The Tim Anthony Jackson Collection (TAJC) contains a wide variety of materials. Campaign posters, t-shirts, baseball caps, bumper stickers, bobbleheads, buttons, and many other types of political memorabilia make up this enormous collection. Political Games, the latest exhibit on display in the Robert R. Muntz Library contains games from the TAJC. From paddleball games featuring President George W. and H.W. Bush, to PolitiCards playing cards, this exhibit offers a look into the lighter side of political memorabilia.
This blog post examines three board games in the Political Games display: Watergate: The Game of Political Intrigue (1973), the Karter Peanut Shell Game (1978), and Flush!: The All-American Tax Game (1994).
Published in 1973 by G. Neal and Politico Games of Redondo, California, this game has somewhat tenuous ties to the Watergate scandal. The object of the game is to control enough electoral votes to win a presidential election. Political parties available to the player include Democans, Republicrats, Peoples, Labor, Bourgeoise, or Proletariat.
After players select their party, they roll dice to move around the board. The game board features a U.S. map in the center with electoral vote numbers printed within each state outline. Paths of game spaces wind around the central map. The map does not come into play, and merely reminds players how many electoral votes a state contains, information also provided on State Spaces. Electoral votes may be bought with “politico notes” by players after landing on State Spaces.
Players landing on Opportunity Spaces may choose to “wiretap” an opponent, which results in their loss of votes, money, or both, unless they produce a Connection Card, that allows the opponent to keep their electoral votes. Spaces in play are divided into regions: Russia, China, Latin America, Africa, and Europe. Players landing on spaces in these regions are subject to region themed actions. In “Latin America” it is possible to land on a space where “Revolution Causes Your Backers To Lose Their Copper Mine,” and you “Lose $350,000.” In “Africa” a player might “Gain Control of Diamond Mine Leases In South Africa,” which will add $450,000 to their campaign.
After obtaining the predetermined number of electoral votes (which depends on the number of players), “the apparent winner must roll the dice one more time. If the apparent winner rolls a seven or an eleven the apparent winner must give all of his votes back to the Registrar of Voters as investigation shows that his campaign was filled with wiretapping, fraud, and coverups so obvious that the party must resign or be impeached.”
Karter Peanut Shell Game
Published by Morey & Neely in 1978 , this board game is designed for up to six players, from “teen to umpteens.” The object of the game is to “become president!” and “in accordance with the official Bureaucratic System,… to waste squander, give away or lose all the taxpayer’s Peanut Money.” Unlike the Watergate game, the Karter Peanut Shell Game directly targets a U.S. President, Jimmy Carter, with liberal use of peanut imagery, crude caricatures of Carter, and the Confederate flag, referencing Carter’s Georgia roots.
Players roll dice to move around the board. Landing on a Legislature, Supreme Court, or Cabinet space results in drawing a corresponding card. These cards require players to advance or go back spaces, or receive or pay “Peanut Notes.” Players can take the Panama Canal detour through the middle of the board and lose big money by landing on Swindler’s Swamp, Sabotage Slough, or Panama’s Golden Toll Lake. This portion of the game refers to the Torrijos-Carter Treaties that were ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1978, eventually giving control of the Panama Canal to the nation of Panama.
“The winner and president shall be the first player to go broke. The remaining players shall be known as poor losers and shall be appointed Goodwill Ambassadors to Taiwan.” The “Goodwill Ambassadors to Taiwan” part is a reference to the normalization of relations with the People’s Republic of China and the discontinuance of recognition of the Republic of China based in Taiwan.
This game centers around the loss of taxpayers’ money. Taxation is a perennial concern of the constituents of the United States. The “Peanut Notes” used in this game remind players of who is really hurt by government overspending, the working class. Diversity appears to have not been a concern for the game developers, who only feature Anglos at the center of the notes.
FLUSH!: The All-American Tax Game
FlUSH! was published in 1994 by Flush Enterprises of Fresno, California. Designed for two to six adults, this board game takes aim at Democrat President Bill Clinton. This game centers on taxation and government spending like the Karter Peanut Shell Game. Instead of spending government cash as a U.S. President on pet projects and overseas investing, Flush! focuses on the finances of the average American.
Players roll dice to move around the board on a path of spaces that swirls down toward a central toilet illustration. The object of the game is to be the player with the most money after all players have entered the “Poor House”(the terminal space). Dice is rolled to move around the board. Spaces on the board include Tax & Trivia, Perks-n-Pork, and Government Waste. These spaces require players to draw a corresponding card and answer a trivia question about tax and spending. Correct answers win players $100 in “Flush Bucks,” incorrect answers result in players “Flushing” away $1,000. All “flushed” monies go to the toilet at the center of the board.
Other types of spaces include: Audit, “result[ing] in the player ‘flushing’ the amount indicated (because the I.R.S is ALWAYS right)”, Handout, “result[ing] in the player receiving the amount of money indicated on the card from each of the other players”, Tax, and Fee or Penalty, which require players to “flush” the indicated amount.
The game includes an “Author’s Exhortation: It is our desire that ‘Flush’ will be informative as well as fun. The completion of this game will result in official ‘Flusher’ status. Good luck fellow ‘Flusher’!”
These games represent a small portion of politically themed games held in the Tim Anthony Jackson Collection. They offer glimpses into the popular perception of select United States Presidents, politicians, and government at large. By reading these materials beyond their role as games we are able to identify a few concerns of Americans during three Presidential Administrations.