Mr. President: A Month in the Life

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Last week, I let you guys know in our monthly update that I’ve been working on a solitaire game called Mr. President. Some of you read last year’s teaser article about the game, but virtually everyone is still in the dark about how this game plays. Well, it IS still in the design and alpha testing phase, but it’s starting to come together, so I decided to put together a sneak peek to give you a sense of how the game plays. So I’m going to let you guys virtually share in a round (one month) of game play – to look over my shoulder as I play – so you can get a sense of the flow of Mr. President and some of the things you have to think about as you play. I’m not going to teach you how to play the game in this article – that comes later – but I do hope to give you a sense of how you feel – and some of the things you think about – as you play.

One thing that I’d like you to pick up here is that I am not intending this to be a “beer and pretzels” surface level game. If that’s what you are looking for, RUN AWAY! 🙂 What I want is a game that is deep and immersive, one that will both frustrate and delight the solitaire player, an experience that will beckon you back to the game table after each round, turn, or completed game. I don’t think it’s quite “there” yet, but it’s well on the way.


As we pick up the action, we are six months into the game, my first playtest ever of the Moderate Complexity level in the game (we did all the initial alpha tests with the Easy Complexity level, and now I’m wanting to see how well the next level of challenge plays).

So in the first six months (Turn 1), chaos ruled, especially in the Middle East and Central Asia. Thus foreign policy took a big portion of my time and effort. The Moderate level At Start situation (I may have to tweak this) is pretty intense – Unstable Governments, Terror Groups, and Festering Crises are seemingly everywhere. I did get a little progress made on my two legislative programs (Homeland Security Improvements and Energy Independence) thanks to a couple of advisors who are quite skilled in the legislative process, but most of the action was overseas. I spent a few months tracking down the leadership of a huge (level 4 is highest in the game) Middle East Terror Group, and finally got actionable intel on their locations near the end of turn 1.  I gave the go ahead for a large SoF Raid in spite of the fact that the target location was deep in Indian country. Unfortunately, things did not go well; the terrorists somehow got wind of our intentions and the raid failed with heavy US casualties and the Terror leadership cell scattered. Public opinion took a big hit, and the ensuing scandal gave me no real choice but to replace my Secretary of Defense (one of the better Sec Defs available in the game). On top of it all, I lost a Legacy Point! Ouch! (Rolling 10’s is a bad thing in this game!) That was an ugly way to end turn 1, but it’s good to know that the game has some teeth and that the solitaire player can’t just Raid with impunity to solve the Terror problems.


So, as we begin turn 2 (this is July of the 1st year of my first term), the world still looks pretty messy, but fortunately there are no major wars on the board, so most of my overseas problems boil down to dealing with Unstable Governments, Terror, Humanitarian Crises, and trying to help my allies with their regional concerns, while keeping an eye on the Russians and Chinese to make sure they don’t get too adventurous.

Here’s a quick peek at the situation in the Middle East Region (definitely the most screwed up in the game right now) as we begin the turn:


Game Actions

Ok, so it’s Round (Month) 1 of Turn 2. The first thing we do is draw three sequential cards from the Turn deck (constructed from six Action cards that recur each turn  – Russia Acts, China Acts, Terror Acts, Congress Acts, Crisis Check, and War Progress Check – and twelve unknown Crisis cards shuffled in at the start of the turn). So we know those six will always show up, just not exactly when, and we never know the kind of challenge and chaos posed by the crisis cards that pop up around them. So here we go. Here’s our first card:

CRISIS CHECK: This card has us update all the crises on the map. There are a lot of them right now, and some of them have not been adequately addressed by me so far (hey, there’s only so much you can do at once!), so this hurts a little. We get a Trending Anti-US marker in South America – they perceived our slower-than-expected response there as a slight against the region. Ugh. We also got massive flooding in Central/South Asia that honestly we can’t do much about at this point (we waited too long to act). It has the potential to hurt us regionally at the end of the turn, when we do the Regional Chaos checks. We also managed to generate another minor Terror Group in the Middle East – like they don’t have enough terror problems there already! And because this card came up so early in the turn, before I’d had a chance to act, there were three previously minor crises that have escalated – in Central America, South America, and Eastern Europe. We don’t know exactly how they’ll hurt us yet, but we’re going to have to give them some attention, or something pretty bad will probably happen next turn when the Crisis Check card comes up again.

OK, on to card #2: “White House Scandal Embarrasses Administration.” This one cost us the loss of a couple minor advisors. Thankfully it wasn’t the newly appointed Sec Def or the Secretary of State, who are massively important to my success. I also took a Public Approval hit. That’s worrisome – I’m down to 34% approval now, and I started the game at 46%! (Why don’t they love me?! 🙂 )


The third and final card for Month 1 is “Border Skirmish in India.” It seems the Chinese (I rolled a “2”) and the Indians had a misunderstanding over some border issues. It was quickly brought under control, but the India/China Conflict Track  is increased by one box, to level 2 (at level 5 they go to war), and anxiety remains on each side.

