In Part 1 of this article, we looked at all the Set-up options, processes, and decisions when you begin a game of Mr. President. This article picks up where that one left off, as you begin play on Turn 1. We’ll cover the first month of your Presidency this time.
Note that over the past several months, I have streamlined the way the game deals with both Instability and Crises in a region. We still track Instablility and Crises per region, but I’ve eliminated the fiddliness of dealing with a bunch of chits marking Unstable Governments and Festering Crises. So the map situations you see in this article are going to look a bit different from those in the preceeding article due to these changes. Here’s a peek at Africa as an example.
At the beginning of Turn 1, there are several things we do/update before we start rounds (the monthly cycle of play):
Set Strategy Options: These are a fairly recent addition to the game that came about after a conversation with Volko when he was staying with us during the Fall Weekend at the Warehouse. This is a 3 x 3 Matrix that allows you to set several aspects of your Mr. President strategy and approach.
You Choose PRAGMATIST for your Domestic Personality. This is the middle choice in the matrix, and makes no modifications to any game systems. (Your other options were PEOPLE PLEASER and VISIONARY.)
You Choose FOREIGN POLICY FOCUS. This is the right-most choice in the section. It modifies your normal Actions per round by focusing heavily on your Foreign Policy. What that means in game terms is you get 4 Defense Actions per round, but only 2 Legislative Actions (the base in the game is 3 and 3). This option also allows you to have a maximum of 2 Defense Specialties at game start. So you should be in decent shape on the FP front. Just don’t expect to see your legislative agenda flying through Congress, as you have other fish to fry, at least for now. (Your other options are DOMESTIC FOCUS and MIXED DOMESTIC/FP).
You Choose HI TECH FORCE/LIGHT FOOTPRINT for your Military Structure and Intervention Policy. This is the middle choice in this section. Here you are foregoing both LARGE FORCE/HEAVY FOOTPRINT and SMALL FORCE/DEFEND CONUS AND ALLIES ONLY in favor of going lighter and more hi-tech, but still being very much committed to military intervention as needed overseas. This choice allows you an additional Defense Specialty (over the 1 you get for your Sec Def), so you choose INTEL to add to the SPECIAL OPS you already have. Now you’ll get some extra DRM help on your Intel rolls. And because you’ve streamlined the force, you won’t pay extra Economic cost as you would with the LARGE FORCE/HEAVY FOOTPRINT selection. The downside is that you may initiate war, but when you do, except in defense of your allies, you can only deploy Air/Intel/Marines/SOF, not heavier forces.
You’ll be able to adjust any of the choices in the matrix for free on a yearly basis (when you make your State of the Union speech each year), or if you really feel you need to (think 9/11), anytime during the turn. If you take the “anytime” option, though, you may pay a cost in potential lost resources, relationships, and public opinion.
OK, continuing the Turn 1 Pre-Round sequence:
- Collect General Action Points (APs): You get these based on how strong your economy is at this point. In this case, your State of Economy (SOE) Track is at “6”, so you get 20 General APs for the turn.
- Address Congress – State of the Union (Turns 1,3,5,7). This is a simple die roll, cross indexed with how you are doing on four major domestic tracks. In this case, you roll pretty well, and get a one box increase in Public Opinion (from 52% to 54%) and 2 extra General APs. Good speech!
- Check Friends and Opponents. Each turn, some of your Friends/Opponents in Congress might become more influential. (They can also rise or fall based on how they perform for or against your legislation in Congress, but this roll represents their general rise in popularity and influence on the national stage.) You roll one die and improve by one box on the Influence Track any legislator for whom the result falls within the Range (the hand-written number) on their counter. You rolled an ‘8.” Here’s what the track looks like after you’ve improved the influence of the Legislators. Two friends and three opponents got stronger.
