Welcome to another look inside Mr. President!
(Please note that not only is all the art you see below playtest art, it’s playtest art mostly created by me, and I have trouble drawing straight stick figures! It’ll look a lot better when our artists do their magic!)
This time, we’re going to start a new game, and give you a sense of how you populate the game board, choose and prepare your assets, assume your persona, and dive into a new story. First off, let’s introduce YOU, the newly-elected President!
You make a few die rolls and find out that you are a 40-something male (you can have different ages and potentially gender here) who just won the election handily! In game-terms, that means that a) you’re relatively young, and thus less likely to die in office – unless you make someone really, REALLY mad – and b) you get to start on the public Public Opinion Track at 52%. This is the EASY setting for the game, although I’m betting some of you will question my definition of “Easy” as you play (and maybe LOSE!) a few games of Mr. President.
Now let’s find out about your Special Attributes. There are eight Presidential Ability markers in the game and you get to randomly choose two at game start. You MIGHT get another during game play (gaining experience and expertise), but for now, these are your special talents. We draw, and get LIKEABLE and TEAM BUILDER. You were probably hoping for PERSUASIVE SPEAKER – always a good one – but the ones you have are good attributes. We’ll set these two markers in front of you for now and use those abilities in a few minutes.
You’re playing the EASY level of the game this time, so we’ll now place the markers for Presidential Prestige and the remaining four Domestic Tracks (Relations with Congress, Media Relations, State of the Economy, Homeland Security) at 6.
To round out our Domestic Situation Set-up, you set your Advisor Experience marker in the leftmost “Green” box, and draw five normal and two Veteran advisors. But wait, because one of your Attributes is TEAM BUILDER, you get to draw one extra normal Advisor at start. So, here’s your Advisor mix for the game:
Not a bad mix of advisors at all. One of the Veterans is a Legislative All-Star and will certainly help you get your Legislative Agenda going. The other is strong in Homeland Security. The non-vets give you a wide variety of capabilities, all of which you’ll need – trust me. So you place all of the Advisors in the Unused section of the Advisor box.
Now to Congress. You are playing the EASY difficulty, so your party has a “Slight Majority” in each house. So you place those markers in the Majority Control box in the US Congress section of the map. Now you’ll establish Public Priorities for Legislation by choosing two from the list list of 14 and randomly drawing three more.
You chose “Education Reform” and “Job Creation Package” and drew “Cyber Security,” “Energy Independence,” and “Finance Reform.” Now you’ll randomly fill the “Public Legislative Priorities” box by drawing those five markers in sequence. Here’s what they look like when you are finished:
Next, you establish your top three Legislative Priorities. You decide to go with what the people want (and potentially reap extra benefits for matching them), so your priorities are:
• Job Creation Package
• Energy Independence
• Education Reform
The last aspect for Congress is drawing Congressional Friends and Opponents.
These are your strongest supporters and staunchest foes in the legislature. Because you have a majority in each house, you get to draw three friends and two opponents in each house from a mix of 24 possible friends/opponents.
Here’s what you drew:
One of the fun aspects of Mr. President is that there’s a lot of random drawing during the setup, so you have a new situation every time you play – and that’s BEFORE you start flipping Crisis Cards. So let’s take a brief look at this Friends/Enemies mix in Congress:
In the House, two of your three Friends are STAUNCH (the ST at bottom left and darker counter color), which means these guys will always help when chosen. The non-Staunch friends need extra incentives from you (Favors or APs) or passing a die roll in order to be effective in your cause. So in the house, you’re looking really good, with a total of 8 Power ratings (bottom right) to just 2 (and one Staunch) for your opposition. One of those opponents is a potential Presidential Rival, so you’ll have to keep an eye on Douglas Tate – even though he’s not real powerful at start. (Note: Those hand-scribbled numbers on the counters are a random range that is used when some Crisis cards affect certain of your Friends or Opponents).