Ally Actions

The next thing we do in the round is check (on rounds 1, 3, and 5) which of our Ally Groups is going to Act. Allies and Rogue Nations are broken up into three groups, and one gets to act at each of those times. So we randomly roll, and it’s Group C – Australia, Israel, India, and Game-Created Rogue Nations. This should be good for us because Allies usually give us some help in their regions. The process is to perform one action from a list for each ally (essentially they do something that YOU want them to do), then you roll once on their AI Independent Action Table – which is completely out of your control – to determine their independent action for the turn. So they do two things each; the first you have some control over, the second, not so much.

Australia: We try to get them to help us find a small Terror Group in East Asia/Pacific, but the attempt fails. For their independent action, they have some high level meetings with the Chinese that result in removing one Tension from China (a good thing, for more Tensions tend to equal more aggressive actions in the game).

Israel: This is always an interesting Ally – you guys will see when you get the game and take a look at their Independent Action Table. You just never know what’s going to happen with Israel. In this case, we try to get them to help relocate that Lvl 4 Terror Group that we whiffed on last turn, but they’re unable to get us any additional intel. For their Independent Action,  the Israelis are pretty tame this time. They do some joint training with the US, which in game terms builds their strength and readiness on the Israel/Neighbors Conflict Track. You can pretty much bet that at some point in the game, there will be Conflict involving Israel.

India: We ask them to help with an Unstable Govt in their region, and they succeed, through diplomacy and aid, in decreasing it from a lvl 2 to a lvl 1 Unstable Govt. Very helpful! That’s one action our already overworked Secretary of State doesn’t have to take. For their independent action – I didn’t see this coming! – a border problem with Pakistan just escalated into war! Neither side really intended it, but events spiraled out of control, and now there’s major fighting, and at least initially, the Pakistanis are getting the better of it, with heavy losses on both sides.

The game handles wars in a very basic manner – at least compared to some of our more detailed war-games (Crisis Series, anyone? 🙂 ). I’m pretty happy that we portray important aspects of the conflicts, while allowing the “war” part of the game to be handled quickly and easily, so wars don’t take over the game. In this case, our Allies got a bloody nose, and we’re probably going to need to give them some help soon.


Well, that was a big surprise, and that’s going to have an impact on my carefully prepared (yeah, right!) plan for the turn. OK, the last action is for any game-created Rogue States. At this point in the game, there is only one, in the Middle East. It is not currently at War, so we make one Independent Action AI roll for it. The result is DESTABILIZE. So we increase one of the Lvl 1 Unstable Govts in the Middle East to Level 2. The Destabilization Disease seems to be catching.

Well, the allies were not as helpful as I hoped they would be, but now we get to start taking some actions of our own.

More Assessment

Before I do, I want to take a minute to examine the game board. As I look at the world situation, right now China has no Tensions, so they are not very threatening. Russia has two, plus two Russia Influence markers in Eastern Europe, so we probably need to pay a bit more attention to them. There are a couple of serious terror groups (lvl 2s) in Africa. Both Central/South Asia and the Middle East are a mess. Then there’s the India/Pakistan war.  Closer to home, South America has a big Festering Crisis, a growing Terror Problem, a Lvl 2 Unstable Govt, and two China Influence markers, and there’s Trending Anti-US sentiment to worry about. Central America has similar issues, but no Chinese to worry about (yet). So the world has more problems than I have resources. And I am supposedly the “Leader of the Free World.” Why do I feel like the dam has 20 holes but I only have 10 fingers? If you’re going to spend much time with this game – and I hope you will – you should probably get used to that feeling. It’s just another day in the life of Mr. President….

At home, things look better, although I do still have some challenges. Neither of my Legislative Priorities has even passed phase one of the legislation process, so I need to get to work on those. I have three key political opponents at the moment, two of whom I consider long-term rivals who could threaten my chances at a second term. I need to find ways to marginalize them while I focus on trying to do what’s good for the country. All of my relationships – with the Media, Congress, and the general public, could use a lot of help. And both Homeland Security and the Economy are in need of improvements, as well. So I have my work cut out for me at home. (The Moderate Difficulty level starts all of these relationships/ratings lower than the Easy level, so you have a bit of a hole to dig out of, at least initially).


Player Actions

Now it’s time for me to use some of my various actions to address issues and try to clean up some of the mess at home and abroad. First, we’ll look overseas, where both my Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense are the key players. You can perform these actions or mix them in any order, but to help you guys keep track, I’ll start with the three Secretary of State Actions, then 3 for Sec Def, then any other possible actions.

Secretary of State (3 Actions): For Action 1, the Secretary is going to swing through East Asia and the Pacific and attempt to sway the countries of the region to extend favor to the US. Each region has a Regional Alignment Track, which runs from Anti-US (3) to Pro-US (7), with three stops in between. East Asia and the Pacific is currently at 6,”Leaning Pro-US.” The Secretary, Raoul Sanchez, makes his trip, and the response is tremendous. We place a “Trending Pro-US” marker on the Alignment Track. One more of these will move us to the “7” box, where we get additional benefits. Action 2 is directed at the new Lvl 1 Unstable Government in the Middle East. The Secretary orchestrates a package of economic and humanitarian support and spends time in high-level meetings to attempt to stabilize this government. Alas, the effort is for naught (at least for now), and the Govt remains Lvl 1 Unstable. The Secretary’s final action for the round is to head to Moscow and try to decrease tensions with the Russians. Unfortunately, the Kremlin is unreceptive to the Secretary’s entreaties, so we remove no Tensions from Russia. All in all, it’s been a busy but not terribly successful month for the Secretary of State.