- Place Economic Assistance markers. Here’s your first big Foreign Policy decision for the turn – where to spend your Economic Assistance markers. You could spend them to help the economy of the Eurozone, on investments in Russia or China, to try to improve quality of life (Stability and/or US reputation) in any of the eight regions, or to assist an Ally. You get Economic Assistance markers based on your State of Economy. It’s currently “6,” so you get four markers. This early in the game, your Allies and Europe’s State of Economy are in pretty good shape, so you choose to use the four markers to attempt to improve Stabilty or Alignments in four regions that could use some help: Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Central/South Asia. Unfortunately, three of your four Assistance die rolls fail completely, but one succeeds with an “Alignment” result in Africa, so we place a “Trending Pro-US” marker there. One more, and it’ll move their Regional Alignment to a “6.” (Note: I’m considering whether to increase the base US Economic Assistance level to something like “2 attempts to help an Ally or the Eurozone’s Economy plus whatever the US State of Economy allows – at start, FOUR – as attempts to help out troubled regions. I like the idea that we’d always help our allies or Europe – though we’d have to prioritize in a crunch – and that we’d still not be able to assist more than half of the world regions with aid – keeping the choices interesting. So I’m going to start testing with that modication. We’ll see how it goes.)
- Take Benefits/Effects for Presidential Attributes. Presidential Strategies, and Exceptional White House Resources. So you place an Improving Economy marker on the US SOE Track (for your Amazing Secretary of Treasury) and improve Public Approval by one box (for your LIKEABLE Presidential Ability). You also get one Defense Specialty (for your High Tech/Light Footprint Military Policy), so you choose SPECIAL OPS, and move your Special Ops rating up by one box. You’ll now get an added -1 DRM to all your Special Ops Raid die rolls.
Now you’re ready to start the first round.
Round 1 – January:
Crisis Phase: Each round (month) you’ll draw and implement three Crisis cards. Here you go….
Crisis Card #1: C50 – PREVIOUSLY UNKOWN TERROR GROUP BOMBS THE EIFFEL TOWER: THOUSANDS DEAD OR INJURED. Wow, this is bad. Place a new Level 2 Terror Group in the Eurozone and increase the Crisis marker from the “0” box to the “2” box in Europe. You offer to help track down the terrorists with your Spec Ops assets, but alas, you prove ineffective. After getting no results, your Public Approval at home drops by two boxes (to 50%) and you lose the “Trending Pro-US” marker that used to be on the Eurozone Alignment Track. You place the Crisis Card on the Crisis Matrix, where you’ll need to spend 4 APs later to deal with the ongoing aspects of the crisis.
Crisis Card #2: C116 – JIHADISTS INFILTRATE EUROPE. Ouch! This game is starting out with a LOT of Terror problems in Europe. This is one of the worst “Add Terror Groups” cards in the game, adding one Lvl 1 and one Lvl 2 Terror Group to both the Eurozone and Eastern Europe, as well increasing the Crisis marker by one box in each region. (Note that this puts the Crisis marker in the “3” box in the Eurozone – one more and we have to draw for a major crisis.) Ugh. You place this card in the “Crisis Two” spot on the Crisis Matrix, where it will cost you 3 APs eventually to deal with the crisis’ ongoing issues. Europe looked “clean” just two cards ago. Now it looks like this:
Crisis Card #3: TERROR ACTS (One of the 5 Recurring Cards). When it rains, it pours. More terror! Normally this card would allow one Terror Group on our Intel Tracks to disperse and evade location, but we don’t have any groups targeted yet. Next we roll a d10 to determine what kind of general terror problem we’re going to get. Our roll is a 3, which means we create a new Lvl 1 Terror Group in two Random Regions. We roll for the random regions and get Central America and Eastern Europe. So they’re coming for us closer to home, and piling on in Eastern Europe!
Allies and Rogues Phase (Rounds 1,3,5 only): In this phase, you’ll randomly select one of the three Ally/Rogue groups and perform all their actions. You randomly select Group B, which is the UK, Japan, and North Korea.
With each ally, you get two actions – one that you can influence and one that is unilateral. We’ll start with the UK:
UK: For the action that you get to choose, your best options look like either Intel – to try to find some of the terrorists in the Eurozone – or Crisis Relief. You decide to encourage the Brits to locate some terrorists. Your Intel roll is a modified “4,” so they succeed and begin to build a file on one of the Lvl 2 Terror Groups in the Eurozone. You place its counter in the “Gathering Intel” box of the Eurozone Intel Track.
For the UK Unilateral action, you roll one die. They aim their political and diplomatic muzzles at Moscow, and they remove one Russian Influence marker from the Eurozone! Here’s a peek at the Eurozone region now.
Now on to Japan. With two Terror units running free in Asia/Pacific, you encourage Japan to help you track them down. Unfortunately, your intel roll fails, so those Terror Groups are still in the wind.
Japan’s unilateral action roll results in Humanitarian Aid to Africa. Decrease the Crisis marker in Africa by one box, to “2.”
