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The BEST political board game is an Electoral College competition! Campaign, fund raise, & advertise to win swing states.
The BEST political board game is an Electoral College competition! Campaign, fund raise, & advertise to win swing states.
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70 backers pledged $3,188 to help bring this project to life.

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Swing State - Presidential Election Board Game

$3,188

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SWING STATE has been developed carefully during the past two years. We designed it to be a great and realistic game of political strategy -- something interesting for older kids but a truly competitive game for adults. It centers on the Electoral College - the heart of presidential elections in the United States - and the strategies involved in winning the 12 swing states. The game, like a real election, involves two players (or two teams with 1 candidate and 1 campaign manager on each).

We are seeking funds from you to be able to produce the game at scale. With $3,000, we will be able to take the game to high production quality, showcase to major producers, and possibly make it self-sustaining. We are looking for 100 supporters with an average gift of $30, but are offering an "early voter" opportunity for just $20. Everyone who supports this project will get a first edition copy of SWING STATE.

Final version of the game board
Final version of the game board

We have studied what makes awesome board games awesome, and SWING STATE fits a market need as well. There are many great board games about war (Risk), business (Monopoly), resource management (Settlers, anyone?), but we wanted to make the first great POLITICAL game, and we did it. It is super fun, super suspenseful, and the most realistic "game" about running for president you will ever experience.  

Americans who like politics are fascinated by the fundraising and campaigning that seems to focus on a few key states: Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and ... New Mexico? Yes, the "winner takes all" nature of states in the Electoral College means that the Republican and Democratic nominees focus their efforts on the states where neither side has a big advantage.  These are the rules of American democracy in the Constitution -- but they have never been put into play in a good board game! Now it's here!! 

GAME PIECES

  • Board with beautiful graphics -- outlines of the 12 swing states and background images of historical presidential bumper stickers including Clinton, Carter, Reagan, and Kennedy.
  • Two decks (Red and Blue) of Fundraising cards, with colorized images of Abe Lincoln and Franklin D Roosevelt.
  • October Surprise cards
  • Blue and Red poker chips. Each chip represents a 1% lead in the polls.
  • State bars (12) - one for each state, with lengths equal to the states' electoral college votes.
  • Debate cards of two kinds. One tells you what issues come up (which favors candidates who stand for those issues), and another if a player tries to double down by pressing the issue!
Katie Kane holding the first version of the game board fresh from the printer!
Katie Kane holding the first version of the game board fresh from the printer!

In the past 30 years, just 12 states have consistently been competitive between both candidates. So we developed the game with reality in mind. We want players to really understand what it is like to be both a presidential candidate (how cool is that?) or a campaign manager. Here is a look at the prototype as it sets up for play, followed by a photo of game after 3 turns:

Before the game begins, the board looks like this. Red is naturally ahead in some polls, Blue in others, but they are tied in Ohio (notice no chips there).
Before the game begins, the board looks like this. Red is naturally ahead in some polls, Blue in others, but they are tied in Ohio (notice no chips there).
The lead has changed to Blue in CO and NV and even in VA, but Red is now ahead in MI and OH after three turns.
The lead has changed to Blue in CO and NV and even in VA, but Red is now ahead in MI and OH after three turns.

Players: 2+  
Ages: 10 to Adult
Time for a typical game: 45 minutes 

The game is played between 2 players (or teams of players) -- RED/Republican versus BLUE/Democrat. One each team is a presidential candidate -- she chooses which states to visit each turn. Her teammate is the campaign manager -- he chooses where to spend the money on advertising.

The game begins with a map that reflects the way all 12 swing states actually lean. Pennsylvania leans Democratic by 4 percentage points (based on a historical average of recent presidential elections). That 4% point lean is reflected by four blue chips placed on PA during setup. Virginia, as you can see in the image above, leans Red by 5% points (chips). As players campaign and advertise in these states, the chip stacks rise and fall and often flip from one color to the other. Pennsylvania is worth 20 electoral votes, denoted by the purple 20 on the map image. Every time a candidate stops to campaign in a state, they add two chips in their favor, and they also raise funds. The amount of funds cards drawn per state is equal to the green dollar number on the map (PA is $2 and VA is $1). 

