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Throwback Thursday: Campaign Trail

Posted Thursday, 18-Jun-2015

Contributed by Andrew Knighton


Though the US presidential election is still over a year away, the candidates have already started to announce themselves and campaigning has begun. So with election fever growing, it’s a good time to return to the electoral classics, and the different games that have gone under the title of Campaign Trail.


Campaign Trail 1983

The first Campaign Trail, designed by Peter Andersen and William Snavely, was released in 1983. Marketed as a game simple enough for family play and interesting enough for veterans, it saw players moving their presidential and vice-presidential candidates around a map of the United States, trying to drum up support.


Campaign Trail board game
Players fight for a spot in the White House in Campaign Trail.


Like many family games, this Campaign Trail had a strong random element and a focus on moving around a board. It was an accessible take on politics, and one that kept some of its idealism. Hard work would take its candidates to the White House.

Campaign Trail β€˜96

By 1996, cynicism was becoming the default way of viewing politicians and politics. Campaign Trail ’96, designed by Jeffrey Groteboer, took a humorous spin on this.


Campaign Trail board game
Campaign Trail ’96 took a humorous approach to the game.


Campaign Trail ’96 got into the ugly mechanics of an election, instead of the crowd-pleasing tours shown in its predecessor. Players used spin doctors, attack ads, divisive issues and scandals to gain the upper hand. In the Clinton era, it was increasingly hard to take politicians seriously, and this game played off that.


Campaign Trail 2013

The most recent Campaign Trail came out in 2013 and was designed by David Cornelius and Nathan Cornelius. Once again, players focus on a map of the United States, this time looking to win the electoral college of each state.


The 2013 edition of Campaign Trail brings electoral college in to political play.
The 2013 edition of Campaign Trail brings electoral college in to political play.


This modern Campaign Trail takes elements from each of its predecessors. Modern political tactics of mud slinging and fundraising matter, but so do the traditional approaches of building grassroots support and discussing issues. It combines an old idealism about politics with a cynical edge for the modern world.


The Greatest Game?


Politics can often look like nothing more than a game between a bunch of rich, powerful people. The various different Campaign Trail games let you get into that game for yourself, and make an often disillusioning political process into something fun.


Campaign Trail board game
What is your favorite version of Campaign Trail?


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