OK, time for North Korea. Rogue Nations get one unilateral roll per turn, but the results can be quite provocative. At game start, North Korea is under UN sanctions and they have one Tensions marker. So they’ll have a couple of DRMS to their roll, which could provide some fireworks. In the event, they get a “Missile Tests” result, which places a new Tensions marker on Japan and South Korea. Additionally (because they got a shaded result) they also evaded sanctions and advanced their nuclear program (to 4 on a 5-step track), which added a further two tensions marker on both North and South Korea. It also increased the DPRK/ROK Conflict Track from 2 to 3. Things are heating up on the Korean Peninsula!
AP Initial Spending Phase: Here you can spend APs (Presidential, Advisor, or General). So this is where you get to start hitting back at the Crises and doing some proactive work for the future.
- You choose to spend 4 General APs to help the French recover from the Eiffel Tower bombing, moving that card off the Crisis Matrix. (Its effects are now finished, game-wise, but the Terror Groups and Crisis Track increase it created in the Eurozone are an ongoing problem.)
- Continuing your help to a Europe recovering from the Eiffel Tower bombing, you place 2 General APs to attempt to decrease the crisis track in the Eurozone. In this case, you roll a “4” (needed a 1-5), and get to reduce the Crisis Track in the Eurozone from “3” to “2,” which buys you a little breathing space from a major crisis.
- You decide you want to start garnering some favor with the UN. There is wisdom here, as the UN can be very helpful in stabilizing regions, halting or preventing wars, and invoking sanctions. Then again, sometimes they’re not so effective. To tilt the UN toward “effective” (in your view), you need to build up some goodwill. So you also spend 1 Presidential AP (of your allotted 10 – Presidential Prestige +4 – for the entire turn) to make a speech at the UN, which garners you one “US Goodwill” marker, which you bank in the US Goodwill section of the UN Display. That will likely come in handy later, as the UN acts on Rounds 2,4, and 6 of each turn. So you’re building up some ammunition to help you at the UN or with World Opinion when the time comes.
- You task an advisor, one skilled in subversion, with subverting Douglas Tate, a Political Opponent and Rival who has the highest influence in the game at present. Unfortunately, you roll poorly, and he fails (but not so badly that the attempt was publicized). That uses the Advisor for the turn.
You have only two Legislative Actions (because you have a Foreign Policy Focus Strategy). You choose to use them to introduce a Job Creation Package (which is both your #1 Priority and the Public’s #1 Legislative Priority) into both the Senate and the House. In the Senate, you win easily, advancing the Bill to Committee. In the House, though, the evil Douglas Tate blocked your bill’s advance, even though you used some extra help from the Press (they owed you a favor – imagine that!), so you’ll have to try again next round to advance that one. On the good side, because this is your “honeymoon period” (turn 1), opponents only get one action this turn, so you flip Douglas Tate to his USED side; he can’t be used again this turn.
Secretary of State Phase: (3 Actions)
Your SecState gets three actions per round. You decide to use them to try to lessen tensions on the Korean Peninsula and to improve stability in Africa and the Middle East.
- Calming an Ally is one of the few game actions that is automatic. So you use one of your three SecState actions, but you then automatically get to remove one of the three Tensions markers from South Korea. It’s a start….
- Stability in Africa is really bad (4) so you make a unilateral attempt to improve it. These are hard, and you fail – lesson learned – next time maybe try the slower but better % chance of going to the UN. If you had an Ally in the region, you could have asked them to help, but alas, you have no strong allies in Africa).
- With your last action, you attempt to decrease the Crisis level in the Middle East. This is easier than improving Stability, but (aarrghh!) you fail again. All in all, your SecState is not off to a tremendous start.
Secretary of Defense Phase: (4 Actions – because of your Foreign Policy Focus)
Ivan Mercer now looks to use the resources of the Defense Department (four actions/round) to improve US abilities and to find and eliminate Terror groups in the Eurozone and the Middle East.
- As the first action of each turn (every 6 months) the SecDef can go to Congress and attempt to get funding approval to expand/improve the capabilities of US Armed Forces. In this case, Congress turns a deaf ear to Mercer’s entreaties. No Defense Capability improvements this turn.
