A Corrupt Bargain: The Election of 1824 is an abstract simulation of that Presidential election. You control a political candidate and use his resources to win as many states as possible, thereby gaining Electoral College Votes (ECVs). The player with the most ECVs at the end of the game wins. The candidates are John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, William Crawford, and Andrew Jackson. ACB is played on a Game Sheet that is divided into areas representing states.


The class is divided into groups. Each group has a moderator who runs the game and keeps records for that group. Each remaining student chooses a candidate in any mutually agreeable fashion. If players cannot agree on candidate allocation, then the moderator will assign them to the players.


ACB consists of eight Game-Turns. A Game-Turn proceeds as follows:

Time is allocated in each Game-Turn for negotiation among the players.

The first player, as specified in the instructions, receives Political Strength Factors (PSFs) and deploys them. The player then conducts attacks against the other players' PSFs. This completes the player's turn.

The remaining players receive PSFs, deploy PSFs, and then attack.

Crawford goes first, followed by Clay, Adams, and Jackson. In other words, go from left to right on the Game Chart.

When all players have taken their turns, a Game-Turn has been completed.

Each game lasts for eight Game-Turns. The players then determine the winner by counting Electoral College Votes. If this does not produce a clear winner, the election then goes to the House of Representatives.


Political Strength Factors (PSFs) represent a candidate's leadership, ideas, political strength, finances, and ihis willingness to use these. PSFs are similar to the pieces in Risk and checkers.

Your goal is to win elections by having the most PSFs in as many states as possible. You do this by deploying PSFs. Each Game-Turn Crawford and Clay receive 10 PSFs each. Adams and Jackson each receive 15 PSFs. You then deploy your PSFs in any state. You must deploy all PSFs received in a turn in that turn. You cannot move PSFs after deployment. You cannot give them to another player. After deployment you may use your PSFs to attack PSFs belonging to another player.

To deploy PSFs, tell the moderator where you want to put them. The moderator will then record your deployments in the states in the column under your candidate's name on the Game Sheet according to your instructions.

Each candidate starts the game with PSFs already deployed on the Game Sheet. These represent the intrinsic strength of his faction. You can add new PSFs to these as the game progresses.


After placing PSFs, you can use them to attack your opponents. These attacks represent everything from simple threats to legislative action to major political campaigns. Attacking is never required. Attacks can be made when you and another player have PSFs in the same state. In other words, you attack horizontally. You attack by first indicating your target (the defender). Both you and the defender remove an equal number of PSFs. You decide how many PSFs are removed. The moderator records this on the Game Sheet.

After you are finished with this attack, you may attack a different opponent's PSFs in that state if you have any PSFs left there. You may attack in as many states as you wish, as long as you have PSFs in them.


You cannot win ACB unless you negotiate with the other players. Whoever makes the best deals usually wins. However, trust no one! Lies, betrayals, threats, broken deals, and bluffs are all allowed and encouraged. It is recommended that you read Machiavelli's The Prince before the exercise. Always remember: you and your opponents are politicians. If you have any bad qualities as a human being, this would be a good time to use them.


After the last turn, players determine in which states they have PSFs. You can receive Electoral College Votes if you are among the top candidates in any state. The Electoral College Vote Chart shows how many votes you get. Check the ECV Chart and then record your votes on the Scoresheet. After doing each state, total the ECVs. The player with a majority of the ECVs wins.

Some states automatically go to certain players. No PSF conflict is done in those. Their ECVs are already recorded on the Scoresheet.

In most states, the player with the most PSFs in that state wins all of that state's ECVs. Record these in the player's column on the Scoresheet.

In some states, ECVs can be split. Look for the state's line, determine rankings (i.e. the candidate with the most ECVs, second most, etc.), and look up each candidate's number. For example, the candidate with the most PSFs in New York wins 24 ECVs, the second player 7, the third 4, and so on.