Secretary of Defense (3 Actions): Action 1 will be to perform a Gather Intel action against 2 Terror Groups.  The targets are the Lvl 4 Terror Group in the Middle East (this is the one we targeted last turn and whose leadership scattered after the ill-fated raid) that is currently in the Gathering Intel Box and a Lvl 2 Terror Group in South America that is currently undetected (not on the Intel Track).


The way the intel piece works is you have Terror Groups in each region that are not tracked. As soon as you launch a successful Gathering Intel mission against one of them, it moves to the “Gathering Intel” box of the region’s Intel Track. On successive rounds (you can only make one attempt per round against a given Terror Group), additional Intel successes can move the group to the Locating Target box and finally to the Target Fixed box of the Intel Track. When it’s in the Target Fixed box, you can attack it. This roughly simulates the military’s “Find, Fix, Finish” approach in a very easy-to-use system.

So now for the Intel attempts: We get more Intel on the Level 4 Terror Group in the Middle East (and move them right one box to the Locating Target box), but in South America, where we have much less Human Intelligence infrastructure on the ground, we fail to gather enough detailed info on the Lvl 2 group to move them onto the Intel Track.

For Action 2, we are going to send some military aid (replacement parts, newer technology, etc) to India, embroiled in a conflict with Pakistan (yes, this would have sounded strange even 15 years ago. How alliances shift and times change!). This increases their strength from 5 to 6 on the War Status Track and should help them when the War Resolution Card is drawn later this turn.

For Action 3, we’re going to move both an Intel unit and a Special Forces unit to Africa, to help us deal with the Terrorist threats there in future rounds. The game allows us to move the Intel boys at no cost, but for the Special Forces unit, we have to place a US Military Footprint marker in Africa. We won’t learn until the end of the turn what unforeseen side effects we’ll experience from having troops operating in a foreign region.

Presidential Actions

If we had managed to move any Terror targets into the “Target fixed” boxes, even though we are out of Sec Def actions, I could have used Presidential Action Points to green light a strike, but that will have to wait until we get better intelligence. The only other thing I could reasonably do, military-wise, would be to deploy more troops to the Middle East and attack the Rogue State there. But wars are costly both to the State of the Economy and to Public Opinion, and both of those are a bit low for me right now. So I am going to wait on any larger-scale intervention. But you can bet I’m paying attention to that Rogue State.

General APs

Now I’ll take a look domestically to see what I can address. We have a couple of Crisis Cards (the White House Scandal and the India/Pakistan border skirmish) that we have to “resolve” by playing Action Points on them. If we don’t, and they remain “Unresolved” at the end of the turn, there are further negative consequences.

So I play 3 general APs on the White House Scandal and resolve it. That clears it from the Crisis Matrix and puts it into the “Footnote” resolution pile (I didn’t do anything special, but I handled the issue adequately). In order to get a “Positive” resolution to a crisis (which rewards you with an increase in both Public Opinion and Legacy Points), you have to spend more APs than the cost of the card and then pass a die roll. For now, I just want to get some space open on the Crisis Matrix because I’m expecting up to three more crises cards next round. For all these general APs as well as my Domestic Advisor counters, they are “one time per turn” use, so I need to be careful not to use too many resources here in Round 1.

Domestic Advisor APs


As you can see, I have two Normal (the lighter blue counters) Advisors who have “+1 SOE” notations on them. This means that their “1” ratings are actually “2” if used to try and improve the State of Economy Track (these are economic policy experts). By the way, these 7 guys were randomly drawn from a pool of 24 Advisors, so you’ll get all kinds of different Advisor mixes and capabilities each time you play Mr. President.

Anyway, our State of Economy Track sits at “5” (7 is best, 3 is worst), but it has an “Economy Worsening” marker on it. If I can successfully improve SOE, it will remove that Economy Worsening marker and keep it from possibly falling to “4” soon. It takes 4 Points to make an SOE attempt, so I spend both advisors and make the roll. I succeed! So, I remove the Worsening Economy marker from the SOE Track.

With Terror threats abounding, we’re also going to use our Veteran advisor (he’s a “3” with a “+1 if HS attempt” ability) to attempt to improve our Homeland Security capabilities. This takes four points to make the attempt as well, so we use him and roll. Another success! Alright, a few things are going our way! I increase the Homeland Security Track from 5 to 6. This will help us greatly if/when those Lvl 3 and 4 Terror Groups start launching attacks at the US Homeland.