- When you use a Defense Action for Intel Gathering, it buys you TWO Intel attempts. Mercer does that here, and makes an Intel Attempt in both the Eurozone and Middle East. The Middle East attempt failed, but the one in the Eurozone succeeded, so you move the Terror 2 Group there from the “Gathering Intel” (with a tip of the hat your allied intel operators in the UK for beginning to zero in on these bad guys earlier) to the “Locating Target” box.
- Your third Defense duplicates the 2nd. You’re wanting to get those Eurozone terrorists into the “Target Fixed” box so you can launch a Special Forces raid against them. But, alas, the Intel attempt failed in the Eurozone, so you still can’t get the precise fix you need to plan and execute the SoF mission. The attempt in the Middle East, though, succeeds this time. So you place one Lvl 2 Terror Group in the Middle East into the Gathering Intel box of the Intel Track.
- You decide to use your final Defense action to authorize a Drone Strike against that Lvl 2 Terror Group in the “Locating Target” box in the Eurozone. Drone Strikes (really representing a drone offensive in a defined area over days or weeks to search out and strike enemy cell members, especially leaders) are less effective, generally, than SoF Raids, but their virtue to you is that you can launch them when the enemy Terror Group is in the Locating Target box instead of waiting for a precise fix. In the event, your Strike is somewhat successful. It degrades the Terror Group from Lvl 2 to Lvl 1, but unfortunately also causes civilian casualties. You decrease Public Opinion at home by one box to 48%. Had the strike been covert, you might have gotten away with no problems with your European friends, but in this case, even in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower bombing, there is a rapid and shrill public outcry against what is seen as a unilateral US action on European soil. Place a “Trending Anti-US” marker on the Eurozone Alignment track.
As the final actions in a round, you can again choose to play any additional APs, Advisors, or Presidential APs, as desired. But it’s early in the turn, so you decide to hold off on any other actions for now, and save your resources for whatever unpleasant surprises may await you later in the turn.
End of Round Evaluation/Reflection
It’s difficult to evaluate performance this early in the game, but we’ve definitely been challenged this round – especially on the terror front – across the board. In this first month in office, we’ve seen Europe take some hard terror hits, thrown resources into helping our European friends, and helped them begin to hit back at the terrorists. Still, overall, the Eurozone looks worse now than it did when you took office. We’ve also begun the process of tracking Terror Groups in the Middle East, something that will almost certainly be an ongoing pursuit. The biggest surprise in the Foreign Policy arena was the North Korean provocation. Not that we shouldn’t figure they’d be saber-rattling at some point, but the results of this incident have pushed tensions along the 38th Parallel to a worrisome level. This is a place to get your diplomatic corps working next month.
In terms of your key Foreign Policy subordinates, you are very pleased with the SecDef’s performance, despite the failure to wring extra funding out of the Congress. You DO have some fences to mend in Europe over the drone strike, so you’ll have to pay attention to that in the coming months. At least, though, they’ve seen you support them in the wake of the Eiffel Tower bombing, so while they are indeed questioning your judgment, they understand that you were trying to help. [NOTE: I am updating the rules to provide more limitations on and ramifications for drone strikes in Europe, as a result of feedback from several of my European friends – thanks for the help! – GB] On the diplomatic front, you’re going to counsel your SecState about the virtue of a more patient and cooperative approach to dealing with Crisis and Instability around the world. It’s early, but too many failed diplomatic offensives really puts us behind the “keep things stable” power curve; we can’t afford too many more months like this one.
On the home front, the electorate has high expectations of you on the Foreign Policy front (due to your Foreign Policy Focus) and so far they seem a bit disappointed. You’ve gone from a high of 54% approval to 48% at present. Your domestic agenda – such as it is – is in line with what the public wants and is off to an excellent start in the Senate, but is currently stalled in the House. But you have a lot more resources to throw into the fray this turn than do your opponents, so hopefully next month you can begin to get that back on track.
In New York, you’ve made an excellent first impression on the United Nations with your initial speech. Your attempts to fight instability and crises in two of the world’s most difficult regions – Africa and the Middle East – have won their admiration, though not yet their respect (“It’s good that he’s unafraid to tackle big problems, but he’ll learn he needs allies to effect lasting change” is the general impression of you in the halls of the UN). This good start on the UN front could pay off handsomely in World Opinion and UN assistance later in the game. For now, it’s a beginning….
I hope you’ve enjoyed this snapshot look at Mr. President. We’ll continue this game in part 3 of this article series, where we’ll pick up the action with your 2nd month in office.