If two candidates are tied at any level, then add the votes in question together and divide in half. For example, if two candidates in New York are tied for the lead, each would receive 15 ECVs. Drop fractions.

If not all candidates are present in a state, divide the unallocated ECVs evenly among the candidates that are present. Leftover ECVs go to the leading candidate. For example, if there are only two candidates in New York, the remaining 5 ECVs would need to be allocated. Two would go to each candidate present, and the remaining 1 to the candidate with the most ECVs.

Exception to the above rules: If a candidate has at least two-thirds of the PSFs deployed in a state, he gets all of that state's ECVs. A sole candidate gets all of that state's ECVs.

Do this for each state. Record the total ECVs won on the Scoresheet.


If no candidate wins an Electoral College majority, then the election is decided in the House of Representatives as happened historically. The player with the lowest number of ECVs is eliminated. The remaining three players cast votes for the states they have won in the election. Each state casts one vote in the House. You need a majority of these to win the election.

The eliminated player casts his states' votes for any of the other three candidates.

Alternatively, a group may allocate the eliminated player's votes automatically. If the fourth player is Clay, his states vote for Adams. If Adams was last, his votes go to Clay. If Jackson is fourth, his people support Crawford.

If Crawford is out, his eastern states (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont) go to Adams. His western states (Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, and Ohio) support Clay, and the southern ones (all the rest) go to Jackson.


John Quincy Adams: Secretary of State from Massachusetts. You have done it all: Senator, Ambassador, and even helped with the Monroe Doctrine. Now you are ready for the big time. Too bad an aristocrat like you hates campaigning since it involves contact with the riff raff. You saved Jackson's bacon over the Florida thing, and now the clod is running against you. The nerve! You hate slavery and favor tariffs and improvements. (When Jackson kicks you out of office, you'll go to the House of Representatives.)

Henry Clay: Speaker of the House from Kentucky. You personified the word charisma before the word applied to politicians. As Speaker, you saved the country with the Missouri Compromise, and your American System will make the USA even greater. The least America could do is elect you President in return. Well, maybe not this time, but Secretary of State is not a bad job. And you can run again, and again.

William Crawford: Secretary of the Treasury from Georgia. Last candidate nominated by a Congressional Caucus. You are a political genius, a master of manipulation, and finally beat that nasty corruption charge. You nearly took out Monroe in 1816, you have allies everywhere, and the death of William Lowndes left the South to you. Even that weasel Calhoun decided to go for Vice-President rather than take you on. You get along fine with Adams, except for the antislavery thing. If it were not for that stroke, this election would be yours. Maybe.

Andrew Jackson: Senator from Tennessee. You made your reputation with the Battle of New Orleans. So what if the war was over? You personify the frontier. You are a crude, illiterate lout, and proud of it. Just hope that no one remembers your legal background. You are ready to take on those elitists and manipulators. Just watch your back. You dislike tariffs, but like slavery.

John Calhoun: Secretary of War from South Carolina. This election is too rich for your blood. Better to run for Veep and wait. Such a longterm strategy befits a political intellect such as yourself.

Voting: Most states used a popular election, with the winner taking all of a state's ECVs. The legislature picked the Electors in Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, New York, South Carolina, and Vermont. Electors were chosen by districts in Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, and Missouri.

According to Svend Petersen, A Statistical History of the American Presidential Elections (1968), Jackson received 152,933 popular votes, 99 Electoral Votes, and took 7 state delegations in the House. Adams got 115,696 popular votes, 84 ECVs, and 13 states to become President. Clay received 47,136 votes and 37 ECVs, thereby being excluded from House of Representatives voting. Crawford got 46,979 with 41 ECVs, but only took 4 House delegations.


Intrinsic PSFs are based on a candidate's average electoral strength in this era.

ACB is based on EuroParl, a simulation for European history courses.

ACB is designed by Peter L. de Rosa, and is Copyright, 2002. All rights reserved. Reproduction allowed for nonprofit educational use as long as this copyright notice is included.