I’m going to end the round here and save the rest of my resources for future rounds. Next we would move the Round (Month) marker ahead one space, draw three more sequential cards from the Turn Deck of mixed Crisis and Acts cards, and go through the above process again, as the world changes around and because of us. But we’re going to end our tour of the game here for now and come back another day to share more.

I know I haven’t shown you enough to find out “what happens” in this particular test game of Mr. President, but I hope I have given you enough detail so that you can have a sense of how it feels to play Mr. President and to experience a bit of the story that the game tells. With over 100 Crisis cards and so many different action options for both you and your allies, I hope you can see that each new play of Mr. President is going to unfold a completely new and different story. What we are creating, I hope, is something of a “world simulator” that tells the story of an evolving world at a high level and allows you to participate from the point of view of one (pretty important) participant in an effort to inject your priorities into the story in a way  that helps create a positive (from your point of view) impact on the world and on the story. As development progresses, I’ll post more articles and take you deeper into the game. For now, though, I hope you have enjoyed this brief look into the world of Mr. President.

– Gene



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51 thoughts on “Mr. President: A Month in the Life

  1. Very engaging Gene. I absolutely love the theme…. the idea of managing international politics by taking influencial actions is very relevant today, and something I am sure many will enjoy playing, as they tell their own world story. A huge topic to take on, and I am interested to see what types of events the game throws up. Thanks for sharing and looking forward to hearing more! Rick.

    • Glad you like it, Rick! A few Crisis Cards that showed up on Turn 1 (before the month in the article):
      Congress Reacts to Executive War Powers
      Russian Attack Sub Forced to Surface in Canadian Waters
      German Prosperity Fuels Increased Military Spending and NATO Support
      Southern European Debt Default Looms for the Eurozone
      Senator Directly Challenges President
      Manila Offers US Navy Unlimited Access to Subic Bay Naval Facilities

      That’s six cards out of a current 121. This game is going to tell some varied and hopefully awesome stories.

      And yes, it is a huge topic, but also a lot of fun, when it’s the game you’ve always wanted to design. Can’t wait until we get a bunch of testers up to speed with the system and see what they think about the events and what kind of additional events they suggest. This is definitely going to be one of those games that we release expansion card decks for over time, and one that will hopefully have a healthy (and designer-supported) community that posts Player-Created cards to further our enjoyment of the game.

      All the Best,


    • Hi Tom!

      I dunno yet how steep the curve will be. No way will this be a beer and pretzels game, but if we do our job right, it’ll be a deep, engaging game that you won’t have to spend forever to learn. I’m not going to be happy until we have the rules and player aids organized well enough so that by halfway through your first game, you’ve got it. Now developing winning strategy may take a bit longer…. 🙂

  2. Sounds fascinating, been looking forward to getting more information ever since you teased the game a while a go.

    If it’s a success it might be fun to explore historical expansions as well – being the President during the Cold War, WW2, etc.

    • I love the idea of the historical settings for expansions. It would be similar to how some Sports games go where you play out a full season, but here you would play out a presidency.

      This game, however, gets the historical geek in me excited. I’m looking forward to checking it out and would offer my services as a playtester if any are needed.

    • Glad you guys like this. Part of the plan is definitely to do historical games based on this system. I actually have a meeting tomorrow with John Welch, where we’re going to play the existing prototype and look at the specific system tie-ins for the first historical game, for which he’s handling the history and design research. We don’t want to announce anything for a while, because Job 1 right now is to finish the base game in the series. But, always “assuming anyone likes the game” :-), we’d like to do more looking at historical Presidents, among other things.

  3. The idea sounds great! I like playing solitaire and resource management games. However, many solitaire games are too random, either through a flip of a card or rolls of dice, to determine the “problems” the player has to face. In real world, though, many problems occur as a series of incidents, where the “player” can get clues or predict such occurrences and either interrupt the series of incidents or invest some resource in advance to face the problems when it really happens. That would feel more like handling the situation than pushing your luck, hoping the flip of next card would not make your empire collapse.

    • Hi Angus!

      Your “too random” comment mirrors very much what I think about as I’m designing this game. There has to be randomness in solitaire games, introduced by one means or another, in order to make the replayability high. But randomness that outweighs the decision-making of the player is a negative, in my view. Now there are still plenty of fun games that are really random, but I want this one to be a good blend of plenty of surprises but also a lot of things that you can see coming and try to address as you go or because of a proactive agenda. That’s the part of the game I’m really working on at the moment – to ensure that the player has strategic options and tools that allow him to take control of the narrative in places (albeit sometimes still with unexpected conseuquences). It’s not an easy thing to pull off, but it’s something I’m committed to.

  4. Looks impressive Gene,
    Being British it would be interesting to hear more on NATO actions, especially how UK, Germany and France act etc. Just considering Syria and how UK government didn’t assist, things like that.

    I love solitaire games as I don’t have too many friends to play but would be interested in the game time/length and the size of the playing area – it looks like a long and large game..

    • Thanks Jonathon!