In the Senate, you’re going to have a rougher time. Both of your opponents are powerful (3 is highest) and Staunchly opposed to you (for opponents, this means you can’t buy off their influence with Favors). Worse yet, one of them – Gates – is a Potential Presidential Rival – and a strong one. You have one Staunch Friend in the Senate, and generally a pretty powerful group. But those Opponents are going to be tough. (You make a note to get one of your “Subvert PO”-rating Advisors working on weakening Charles Gates….) At least initially, the Senate is going to be your bigger challenge. Thank goodness you have a majority, or you’d be in real trouble there.
Now you place all of those At-Start Friends and Opponents onto the Political Influence Track. Rivals go in the “5” space. Those with Power Ratings of 3 go in the “4” space. Everyone else starts in the “3” space. Then you put all the unselected Friends and Opponents into one of the random draw cups, to potentially be drawn out during the game as events unfold.
The last thing you’ll do on the Domestic side is choose your one “Exceptional White House Resource.” There are five cards that represent people or groups who are just amazing at what they do. They offer extra special resources to the President, in various ways. At the start of the game, you get to randomly select one of these cards and use it throughout the game. Once you’ve chosen your card, you permanently discard two more of the five cards, then shuffle the remaining two into the Crisis Deck. So you MIGHT get more Exceptional Resources during the game. For now, you shuffle the five cards and draw AMAZING SECRETARY OF TREASURY. Here’s what he does:
So this is going to help you economically – an “Improving Economy” marker once a turn is a big deal – and save you (because of his prudence and foresight) from one financial crisis during the game.
Now you’ll quickly set up the world, based on the World setup sheet. I should mention that we are testing with one basic sheet (for consistency in evaluating results), but I’ve structured this part of the game so that we (or you) will be able to create new Setup Situations very easily. When you think about how much the world changes over just a year or two, I think this is going to be a welcome aspect to the game, as we plan to create – and encourage customer-created – new World Setup cards as pdfs periodically online.
Here’s a quick glance at a few of the world’s regions, at Start.
Now we’ll choose your Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State, your two key Cabinet members (game-wise). The reason we wait until after the world is drawn for these two is we want you to see the world setup before you make these decisions. So there are eight possible candidates for each position. You place all of each time in a draw cup and draw three of each. These are your final vetted candidates for the position. You get to pick the one you want from the vetted candidates. Here are the candidates you drew:
For the Secretary of State, the ratings are:
Left#: Diplomacy Rating
Right#: Russia/China Rating
Also, above the ratings in the center is a special ability. So in evaluating the candidates, Wallace and Sanchez have the best numerical ratings (although Hallsten is awesome with China). So your decision point comes down to whether you think you’re going to need Mediation ability or ability to deal with Rogue nations more in the game. You look at Iran and North Korea and that Rogue State in the Middle East and decide you want Raoul Sanchez as your Secretary of State.
For the Secretary of Defense, the number ratings represent Planning (left) and Operations (Right). Like the Secretary of State, they also have a Specialty in the middle above the numbers. So you dismiss Massey immediately, as his ratings are inferior to the other two. Campbell and Mercer are identical in terms of ability, but Campbell is oriented toward Hi Tech and Mercer is a master at building and deploying Special Operations Forces. This is a tough call, but you are swayed by all those Terror markers dotting the map, and decide you want Ivan Mercer for your Secretary of Defense.
You quickly build and shuffle the Crisis Deck, draw 12 off the top and put together with the six recurring cards. You shuffle these and place them in the “Current Turn Deck” space on the map.
Now you’re ready to start the game! You spend a few minutes evaluating the board and thinking about what you want to prioritize in your first six months. You decide that you want to take advantage of your “honeymoon period” with Congress, and focus all your efforts initially on getting your legislative agenda passed.
Just imagine your chagrin, then, when the first Crisis Card you draw to begin the turn is “PREVIOUSLY UNKNOWN TERROR GROUP BOMBS THE EIFFEL TOWER: THOUSANDS DEAD OR INJURED.” So much for focusing on your legislative agenda….
Next time in Part 2: The first month of your Presidency, or “How to Simultaneously Juggle Knives and Breathe Fire.”