Any of the following can be used either singly or in combinations. Make sure everyone knows which rules are being used in a particular game.

John Calhoun considered running in 1824. To add him to the mix, give him South Carolina as a safe state, and 5 intrinsic PSFs in North Carolina. He moves first, before Crawford, and gets 10 PSFs per turn.

PSFs can be deployed simultaneously. The players write their deployments down and give them to the moderator who will record all of them at that time. Resolve conflict in the normal player-order. Repeat this each phase.

Players may communicate with each other only through written messages.

Normally, one player controls one candidate. To simulate the problems some political factions have in making decisions, more than one player can be assigned to a candidate where internal disunity is a significant factor.

The instructor can require all players to record their negotiations with other players. They are collected at the end of the game and analyzed. Information from these documents can be interesting.

An attacker loses one less PSF in an attack than the defender. For example, the attacker could destroy 4 defending PSFs, while losing only 3.


To make Conflict Resolution more unpredictable, resolve attacks as follows:

After PSF deployment, the attacker identifies the defender. The number of the attacker's PSFs is compared to the number of the defender's PSFs and the odds are computed. Divide the number of the attacker's PSFs by the number of the defender's PSFs to get a ratio. For example, 10 PSFs attacking 5 PSFs would be 2 to 1. Always drop fractions. For example, 14 PSFs against 5 PSFs would still be 2 to 1. 15 vs. 5 would be 3 to 1.

After computation, roll a die and resolve attacks on the following table:

Die Roll 1-2 1-1 2-1 3-14-15-1+
1 X D D D D D
2 X X D D D D
3 X X X D D D
4 A X X X D D
5 A X X X X D
6 A A X X X X

Example of Play

After several Game-turns, the situation on the Scenario Chart looks like this:

Crawford Clay Adams Jackson
Xenophobia 5 10 8 5
Yurt 6 - 2 5
Zen - 15 - 11

Crawford gets 10 PSFs per turn. He puts 5 in Xenophobia and 5 in Yurt:

Crawford Clay Adams Jackson
Xenophobia 10 10 8 5
Yurt 11 - 2 5
Zen - 15 - 11

Crawford then attacks Clay in Xenophobia with 5 PSFs (each loses 5 PSFs) and Adams in Yurt with 2 PSFs (each loses 2 PSFs):

Crawford Clay Adams Jackson
Xenophobia 5 5 8 5
Yurt 9 - 0 5
Zen - 15 - 11

Crawford next attacks Adams in Xenophobia with 2 PSFs. (remove 2 PSFs from each):

Crawford Clay Adams Jackson
Xenophobia 3 5 6 5
Yurt 9 - - 5
Zen - 15 - 11

Now is Clay's turn. He gets 10 PSFs. He puts 4 in Yurt and 6 in Zen:

Crawford Clay Adams Jackson
Xenophobia 3 5 6 5
Yurt 9 4 - 5
Zen - 21 - 11

Clay then attacks Crawford in Yurt with 4 PSFs, and Jackson in Zen with 11:

Crawford Clay Adams Jackson
Xenophobia 3 5 6 5
Yurt 5 0 - 5
Zen - 10 - 0

Adams now receives 15 PSFs. He puts them in Xenophobia:

Crawford Clay Adams Jackson
Xenophobia 3 5 21 5
Yurt 5 - - 5
Zen - 10 - -

Adams attacks Jackson with 5 PSFs, and then Clay with 5 PSFs, all in Xenophobia:

Crawford Clay Adams Jackson
Xenophobia 3 0 11 0
Yurt 5 - - 5
Zen - 10 - -

If this were the end of the game, Clay would be the candidate with the most PSFs in Zen, Crawford and Jackson would split Yurt, and Adams would win Xenophobia, wth Crawford in second..



WEB SITE REVIEW: Warp Spawn Games