      Right now, both NATO and the UK are Allies in the game. NATO represents all the close European and Canada allies (remember, we divide the world regionally so there’s not a lot of nation-specific focus except in special cases). The UK has a close historical relationship with the US even outside of NATO, so they got an Ally slot of their own as well. I’m not going to publicize much about how the Ally AIs work as I want to save some surprises for when you guys get the game, but both of these can help the US President in a variety of ways, albeit differently. And both can also act to further their own or European interests when the President wishes they wouldn’t! 🙂 That’s why I put that “one action that you have some influence over, one that you don’t” piece into the AIs.

      I just don’t know on play length yet, because I’m actively editing/designing as I play right now. I’d like to see it get into a 30 minutes per turn range (with would make it a 4 hour game), but right now with all the stops and starts on the design table it’s taking much longer. So I can’t really judge where it is yet, but 4 hours would be my aim point.

  5. This looks really cool.

    One thing to think about: There’s a fairly well known election game designed by Jack Carmichael and published by 3M in 1967 called “Mr. President”. What if you were to call your game “Ms. President” to distinguish it from the earlier game and at the same time demonstrate that you are aware that the President can be either a man or a woman?

    • The only issue is that people will ASSUME a specific person is meant to be Ms. President, no matter how often Gene says otherwise. 😉

    • Glad it looks cool to you, Eric!

      On the name, I like what we have right now. I think there’s not that much of an issue with an out of print game title, as that kind of thing happens all the time in the game industry. That said, I read and think about every comment you guys make (and I hear the feedback – an there’s been more of it on our Facebook page – about MRS instead of MR too), and if I ever think that something about the title will be a really big negative, then I’d be open to something else. But this is one of those that I’ve been living with in my head for so long, that I just have a hard time imagining calling it anything else!

      Thanks, as always for the feedback!


      • First, I’m purchasing in any case.

        Second, “Commander In Chief” might be a nice, gender-neutral yet powerful retitle. I would *love* to have more women interested in all aspects of the hobby, and any way to lower that bar resonates with me.

  6. As an old bureaucrat and government junkie, I’m all in for this game, and would like to play it today! As I mentioned on Facebook yesterday, this game is a must have for me, and I’m hoping it will be published in 2016! Also, in looking though the game example, I’m wondering if inter-agency “working groups” are included in the game, either overtly as a process step, or inherently in a chance dice roll on a table or some such. Inter-agency working groups or committees are often a hindrance to effective policy formulation, sometimes an enhancement, but more often a hindrance as each agency pursues its own agenda, which shockingly may not reflect the president’s agenda … anyway some sort of mechanism such as when selecting the two intel attempts, perhaps an inter-agency committee, e.g., CIA, NSC, State Dept., Defense Dept.) through internal bickering thwarts selecting one before you ever get to the less Human Intel infrastructure step … or perhaps before sending the secretary of state on his trio of actions, perhaps one of these is thwarted or changed by an inter-agency committee process step, and perhaps there is a really effective staff functionary that can be played who can thwart the committee hindrance … government is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I love it, and as I mentioned on Facebook, I’m thinking the lower levels of difficulty will be the learning levels, and the most advanced level will be where the real game is played! Can’t wait for this one!!

    • Hi Jan Paul!

      Thanks for all the great feedback! I’m glad you are excited about this game!

      I am attempting to achieve some effect of the process you describe though the use of a couple of “Bureaucratic Infighting” cards that are reshuffled into the deck whenever they pop up (so they can happen any time). Effects of these cards change based on what you roll when they come up, but they always cause “friction” in your process. So they might just take away a couple of general action points, or sideline one domestic advisor this turn, or hamper the next round of Intel attempts, or take some Progress off of one of your legislative items, etc. So I’m covering it at a high level – as that’s the level of the design – but I hope you’ll still get some of that feeling of being frustrated by the unexpected failure in one of the human links in the process.

      As to difficulty levels, the moderate level may surprise you. Yesterday, after I posted the article, I finished the game I was testing, and it was an early finish. I got an auto-loss at the end of turn 2 (the Middle East blew up on me). In game-terms, an auto loss means something like “Gene, your play thus far gives you no hope at ever rising above the rank of #47 in the list of 46 American Presidents. Reset and try again.” Chastised and Humbled by my own game…. 🙂



  7. Is there any chance to drop or change the “Mr.” in the title? There’s something about how it’s presented that is reminiscent of a treehouse sign saying “no girls allowed.”

    Other than that, this design has me incredibly excited and I hope you don’t take my comment as anything other than constructive.

    • Glad you like it, Rook, and I totally do take your comment as constructive. Thanks!

      I intend for this to be a line of games, not just one game, so I’m sticking with Mr. President as the title. But that doesn’t mean you won’t see women featured in other games in the series (or even in an expansion to this one in the future). If it makes you feel any better, the next game in the series that I’m going to be doing research for (John is working on Teddy Roosevelt) is focused on a woman in command. I’ll keep the details to myself for now, but trust me, there’s no “no girls allowed” bias at work here, at all.

  8. Hi Gene
    This game looks epic. Could be the next “Fire in the Lake” when it comes to depth and bang for your buck. Good luck with it and consider me sold. I too share the feeling of some others that historical expansion packs will allow the game to live way beyond it’s present era life span. Taking this idea back to the Kennedy or Reagan administrations for example, would truly be engaging due to the “Cold War” conflict among many other potential scenarios available. I can’t wait. Sounds like a winner.

