right now, so we skip this part and move on to the next segment of the Blue Activation Phase. 

POTUS/Cabinet Focus Results: Now we are going to make five d6 rolls for those five POTUS/Cabinet Focus priorities that we set up at the beginning of this article. There are no Tensions markers beside any of the five priorities, so we’ll roll a d6 for each. 

  • Improve Media and Public Relations (1-5). We Succeed! We could improve either Public Approval or Media Relations. We choose to increase Public approval by 3 boxes to 38%.
  • Improve RWC (1-4) We Fail.
  • Address Dom Crises (1-3) We Fail.
  • Improve HS (1-3) We Succeed! We choose to use counter-terror action to decrease the Lvl 3 Terror Group in the US to Lvl 2.
  • Improve Economy (1-2) We Fail.

Our next segment allows us to Perform 2 Domestic Actions. We choose:

  1. Address Domestic Crisis. Unfortunately, we Fail.
  2. Counter-terrorism in CONUS. We succeed. We move that Lvl 2 Terror Group in the US to the “Locating” Box. One more successful move and we can launch a raid.

During the Legislative Segment, we perform the following, in order:

  • Roll d6 on Congressional Maneuver/Drama Table: Result is “Congressional Agenda”. Congress adds Health Care Reform to the “Introduce Bill” box as Opponent’s Legislation.
  • Gather Resources from Congressional Support: 9 total friend support. 5 Opponent.Net +4 Pres. APs. From 11 to 15.
  • Sign or Veto bills. We have none ready to sign or veto, so we skip this step.
  • Advance Bill. This Moves Health Care Reform to “In Committee Box.” No Friendly bill to advance.
  • Introduce bill. Honeymoon period, so we get to automatically introduce one. Place Social Security in Introduce Bill box. So here’s how Congress looks at the moment:

  • Media Results. We look at all the Friends and Opponents who have a Media Rating and total them. Friends Media totals 2; Opponents Media totals 1. We get the difference, 2, as a number of boxes to improve Public Approval. So we move Public Approval to 42%.
  • There are no Scandals to Resolve, so that concludes this Activation Phase’s Legislative segment. 

Now we get an Opposition Reaction segment, comprised of one Chit draw.

The result is “Global Summit.” After POTUS’ last disastrous foray into foreign affairs, we’re worried. It turns out that we were right to be concerned. Our roll on the Global Summit Table goes poorly. The result is “Failure and Ill-will.” Either would be unfortunate; both is just plain bad! There are multiple results here, none of them good. First we decrease World Opinion of the US by 1 to 4. Then we place Tensions on Russia and China. Next, we place “Trending Anti-US” markers on 3 random regions: Asia/Pacific, Middle East, Africa. Finally, US Public Approval takes a one box hit, to 40%. Our POTUS isn’t exactly making a big splash on the world stage. I blame Rachel. She blames Luke. They both blame me. This is uncomfortable….

In our penultimate segment of the Blue Activation, we perform our Focused National Intelligence roll in the Middle East. We get excellent results; our “National Means” are proving to be very helpful. First, we get to move a Lvl 2 Terror group directly to the Targeting box. We move another Lvl 2 Terror Group to the Gathering Intel box. Finally, we get some intel regarding enemy movement that gives us operational advantages in our war with the Rogue State. As a result, we add 2 strength to our side in that war.  We also decide to keep the FNI chit in Middle East. With the war ongoing and only one FNI chit at present, that’s our best choice.

Our final segment of the Activation Phase allows us a mix of 2 Diplomatic or Military Actions. For our first action, we choose to make a Special Ops Raid against the Lvl 2 Terror Group in the Targeted box in the Middle East. The Raid is successful in destroying part of the enemy Terror Group, with no casualties, but there’s also not much in the way of actionable intelligence captured. We decrease the Terror Group to Lvl 1 and they scatter to the Gathering Intel box. The Press gives us a slightly positive slant on the raid, and Public Approval improves by one box to 42%.

2) With our final action, we try to De-escalate tensions between the Gulf Council States and Iran. Their Conflict Track is at 3, only two boxes from War. Alas, we fail in the attempt, so the GS/Iran Conflict Track remains at 3.

This concludes the first Activation Phase of Round 1 – that’s 1/4 of the round, or roughly 6 weeks in real-world time. It’s been a bit of an unusual Phase, in that with two Domestic Crises and a Global Summit drawn from the cup, we’ve only seen one Crisis card thus far (normally we’d see 3-8, but you just never know…). You see, though, even with only one Crisis card out so far, that the world and domestic situation in Mr. President can change rapidly, even within the scope of just one Activation Phase.

Before we go, we want to give you a peek at what Russia and China look like at this point in the game. We haven’t reported every detail of what happened to them to this point, so here’s a snapshot look at their areas on the map. As you can see, Russia is a mess of Tensions markers, mostly owing to those initial Cascading Events we seeded at game start. We need to work on calming things down with Russia, or they’ll be at Posture 2 (there are only 2 postures now – we’re playing on a dated playtest map), which is a more aggressive posture, quickly. China’s much less of a problem for us right now, although their strong economy makes them a perpetual threat to move quickly to their auto victory condition of 15 total China Influence on the map.

We’ll be back next week with more of our game. We hope you are enjoying it so far. – Gene


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7 thoughts on “Three Presidents for the Price of One: Inside Mr. President (Pt 2)

  1. Amazing game. The narrative potentials here are amazing, with a new world generated each game. Talk about replayability! It’s fun watching you, Luke, and Rachel managing a Troika. (Say, this isn’t Mr. Premier, is it?)

    Question: Under Media Results, wouldn’t the difference between Friends and Opponents be 1, not 2?

    • I’m glad you’re enjoying the articles, David!

      On the Media, sorry we accidentally cut off the picture in this article. If you look back to Part 1, you’ll note that SML Tom Isao has a 2 Media Rating, Friend, Milana Tome has a 1 Media Rating, and Opponent Kathleen Bell has a 1 Media Rating. So that’s a net 2 in our favor.

      You are SO right about replayability. I was on the road this week, and took the game with me. Played a game where China and the Pacific almost took over the game in the beginning. So the actions I chose were radically different from the ones we chose in this game, because the situation required it. Hopefully what we’re creating is a very diverse and immersive story that draws you in again and again, inside a set of mechanics that you’ll learn quickly in your first game but use in many different ways to meet the game’s challenges. At least that’s what we’re aiming for! – Gene

  2. Poor Chicago, my home city!

    Is the location of the attacks something the game actually determines through rolling on a table or some other means, or is that just some narrative flourish?

  3. I see that the Russia / Ukraine conflict has its own track box. That as I understand it implies that there are certain “conflicts” that are repeated in the games, and by what I see, they are “modern” conflicts.

    It would not be a better “generic” track to put the letter of the country, or countries, involved in the conflict (so we could have since conflicts with USA-Cuba, Russia-Ukraine, Saudi Arabia-Israel, Russia-Afghanistan,

    I love the “narrative” aspect of the game, I look forward to the next article!

    • Hi Sam! Really glad you’re enjoying the game’s narrative. On the tracks, yes, this is a look at the contemporary Presidency, and the tracks reflect current areas of potential tensions and conflicts with major nations. As we add update packs for this game over time and create new boxed games for historical Presidents, this is as easy to change as adding one new player aid card to match new games cards that trigger or move the tracks. – Gene

      • “As we add update packs for this game over time…”

        You’re going to ruin me 😉

        A great idea to be able to add packs.

        Having a pack of the Kennedy Era, with Space Race included (and Bahica Cochinos, Misile Crisis,…) , will be a must have for every lover of politics.