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Pa. couple creates game about elections

Bill and Valorie Dicks' "The Prez" is a teaching tool

Bill and Valorie Dicks' "The Prez" is a teaching tool

February 03, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, PA. -- Friends and family of Bill and Valorie Dick had been playing the Waynesboro couple's homemade board game for decades before George W. Bush and Al Gore wound up with their presidential ambitions hinging on Florida's electoral votes.

"Suddenly, everyone was talking about the electoral college," Bill Dick said.

In the years since the 2000 election, the Dicks have obtained a patent for their game and are marketing "The Prez." They say the game that establishes faux presidential campaigns is educational and entertaining, as well as "inspired by a hanging chad."

"We played this at home but didn't think there was any outside interest because it'd be 'boring,'" Bill Dick said.

However, one of the Dicks' four adult children took a game to New York's Davis College. Dozens more were sold and a "The Prez" tournament was held there.

The Dicks plan to host a tournament of their own on Feb. 18, the holiday often called Presidents Day. The event is slated to begin at 8:30 a.m. in the gym at Waynesboro's Renaissance Place on West Second Street.

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"The Prez" assigns candidates to its two to six players. Each must devise a strategy for his or her presidential campaign in the game, which, on average, is played for 2 1/2 hours.

"The overall concept of the game is to start at the White House and visit all the states. Along the way, you can debate the other players," Valorie Dick said.

"First one to 270 votes wins," her husband said.

Special spaces exist like "the spin zone," where the player deals with the media and "Air Force One," in which the president lends his support to a campaign.

The game has evolved since it was first played in the 1970s, an era when Florida only had 14 electoral votes. The playing board was re-created -- and laminated for the first time -- to reflect the 1980 census changes.

Since then, a local graphic designer developed playing cards, an area business printed the playing sheets, a New York company made the boxes and boards, a Michigan company developed towers and pawns, and an Ohio company provided the tiny stars made in China.

"We made our own money," Bill Dick said, leafing through a pile of play money featuring the face of the only president hailing from Pennsylvania -- James Buchanan.

In playing the game thousands of times, part of the Dicks' focus was on fine-tuning the way it is carried out.

"It's fun to play a game and say, 'I don't like this rule. Let's change it,'" Bill Dick said.

Valorie Dick said a nice aspect of the game is that it is not based on trivia, meaning it could better appeal to families playing across generations.

"Every roll of the dice, every player is involved," Bill Dick said.

"It's very interactive, and I think that's a key part of the game," Valorie Dick said.

The Dicks have been known to play "The Prez" as election results are broadcast on television.

"There's a really nice blend of strategy and luck. You cannot win this game just by controlling the big states," Bill Dick said.

"The game teaches you that if you don't have a broad base of support, you're not going to win the election," he said.

For more information about the game or to purchase a copy, go to www.theprez.net.

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