    • Thanks Van!

      Yes, the plan has always been to have a series. That’s always assuming “players like the first one” of course, but I look forward to where we can go with this over time. Different eras, different countries, etc – if we can do this right. Stay tuned!

  9. Very excited by this game, i hope that there will be plenty of decisions to take and that C3i will published some new cards taking account of recent news or that there will be some Variant like French President or British Firt Minister an d an Expansion for Lincoln. Can’t wait to have the official forum to l earn more.

    • Hi Florent! Yes, I agree with you about new cards and expansions. I definitely want to do that, although I confess that at the moment, I am consumed by getting the details of this first game right.

      As to a forum, I’ll set one up on Consimworld once we start outside playtesting. I’m hoping to hand this off to our developer for testing in a couple months, but we’ll see how it goes.

  10. This looks fantastic. You can’t release this fast enough for me!

    Although it seems to me that it would be a great help if there was some left-to-right, top-to-bottom organization of the map that will facilitate the order of play – so that you can sweep through the board once and then you’re done with a round….

    But I do think the title is terrible. It makes it sound so prosaic and folksy when it seems like the game is going for a global setting with crises at home and abroad.

    I like “Commander in Chief” as well… maybe “CINC” would look cooler on a box?

    more options:

    – “The West Wing – The Board Game!” (better late than never?)
    – “Executive Actions”
    – “POTUS” (meh)
    – “The Presidency” (meh too)
    – “Oval Office”
    – “Situation Room” (different areas of the board can be different situation rooms?)
    – “SitRep”

    anyway, the game looks terrific and I hope that I get it in my grubby hands sooner than later!

  11. This will be an instant buy for me. Looks ver very good.

    I hope the domestic issues you have to deal with get as much attention and detail as the foreign issues in this game.

    Do you have to worry about re-election? I hope so.

    • Yes, if you don’t get re-elected, you lose the game. (That’s just ONE of several ways to lose).

      There was definitely a point in development where it was more fun to play the “world” part of the game, but I’ve spent a lot of time recently getting plenty of detail and tough choices on the domestic side, too, so I think you guys will find the domestic part of the game interesting and challenging. I’m improving the legislative system for the game now, so of course, development continues….

      Glad you like the looks of it, Patton!

  12. What a wonderfull design !

    I often dreamed about a game like this ! Political games are poorly represented in the hobby ans they have a huge potential in my opinion. And I love political issues.

    This example show us a lot of actions for the foreign issues. Are there the same deepness for Interior Issue, coming elections etc ?

    • Thanks Thomas! Glad you like the approach!

      As I wrote to Patton, above, you’re going to have lots of choices on the domestic side, too, with legislation, managing various domestic game states, political friends and enemies, and more. I hope you’ll find it quite deep. My goal has been to make it similar in depth to the foreign policy side of the game, and I think it’s getting pretty close.

  13. I once tried to design a game like this, unsuccessfully I’m afraid, so I’m 110% eagerly awaiting this one. I’m curious how the player wins or loses. In my design, the player had to win re-election or, if played through a second term, secure the election of a successor from his or her own Party. Otherwise, he or she lost. I, too, hope the Presidency can be gender-neutral. I also hope there’s equivalent attention paid to dealing with Congress and with domestic issues as with Foreign affairs, military interventions, etc. Also having to deal with ambitious rivals in the other Party who wish to be President (or, heck, rivals in one’s own Party. And I hope there’s some attention paid to natural events, such as climate change, earthquakes or storms (Katrina anyone?) that can affect a Presidency.

    For a title, I really like the suggestion of Hail to the Chief.

    Gene, as far as I’m concerned, you’re a game god for tackling this topic. I look forward to a long run with this game, with historical expansions, new crisis cards, etc. This could be the COIN series of the future. Well done! Can’t wait!

    • Hi David!

      I remember quite a few conversations and emails with you going way back to the early days of GMT. So first off, thanks for supporting us for all this time!

      It’s cool that you worked on a game like this. I’ll tell you, this is by FAR the most difficult design challenge I’ve ever encountered, so I understand how hard it is to make a game like this work.

      Regarding Winning and Losing, you win from a mix of VPs and Legacy Points that come from a compendium of your actions and accomplishments throughout the game. There’s no auto-win, but there are quite a few ways to auto-lose. If you manage to avoid all of them (and I hope I’m making it a good challenge 🙂 ), but you lose the election, then you STILL lose. 🙂

      And, as noted in a couple of responses above, I’ve been paying particular attention to the domestic side of things of late. Early on, it just wasn’t as much fun as all the foreign policy stuff, so I had to do some redesign to try to get some of that same “deep and challenging but not difficult to manage game-wise” feel that we had on the foreign policy side. I think it’s getting there, and now we’re tweaking, adding cool cards, and playing for balance. So it’s getting closer, but there’s still work to be done.

