Kalypso Media – The Political Machine 2008 review

the American Election, board game style
Photo of Kalypso Media – The Political Machine 2008

With the media in an Election frenzy as the American people decide whether they favour Obama or McCain for the nation’s top job (though by the time you read this they will have made that decision), Kalypso Media has chosen the perfect time to bring out a strategy game that will allow you to guide your own preferred candidate to the White House. And there’s more to it than that, too.

If you follow the quick but thorough tutorial guides, you’ll soon be prepared to take part in one of three optional gameplays: Quick Play, Campaign and Multiplayer. Quick Play is the most fun because you can choose your candidate and your opponent, whereas Campaign decides your opponents for you (which will be drawn from Presidential hopefuls past and present). You can even design your own front runner’s physical appearance as well as their gender, their Home State, their party and most crucially their basic statistics.

These statistics become increasingly important when deciding what actions to take in each state, as they’ll cover aspects like your stamina, fundraising abilities, charisma, good looks (or lack of them!), intelligence, credibility, how much the media like you and how much you appeal to minorities or religious groups. You’ll inevitably want to play the main 2008 Campaign scenario first but there are fun alternatives that include the 1860 Presidential race, a futuristic election set in 3008, an evil alien planet election and a mythical European nations scenario.

Gameplay is turn-based and is a bit like Risk. You move your candidate around the map of the USA, assessing from the data in each state whether it’s better to make a speech on key issues, take out media ads or upgrade your election HQ. Winning a state’s votes for the electoral college is more important than winning just the popular vote and raising your awareness may be more important than just raising campaign funds. As the game progresses the map will gradually change colour according to which candidate captures which state.

In keeping with modern elections you can bring in specialists to help you, both dirty tricks agents such as Smear Merchants, Intimidators, Hecklers and Fixers as well as ratings boosters like Spin Doctors, Fashion Consultants, Hollywood Friends and Cheerleaders. Endorsements can be sought from major special interest groups such as the gun lobby or women’s groups. Random events will also be included such as Activists and Scandal Mongers and periodically you’ll be invited for a media interview where you’ll need your wits about you to avoid any serious gaffes.

Although the graphics are fairly basic the gameplay is sufficiently engrossing and varied to keep your interest. However, the music is irritating to the extreme and there’s no meaningful depth to any decision-making.

Company: Kalypso Media

If you're clueless about how the American Presidential machinery works, then this light-hearted and entertaining ‘video board game' will introduce you to all the honourable and devious tricks for making it to the top without plumbing too many depths.