Mr. President is a historical solitaire game about governing as the President of the United States in the early 21st century. It’s not an election game. It begins after you’ve been elected. It’s about sitting in The Chair and trying to advance your agenda while navigating ongoing crises, political enemies, public opinion, your relations with Congress and the press, and keeping your country secure in a world of rival nations and agendas that just seems to keep blowing up around you. Mr. President is a resource management game, where you never have enough resources to achieve your entire agenda, and the path you take through an always unpredictable storyline rests on the choices you make. Depending on the results of those choices, and on the unfolding of a “different every game” story, you’ll either be thinking “POTUS? Piece of Cake!” or “Why was it that I WANTED this job?” many times in each game.
Like the actual Presidents during this period, you’ll have an array of allies and resources to help you as you navigate both the corridors of power in the nation’s capital and the uncertainties of international relations. These allies and resources will vary from game to game, but you’ll always be able to rely on your Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense to help you with foreign policy and with the use, where you deem necessary, of the combat power of the U.S. military. You’ll also have a bevy of domestic advisors and friends in Congress to help you navigate the many challenges in Congress and domestic life and politics. And you’ll always have access to at least one truly exceptional talent (this, too, will vary from game to game), someone who excels in their particular job and is a “force multiplier” for you in their own unique way. How you lead and utilize this mix of talents and experience at your disposal will go a long way toward determining your success or failure during your shot at being Mr. President.
The Map. The game map allows you to see and track the domestic and world situation that the game creates. It is divided into sections:
1. Congress. This is where you track progress of legislation, as well as keep track of your friends and opponents in Congress.
2. Domestic Tracks, Advisors, and Assets. This section of the map is a holding area for all of your Domestic Tracks, advisors, available Presidential Action Points, and military assets.
3. The United Nations. This section keeps track of US Goodwill at the UN, holds UN Sanctions and Peacekeeping Forces markers, and houses a list of the various Actions the UN can take during the game.
4. The World portion of the map (about half of the map) is divided into eight world regions, with additional sections for Russia and China (your key potential antagonists in the game). Here’s a look at the South America Region, as an example of the regional displays:
Crisis Cards. At the heart of Mr. President are the 170+ Crisis Cards that help create the storyline for each game. These cards – see the 12 sample cards on this page – are a mix of cards representing Domestic or World Crises, Terrorism Events, Unexpected Benefits, and Opportunities. The Crisis Cards help drive, but do not completely control, the storyline in each game. Here’s how it works:
Each game of Mr. President is divided into four one-year turns. There are a variety of ways that you can “auto-lose” the game, but if you survive to the end of your four-year term, your level of victory (including whether you were re-elected) will be compared to the great Presidents in U.S. history.
At the start of each turn, you get to perform assessment and planning actions, where you get to lay out your rough plan, re-examine strategy, re-evaluate the threats and opportunities that were presenting as the previous turn ended (or at game start). So there is definitely a proactive strategy piece to the game. Unfortunately, though, your plans are not often going to survive intact once the turn gets going. The world stage is a dynamic platform.
Once you have your plans made (and the Mr. President gods laugh at you!), you perform the Turn Sequence, which is made up of four quarterly Activity Phases. During each phase, you will choose your actions, which are intermingled unpredictably with chit pulls for the game’s “opponent” actions to challenge you in unexpected ways. Many of the challenges will come from the game’s Crisis Cards, which represent the main world or domestic events that happen (these are usually bad from your point of view, but occasionally they are events or resources that help you) during that quarter. The events on the Crisis Cards (usually) present you with an urgent problem that may immediately alter the board state. They can also introduce lingering or cascading issues that may cause you pain down the road.
You are in control of the actions you can choose, and to some degree when you can choose them, during each round. Actions allow you to make progress on your legislative agenda, attempt to address any new crises presented by the round’s actions cards, deal with any lingering world or domestic issues, fight terrorism, perform diplomacy, and attempt to better your situation in the world or in the eyes of the American people.
Once you finish your action portion of the round, that round (quarter) is finished, and you move on to the next round, repeating the round process until the four rounds for the year are finished, and the turn is complete.
Seeded within the “enemy” activations during a round, there are chit selections for Russian and Chinese Actions, Terror Actions, War Progress, Chaos!, and a variety of number mixes of Crisis cards. You know that each of these chits (enemy actions) will show up sometime during each turn, but you don’t know when. The variable timing of these chit draws each turn adds uncertainty and spice to the game, while ensuring that major players in the game present challenges for you every single turn. Russia and China offer deeper challenges, with two possible postures (aggression levels) for each country, Relationship with the US tracks, and a country-specific AI for each. Postures may shift in-game in response to your actions or to storyline events, making dealing positively with each nation an evolving challenge all game.
Please note that Mr. President is NOT a “beer and pretzels” surface-level game. This game is intended to be deep and immersive, one that will both frustrate and delight the solitaire player. Playing time is six to ten hours (depending on your experience level) to play an entire 4-year term. I’ve tried to pack as much fun as possible into each yearly turn, so that even if you only have time to play one turn on a weeknight (or even a couple of quarters worth of Activity Phases), you’ll be engaged, frustrated, challenged, and immersed throughout. That said, I hope you’re going to find it difficult to stop playing after each sitting. I’ve designed Mr. President to be an experience that will wrap you up in each new game’s story, and beckon you back to the game table after each round, turn, or completed game.
I designed this game to provide massive replayability. With over 170 Crisis cards in the mix, and multiple subsystems representing the US Economy, Congress, Homeland Security, the Press, Presidential Prestige, Russia, China, Hostile Rogue States, and staunch Allies, no two games of Mr. President will ever play remotely alike. If you think you’re ready for that challenge, go ahead. Raise your right hand and swear the oath. Then settle in behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, and let your imagination run wild!
Our current Scenario mix looks like this:
- September: 2001: After your stirring joint-congressional speech, a united America stands tall to bring justice to those who have brought death and destruction to our shores. Let’s roll!
- January 2005: You were going to tackle the “third rail”, social security, and then… a quagmire would get surged; a hurricane named Katrina hit the coast; a new President of Iran would increase tensions, while Russia would begin to coerce its sphere of interest economically, and to top it off, you would end your Administration with the Great Recession. Good Luck.
- January 2009: Hope and Change… Deal with the Great Recession, check…Deal with the Healthcare crisis, check…Deal with Bin Laden, check… will you lead on the world stage from the front or take a step back?
- January 2013: The PRC is making islands out of thin air, just one too many-colored revolutions in Russia’s sphere of interest for them to stand, and in the Middle East, The JV team is about to hit the court! So much for that comment you made about “The 80’s is calling, and they want their foreign policy back.” Oh it’s back, with its target: the Liberal World Order!
- January 2017: A country divided. Not even out of the gate, and the mark of scandal has stained your administration. Your Party is wary, the Media is suspect, and Foreign Powers are causing mischief around the globe. Commentators are speaking of a new Era of Great Power Competition. You didn’t think it would be easy, did you?
- Sandbox, 20??: You start with a world and domestic situation created to present a challenge at beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels of play.