      I wish you lived close – would love to have you come over and play it. But if I remember correctly, you’re pretty far away from sunny Central CA, so that’ll have to wait for now. But when we get a VASSAL module ready for testing, let me know if you want to take the game for a spin.

      All the best,


      • Gene, thanks. This game sounds better and better the more you describe it. Believe me, I wished I lived closer, too…don’t suppose you want to move to cloudy, rainy Seattle? :-))

        I’m totally up for playtesting this one, so when a VASSAL module or something else is ready, let me know and I’ll definitely take it for a spin.

  14. One of the areas that forms a President’s legacy is the ability to appoint Supreme Court Justices, something not every President gets to do (especially appointing a Chief Justice). When the opportunity arises, it becomes the focus of a major battle with Congress, depending on the make up of that Congress, of course, for the results will last longer than the President’s term of office and may shape national affairs for decades to come. While not exactly a crisis, this could be a Domestic Opportunity that comes up rarely in the game but one that requires special actions from the Prez and could have a large impact on his or her legacy (or lack of it, if Congress rejects his or her choice).

    Likewise, the Supreme Court can make decisions that affect a President’s Agenda (witness the recent narrow escape of Obamacare which the Court could have gutted) and Legacy. A particular decision could add or detract from a President’s power. And Court decisions can dramatically affect the political landscape, such as Roe v Wade or Citizen’s United or the recent rule on Gay Marriage. Political consequences flow from such decisions and can give rise to domestic crises or opportunities with which the President must deal.

    I guess I’m hoping that the game will model in some way the relationship with the Court as well as with Congress. Particularly if you get into historical expansions, you could include events like F. D. R.’s attempt to pack the Court.

    • As a foreigner ( french) i also hope that there will be domestic issues and relations with other assets like Congress, opponents etc…
      Since 1996 there is the problem of automatic rifles in the USA after numerous slaughter especially in schools but recently in a church. Perhaps a possibility for Mr President to take the challenge to fight the powerful NRA and opponents.

      I also agree with cards like Kathrina/Catastrophe : If you don’t visit the victims like G. Bush in Louisiana => you pay the consequences.
      I don’t know what was the Result for B. Obama when he didn’t come to to Paris in January after Charlie but for F. Hollande our President, the march in Paris gave him +21 in opinion (19 to 40 %).
      Thus after a terrorist attack you can react by a speech, the organization of a reunion or a march for example.
      If a friendly country suffers from a terrorist attack you can send the Secretary of State or yourself (the President), in game terms you forfeit 1 or 2 out of your 3AP or Secretary of State 3 AP. Same when you choose to visit the victims of a catastrophe.

      • I wanted to say either you forfeit AP and get more favorable opinion or ignore opinion and do more things. Thus for some cards you are not forced to act.

    • Thanks for that, David. Very thoughtful and thought-provoking. I currently have cards for the relationship with the Supreme Court (and the option for new nominees) but there’s no full-on model of that relationship in any detail. And honestly, I’m not sure I want one. A big piece of figuring my way through this design has been deciding what to model in more detail and what to simulate more simply. Right now Congress has a lot more detail than the Supreme Court, and it may well stay that way unless testing shows a problem. But your post has helped me think about how maybe to give a bit more depth to the relationship with the court in any event. Thanks again!

      • Gene, I think your approach of just modeling this through event cards is right. The main power a President has vis a vis the Court is to appoint Justices which can then shape the character of the Court and thus future decisions (though certainly this doesn’t always work out as expected, as witness Justice Kennedy’s take on gay marriage even though he was a Reagan appointment). If an opportunity to appoint a Justice were to arise in a President’s term, though, it would require player decisions as to how much political capital or APs to spend to put a nominee on the Court who would add to his Legacy. So I was thinking of the Court not as an ongoing part of the game (except as potential event cards as you already have) but as providing an unexpected but powerful opportunity to advance one’s Legacy and possibly influence over future legislation. The design I was working on way back in the day was two-player, not solitaire, so the non-President player represented both Congress and the Court and could potentially declare the President player’s new legislative triumph “unconstitutional”, giving the Presidential Player a setback. But in your design, that could just be represent by a card event requiring a die roll to determine victory or defeat on the Court. But if the player had appointed a Justice, then that would modify that die roll in his favor. (Just thinking out loud–I really do have other things to do, but thinking about your game is fun and habit-forming!)

  15. Gene, on July 7, you answered Jan Paul saying you got an auto-loss when the Mid-East “blew up”, presumably in war. Does war breaking out cause auto-loss or can you be a war time President (like Bush) assuming other things are going OK? Can the President fight and win (or lose) a war in the game? Obviously better if there is no war, but sometimes unavoidable, as with FDR or Wilson. So I’m curious how war is handled in the game.

