28 games for your President's Day weekend.
- By Michael PeckMichael Peck is an award-winning writer specializing in defense and national security issues. He holds an MA in political science from Rutgers University.
If George Washington had played video games, would he still have led the United States to independence? Or would Americans today be singing "God Save the Queen"? In honor of Presidents’ Day, FP looks at video and board games that teach us a little something about a few of our 44 commanders-in-chief.
Birth of America II — Before he could become president, Washington had to mold an army virtually from scratch and lead it into battle against arguably the best force in Europe. He might have appreciated a chance to practice his generalship in this sophisticated strategic-level computer game, in which fighting is almost anti-climatic compared to raising and supplying armies, and moving them around a vast theater of operations.
Assassin’s Creed 3 — Would Washington have enjoyed a video game in which time-traveling assassins meddle with the American Revolution? And would we have wanted him to play a game that comes with an expansion called "The Tyranny of King Washington"?
The Halls of Montezuma: The Mexican-American War — If the current security situation in Mexico continues to deteriorate, the U.S. government might want to check out this board game centered on the 1846 U.S. invasion.
War Between the States — The challenge of this computer game is to get your armies moving, a frustration with which Lincoln was intimately acquainted. The Union and Confederate players must appoint commanders, each with a different level of initiative that in turn determines how fast his army travels. (And seniority rules mean that the worst commander is frequently the one in charge.) Needless to say, at the beginning of the war, the Union is stuck with McClellan and Burnside, while the South has Lee and Jackson.
Victoria 2 –The United States scrambles for its share of the imperialist pie in this economic-military computer game that depicts the days when occupying foreign lands was considered a good deed.
A Splendid Little War: The 1898 Santiago Campaign — Was there really a time when U.S. troops could land in Cuba and be greeted by cheers instead of gunfire? This board game about the U.S. liberation of Cuba during the Spanish-American War almost seems like an alternate universe.
World War One — A small board game of the Great War, in which the combatants expend manpower like ammunition in the ultimate war of attrition.
Monopoly — A game published during the Great Depression, in which Americans can go bankrupt from excessive speculation, seems appropriate for Hoover.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
World in Flames — A living-room-sized board game that can take a full year to complete would have been good preparation for the global war that FDR fought. The American, British, and Soviet players must work together, but only one of them will win.
The Korean War — The U.S. player must repel the North Koreans, survive Chinese intervention, and save South Korea, all while trying not to drag in the Soviets, in this challenging board game.
Twilight Struggle — A clever board game of Cold War superpower rivalry, in which launching coups and military interventions determines whether the United States or the Soviets will emerge on top. Just be careful not to start a nuclear war.
John F. Kennedy
Cuban Missile Crisis — JFK might not have opted for a blockade had he played this board game, in which the United States invades Cuba and possibly triggers World War III.
Battlefield: Vietnam — Johnson always appeared somewhat clueless about what was going in Vietnam. Perhaps this video game would have given him some idea of what he was sending U.S. soldiers into.
Vietnam 1965-75 — Just like the conflict, this board game is long and intricate. The U.S. player must carefully commit the right amount of force without triggering a domestic backlash in America, all while fighting an enemy that comes back stronger no matter how many times he is destroyed.
Downtown: The Air War Over Hanoi 1965-72 — A tactical board game that does much to explain why bombing North Vietnam proved so costly.
Paranoia — A satirical role-playing game where players must survive in a futuristic city controlled by a malfunctioning computer that spies on its citizens and kills anyone it perceives as an enemy.
Fortress America — It is America’s turn to suffer foreign occupation in this board game. Europe, South America, and China invade a feeble United States (perhaps governed by a president who thinks it’s punishment for our sins).
Prince of Persia — This adventure/time travel video game offers a more pleasant and less risky way for Carter to discover Iran.
Conquest of the Empire — There is little Carter-esque about this board game about the Roman civil wars, except for the inflation rules that double or triple the costs of raising armies as the game progresses.
Fallout 3 — The player must leave the shelter of an underground city and roam a radioactive wasteland in this post-apocalyptic video game that shows what might have happened if Reagan’s anti-Communist crusade had gone wrong.
Central America — No more fooling around with the Contras. The United States can invade Nicaragua in this 1987 board game of conventional and guerrilla warfare in Central America.
Objective Moscow — Maybe the Kremlin wasn’t being paranoid? In this huge board game, the Americans, Europeans, and Chinese invade the Soviet Union to roll back the Evil Empire.
Missile Command — The old video game based on Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, in which the defenders are eventually overwhelmed — just as in real life.
George W. Bush
Labyrinth: The War on Terror — The title of the game alone might have warned Bush of what he was getting into in this political-military board game in which the United States is always scrambling to put down terrorists and prop up friendly Arab regimes.
Battle for Baghdad — Despite the title, this is a game of political negotiation in which various factions — including the Americans, Sunnis, and Shia — befriend and backstab each other to control the Iraqi capital.
Khyber Rifles: Britannia in Afghanistan — This board game recreating the destruction of the 1842 British Afghan expedition and the British reprisal offensive is a reminder that Afghan wars have never been easy.
SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALs — A video game that would give Obama a chance to take a gun’s-eye view of the special operators who killed Osama Bin Laden.
NBA 2K13 — Obama might like this basketball video game. Basketball is strategy, just like foreign policy. Also like foreign policy, the coach takes the blame when the team fumbles.
Chess — An intellectual, somewhat passionless game. Mr. Spock liked chess.
Think of any more games that symbolize a president? Let us know!
Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy and the editor of the Passport blog. He has worked as a researcher, editorial assistant, and deputy Web editor since joining the FP staff in 2007. In addition to being featured in Foreign Policy, his writing has been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek International, Radio Prague, the Center for Defense Information, and Romania's Adevarul newspaper. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN International, C-Span, ABC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC radio, and others. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied comparative politics at Oberlin College.| Passport |