Note: Here are links to Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this ongoing article. Also, please note that all of the pictures and graphics herein are of Gene’s homemade dtp counters, map, and cards. This is decidedly NOT final art! 🙂
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.
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.
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.
Mr. President is a game unlike any other I’ve ever attempted to design. It is a solitaire game that puts you in the shoes of the President of the United States, attempting to govern, with limited resources, in a complex and ever-changing world. It is not a game about getting elected, and it definitely does not have a political affiliation or point of view. It is about GOVERNING, and the choices and trade-offs you make to try and balance keeping your citizens protected and happy while the world seems to be disintegrating all around you.
As an aside, when I begin design work on Mr. President several years ago, I ran the idea by Andy Lewis just to see what he thought. What you need to know is this is THE game I’ve always wanted to design, and intend it to be (by far) my best design ever. But when I told Andy about it, he was very lukewarm to the idea (although in Andy’s defense he says now that he didn’t realize it was going to be a solitaire game), and didn’t really think a game like this would sell. I was a little disappointed, but, naturally, I totally forgave Andy for his lack of vision and faith and went on with the project, right? OK, well that’s NOT quite the whole story. When it came time to create the Advisor counters in Mr. President, I told John Welch, my design assistant, “We’re going to put Andy Lewis in the Advisor mix. And we’re going to make him by far the sorriest advisor in the Cabinet.” Now for the record, I really like Andy Lewis and love working with him, and the rest of this is just all in good fun. But I DO remember…. 🙂
I hope you enjoy this brief look inside the world of Mr. President. We’ll post more as the design/development process advances.