    • There’s definitely war, David. But it’s really rare to auto-lose because of war. The reason I lost the referred to game was because there are thresholds for chaos in each region beyond which there are penalties to the player. The worst of these is an auto loss in very extreme case. I got into a situation where I didn’t deal with the Rogue States quickly enough, and also had wars, festering crises, and a LOT of terror problems in the Middle East. It surprised me though (my playtest kit doesn’t have numbers on the Rogue States so I forgot to add them in my mental calculations during the turn – have to FIX THAT! 🙂 ) – when I got to the Chaos Check at the end of the turn and saw the Rogue States, it was one of those “Oh NO!!!!” moments. Oh well, the beauty of Mr. President is that I can start again and a whole new world awaits.

      I’ll be doing more updates. The next one will probably highlight the domestic side because I didn’t show much of that in this article. But after that, at some point, I’ll give you guys a closer look at how wars work. It’s a VERY high level treatment, but (I think) it’s elegant. John loved it when he got to see it first-hand last week.

  16. Mr. Billingsley,

    Being a politics junkie and a fan of GMT games, this sure seems like it’s going to be a “must have” for me but a couple of questions about the design if I may. I’m curious if personal policy has any effect in the game; i.e., can you take a left/right/neutral stance of various foreign and domestic policies in a way that it may affect your approval ratings or the ability to get things through Congress? Any of that kind of stuff? You’re “AAR” above was an interesting read and I realize that it’s just a very brief overview of a game that is essentially in the “alpha” stage at this point but to me it seems that most/much of the game is running around “putting out fires”- reactionary – to things that happen around you the player. That would be something in line with a ‘Twilight Struggle’ type of game in my opinion; do you see Mr. President being more along those lines? Thanks!

    • Hi Gary!

      I’m glad Mr. President interests you!

      First off, your question about left/right stance. I am doing my best to keep any partisan political views out of this game. I don’t want the game to get embroiled in the ongoing “hate-hate” relationship that polarizes Americans along partisan lines. I just want to create a really cool resource management game that lets you be President and make the kind of decisions that face him

      So, that said, the game DOES absolutely represent the reality that you have political opponents. It just doesn’t take a point of view as to which real life parties might be best or whose policies are better. In the game, you’re faced with a lot of “which of these things do I address first” kind of decisions, or “what/who can I safely ignore”, or “what’s the best sequence here?” and not so much the “what’s the best approach to fix social security?” type of decisions. I can’t imagine how to design a fun boardgame that would give you open-ended “what’s the best solution?” options – and honestly I don’t think I’d have enough time to play a game like that, as I think it would take forever to play. What I’m going for here is a game where you have all kinds of resources of various types, and the challenge is to utilize those resources most efficiently to deal with the crises that the game presents. And it’s definitely at a higher level, so you don’t get mired in the minutae of governing or policy-making.

      OK, next question hits on the core of what I’m trying to do. Certainly if the only piece of the game was the 18 Crisis cards that come up each turn, you could have a game where you’re running about putting out fires and always in reaction mode. And there IS a good amount of that in the game. But I didn’t want that to be all you get with Mr. President. So there is also proactive decision-making, planning, the ability to set a strategic direction and spend resources in advance to lay the groundwork for something you want to accomplish later. I’ll tell you that I’m still not satisfied with the mix of proaction/reaction, and I’m still working to improve it. Rest assured I’m not going to release this game to production until I (and Bryan and our internal and eventually external testers) are happy with that mix.

      Those were really good questions. I hope these answers give you a better sense of where I’m going with Mr. President.

  17. There is going to be a TEDDY ROOSEVELT version for this game? Wow. I’d love to do an historical version of this with Teddy’s presidency.

    • Yes, we’re planning a Mr. President series, where (assuming I do this first game right!) we’ll examine historical Presidents and eventually perhaps even leaders of other countries in various eras. John Welch is working on a Teddy Roosevelt MP game, which will likely be Game #2 in the series. My big job at this point is to lock down systems for this first game that are easily adaptable for the historical games, so that players who play game 1 will already know how to play the basic systems but each game will have a unique card deck and some variation of the tracks and subsytems to adapt the basic system to specific historical Presidencies.

  18. Hi Gene
    I’m really looking forward to and am excited by this – and I’m not even American!

    I was wondering about the Legislative Priorities, and how ‘generic’ they are? Do they just have general topic headings like “Health Care”, and then in your own mind that represents whatever approach you want it to?

    I will be really curious to see what actions Australia takes in the game – cool to see us reducing tension in China in your example!


  19. Thank you, this sounds like a wonderful game, and I partially recognize some elements of Republic of Rome that I have just learned to play (and instantly loved).
    One question: when you shipped military aid to India… was there a chance/die roll that Pakistan found out about it and your influence there dropped further, or is this all out in the open and they are not an ally anyway? Sounds like any aid given, would/should have potential negative effects on other states in the region. Or am I getting it wrong?
    Looking forward to getting to play this.

    • Hi Marius!

      Glad you like what you’re seeing in the advance sneak peeks at Mr. President. I am on a bit of hiatus from the design for a few more weeks, as I am focused on our systems transition at GMT. But by late October or so, I’ll start posting some additional articles.

      Re your question, there’s a possibility that aid to any ally that has a Potential Conflict Track (and India has one both with Pakistan and China) may increase the value of the Track, escalating general tensions between the potential adversaries.

      I hope this is helpful!