Now that we're in the throes of some new and even weirder version of "Camelot," Caroline Kennedy is being considered as Senate replacement for Hillary, and they've just renamed the goddamn Triboro Bridge the "RFK Bridge" (the swine), perhaps its time, since I'm also desperately low on games to write up for "Tabletop Tuesdays," to look at The Exciting New Game of the Kennedys.
Which, you know, is most empatically not new, since it was published during the Kennedy administration (my edition doesn't have a copyright date on it), and frankly that that exciting.
In The Kennedys, you play as one of JFK, RFK, Teddy, Jackie, John John, or Caroline (then a little girl) attempting to "gain control of the country." The board, Clue-like contains several large rooms with a square grid separating them; each turn, you roll a die and move your pawn that number of squares. The rooms are lablled things like "Personal Image" and "Popular Support," but the labels are meaningless. Each player has a "category card" corresponding to each room, and before play, category cards for each Kennedy in play are stacked in the corresponding room, in alphabetical order by the corresponding character's first name.
You win by getting four of your own category cards, plus two cards (from the other two rooms) belonging to other Kennedys. This is "taking over the country," apparently.
You can grab category cards by a) moving to a room and taking one, b) paying $100k, which teleports you to a room and lets you take one, and c) by playing an event card. Event cards all allow/force one player to gain or surrender one named category card.
The complication is that when you take a category card, you have to pick up the stack of category cards in the room, count down to where you think it is, and draw it -- and then replace it with a blank card. Thus, you might be trying to get Robert's "Influential Friends" card, only to find that someone else has grabbed it, and you've now got a blank one.
In other words, this is a fairly dull and inferior Clue variant with no connection to politics and precious little to the actual Kennedy family. (Little John John is going to take over the country? I think not. Lyndon, if no one else, would have something to say about that.)
As such, it is a perfect exemplar of what Parlett, somewhat sneeringly, calls "the theme game." Interestingly, he means something a little different by that than those who attack Eurogames as being "mere theme games" and having nothing to do with their subject material. Those people like some simulationist aspect in their games, and think a game on, say, Modern Art should have something to do with, you know, modern art, and not just be an exploration of bidding mechanics. Parlett prefers fairly abstract games, and has no objection to grafting a theme onto one for market appeal -- but has (justified) contempt for games that do absolutely nothing original in terms of mechanics, and are not in themselves good games, but slap some media license or other theme on an entirely unoriginal game that recapitulates long-standing mechanics.
Which is pretty much what The Kennedys does. Though the "blank card" mechanic is original, here, for what it's worth.
Still, you know -- what a weird little artifact of a bygone political era.
My parents -- Democratic politicos at the time -- bought my copy during the Kennedy administration, when I was a tot. I still have it.