A game last for seven turns, like there are 7 weeks before election night. During the middle turns, players draw a single "October Surprise" card which throws some interesting random elements into the game. Here's an example:

A big part of the fun is that SWING STATE is a game that is easy to lean, easy to set up, and easy to play, but has a very rich mix of strategies that change each time you play. And what makes this one of the most exciting games you will ever play is that the results of how each state will vote are not revealed until the very end. 

STRATEGIC UNCERTAINTY.  At the end of the game -- election night -- all of the campaign funds you have invested by playing cards face down on each state are finally revealed. There are no dice in this game -- it is all about strategy and making decisions under uncertainty. Imagine the state of Virginia at the end of a game which looks tied (no chips of either color), BUT there are are 5 red funds cards face down, and the Blue player has placed 6 cards face down. The cards represent TV and radio ads pre-paid during early rounds for airing during the final week, but it is uncertain how much money was invested by your opponent. The funds cards range in value from $0 to $3 million. Each million spent increases your popularity in the state.

Katie holding an unopened pack of "Fundraising" cards -- red for the Republican candidate, blue for the Democratic candidate.
Katie holding an unopened pack of "Fundraising" cards -- red for the Republican candidate, blue for the Democratic candidate.

SWING STATE has a unique way of teaching the value of electoral college votes. Florida has 29 votes, Ohio has 18, Colorado has 9. Look at the map and you will see that the states are sized proportionately to their population. In addition, the game includes 12 bars that are proportional lengths for each state's votes. State bars leaning to the Red team are placed in one column, and states leaning Blue are placed in the other. Whoever is leading can draw a bonus funds cards, because, hey, Americans love a winner. Momentum matters in elections!

Our daughters love this game. Our friends love SWING STATE, too. Our family gets excited about the presidential campaign every four years and feel very patriotic about celebrating the winner, whoever it is. We would like to let every child live the dream of running for president, and this game does it. One day, we shared it with two friends from college (the wife was a moderate Democrat), and the men beat the ladies. She was so upset (in a good way) that she insisted on playing a second time, as the Republican! The men won again! It was so fun that we played a third time during the Superbowl month's later. Heather finally got her revenge and won the White House. :)

Risks and challenges

Game design risks have been resolved. The board, cards, even the box designs are complete, tested, and even approved with legal consultation. So that part is complete.

The risk we face is ordering a large production run. We have a handful of bids from game manufacturers, but this is a new process for us. At worst, that will affect the timing, but it could go faster than we expect. We are budgeting a month of extra time for delivery, so hope we can get games shipped even faster than promised.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $1 or more About $1.00

    VOTE FOR KATIE KANE - This level of support is a nice thumbs up for our girl who helped me work on the project. Thanks to Dana Perino at FOX's The Five for putting Katie's smiling face on TV!

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    VOTER -- Back the project and get one full first edition of the game. Everything included in your Swing State game: the box, board, chips, cards, pieces, and rules. Thank you.

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    PARLIAMENTARY VOTER -- For international buyers in Europe and Latin America. Be one of the first to back the project and get the discounted price for the full first edition of the game. Everything included in your Swing State game: the box, board, chips, cards, pieces, and rules. Thank you.

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    Pledge $45 or more About $45

    SCHOOL PACKAGE -- Help spread the word with this pledge. You will get THREE copies of the board game with everything included. In return, you promise to GIVE one of the new games to a history/government/civics teacher at your local high school or middle school. Thank you.

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    Pledge $95 or more About $95

    TRUE FRIENDS -- For this pledge, Katie and I will send you FOUR complete copies of the board game with everything included. This level is really appreciated, and we probably need a dozen or so folks to contribute here to make the game a reality. You really do have our sincere thanks, and your name will be printed in the acknowledgments of the game rules. Thank you.

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    Pledge $20 or more About $20

    EARLY VOTER -- Be one of the first to back the project and get the discounted price for the full first edition of the game. Everything included in your Swing State game: the box, board, chips, cards, pieces, and rules. It may not cover all costs, but that's okay! Thank you.

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Funding period

- (42 days)