board games

To Endure the Mad Men Hiatus, Play the Board Games the Cast Did

If you’re a Mad Men fan, last night probably seemed sadly devoid of alcoholic philandering, advertising campaigns, and secret pregnancies. And on Mondays, what are you supposed to do with all the time you normally spent arguing over what happened at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce the night before? Why not spend it the way the Mad Men cast did during their downtime on the set: playing period-appropriate games. Rich Sommer (a.k.a. Harry Crane, media buyer/superspy) is a hard-core board-game aficionado — seriously, he knows his stuff: The dude is some kind of nerd king! — and he shared with us the five games that he and his fellow (fake) admen have kept busy with between scenes over the course of making the show. So light up a smoke, pour yourself a drink, and roll the dice; it’ll keep you busy until season five.

1960: The Making of the President
“Total synchronicity: It was a weird coincidink that this 2007 game came out while our first season was airing, and was in fact released within a week or two of our Nixon versus Kennedy episode. It’s about that 1960 election. Jason Matthews is one of the co-designers of the game, and he is also a Mad Men fan, so we kind of hooked up during that time and started chatting. It’s a really great two-player game, pretty easy to get into. I mean, you probably wouldn’t want to jump from, like, Sorry and Battleship straight into 1960: The Making of the President, but it’s not difficult to learn. It’s a great two-player game: One is Nixon, one is Kennedy, and it’s really fun.”

Mr. President
Mr. President is another two-player game and it fits that time, only because it’s a 3M bookshelf game, and those were out in the sixties. My copy is copyrighted 1967. But it’s really easy to find on eBay, and it’s really easy to learn, and it’s really fun. It’s totally unique from any other election game I’ve ever played. Aaron Staton and I have played it, I don’t know, five or six times. It’s a really fun presidential game, rooted in the era so all the electoral votes correlate with that time. And someone on Board Game Geek has redone the numbers on the game to make it work for current elections.”

“Michael Gladis and I played this on set a lot. We were always trying to find a way to sneak it into the back of a shot or something, because it would have actually fit in the time. No such luck, but I’m not giving up yet … “

Hive is a contemporary two-player game, sort of like chess-light, with bugs. There’s no board; it’s very portable, and Michael [Gladis] and I would play it in the offices of Sterling Cooper. We’d find a secretary desk that wasn’t in the shot and have it set up, so whenever they said “cut” we’d make a couple moves and then come back in.”

“We also played Hearts a lot in Paul Kinsey’s office in Sterling Cooper. It was one of the only games that we could get Vincent Kartheiser to play with us, ‘cause he doesn’t want to learn a new game, and he knows Hearts. If you sit down with Vinnie, he can play any trick-taking game. He’s really good at poker. We’re low on the totem pole, so sometimes we’ll get called in for a shot in the morning, and then we have four hours where we’ll have to hang out, and then we’ll shoot in the evening. So we would go hide in Paul Kinsey’s office, shut the door, and play silent Hearts while they were out shooting things in the other room.”

To Endure the Mad Men Hiatus, Play the Board Games the Cast Did