This fall is the perfect time to invest in presidential-election board games. Two strong choices for integrating history, politics, and current events with the electoral process are Oval Office: The Race to Be President, by Talicor Inc., and Hail to the Chief, by Aristoplay.
Oval Office is similar to Trivial Pursuit in that players must answer questions on U.S. and world history, current events, politics, and economics to win a state’s electoral votes. A color-coded map of the United States covers the playing board: red states have 18 or more electoral votes, green states have 8 to 14, and blue states have 7 or fewer. Question-and-answer cards are color coded similarly: red cards have six questions, green cards have four, and blue cards have two.
Players take turns selecting states and answering questions from a corresponding card. A player must answer all the questions on the card correctly to win the state and record its electoral votes on a scorecard. If the player cannot answer all the questions correctly, opponents draw cards of the same color; whoever answers the most questions correctly wins that state’s electoral votes. The first player to earn 270 votes wins. If all the states have been won and no player has 270 votes, the player with the most votes wins. The die is used to break a tie.
Questions in Oval Office range from simple, such as “Who was the first president of the United States?” to difficult, such as “What Latin phrase refers to supplementary material filed by organizations interested in affecting a legal dispute?” All answers on a given card begin with the same letter of the alphabet, and the letter labeling system makes some answers obvious. For example, if you don’t know that Pennsylvania was the first state to abolish slavery, you can figure it out by looking at the map on the board for the only state beginning with P. However, unless you know that the British parliamentarian Lord Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” the correct answer would be difficult to guess, even if you know that the answer begins with A.
Designed for ages 12 to adult, Oval Office tests specific and often sophisticated knowledge that gifted middle school students may or may not have. While it does not require strategic or critical thinking, it is an excellent teaching tool for these students, particularly if played in teams.
Hail to the Chief, for ages 8 to adult, is played similarly. The playing board has a map of the United States labeled with the state capitals and the number of electoral votes. Around the perimeter are pictures of the presidents in chronological order. Players roll dice and move tokens around the perimeter, answering questions on the presidents and the presidency from the stack of President Cards. Each card has four questions arranged in order of difficulty, from “easy child” to “difficult adult.” Players answer questions according to their predetermined level of difficulty. A correct answer earns a player ten delegates to the convention. Monopoly-style Campaign Cards direct players to different points around the board, where they may add delegates for winning a specific endorsement, for instance, or lose them for lacking a clear stance on the environment or Social Security.
Once players have earned the determined number of delegates, they move along notched lines crisscrossing the map and connecting the state capitals. They must land on a state capital to draw a question about U.S. geography and history from the set of State Cards. These questions follow the same levels of difficulty as those on the President Cards. A correct answer earns the player that state’s electoral votes. The first player to earn the required number of electoral votes wins.
The questions in Hail to the Chief focus more narrowly on U.S. history, geography, and politics and are less substantive than the questions in Oval Office.
Like Oval Office, Hail to the Chief does not engage children in divergent or critical thinking, but as a factual teaching tool it is appropriate for gifted elementary students.
—Sarah Boone, MA
Sarah Boone holds a master’s degree in teaching and certification in gifted education. She teaches at Meredith College.
- Oval Office
- Hail to the Chief