Founding Fathers Forum Game: A republic, if you can keep it.


In the Fall of 1787, after nearly four months of wrangling, brow-beating and arm twisting the Founding Fathers in Philadelphia emerged with a Constitution. Over the next several months it would be ratified by the newly-independent states. They also had a leader, the universally popular George Washington. Now it was time to see if it would all actually work. Could a democratic republic surrounded by enemies, deeply in debt—a new experiment in the world—thrive and survive, or would Benjamin Franklin’s dark hint—“A republic, if you can keep it”—prove all too apt.

Rick Heli’s Founding Fathers is a game inspired by The Republic of Rome, which transports many of the Avalon Hill classic’s mechanics to the early years of the United States. The players control groups of statesmen vying for offices in the executive branch and influence in Congress.

Several intrepid souls have volunteered to let me moderate their journey in to late eighteenth and early nineteenth century American politics.

I have randomly assigned player order as follows:

You can follow all of the exciting, spreadsheet based action on the Google Sheet that I’ll be using to keep track of the game.

I’m still waiting for my physical copy to arrive, which I’ll need to complete the setup, but there is time for a quick overview of how the game is played.

Play proceeds in four phases: the Issue Phase, the Treasury Phase, the Election Phase, and the People Phase

Issue Phase
During this phase, the President draws 4 issues that are facing the United States from the issues deck. He appoints officers from the Statesmen of his party to various offices, such as Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, and Special Envoy to help resolve the issues. Most issues also require Congressional approval, based on player controlled votes. The President may also propose or repeal taxes and tariffs, subject to a Congressional vote.

Treasury Phase
During this phase, the Secretary of the Treasury (or in this case, the moderator) adjusts the government’s reserves, adds interest, in the event that the government is in debt, and if the government is sufficiently in debt, rolls to see if the game ends due to economic collapse.

Election Phase
During this phase, the most popular Statesman from each party runs for President. After choosing a running mate, the two parties face off, placing markers in various states to determine control of the states’ electoral votes. At the beginning of the game, the statesman who gets the most votes becomes President, regardless of whether they were a Presidential candidate or a Vice Presidential candidate, and the second place Statesman becomes Vice President. Once the Twelfth Amendment comes into effect, things change.

If one party is exceptionally popular, there can be a single party dominance election, which works a little differently. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

People Phase
In this phase, the players receive influence and draft action cards. The players then each take a turn doing one of the following: invest in newspapers to increase public support for their party, whip up public support for their party by making speeches, or make speeches to enhance their personal popularity. Once everyone has taken a turn, a final turn is up for grabs based on an auction where the players bid influence (from their statesmen and faction supply).

Game End: The game ends when the last issue card is drawn, when an economic collapse occurs, or when rising tensions push the country into civil war.

Victory: Players score victory points based on the popularity of their Statesmen when they die, retire, or when the game ends, whichever happens first. If the game ends by economic collapse or civil war, the players must subtract their influence and number of Congressional votes controlled from their final score.

For those who want to follow along with the rules at home, they are available here, somewhat down the page in the “downloads” section:


I have distributed the initial Statesmen Cards, and the initial teams are as follows:

@Brooski: George Washington, Ben Franklin, and James Madison. Bruce has a powerhouse set of statesmen controlling 18(!) votes in Congress, and all of which have 3 political ability (the highest natural ability is 4, so this is very strong). Washington, with a starting popularity of 7, is the leader of the conservative party. Madison’s starting popularity of 3 is tied with Aaron Burr and only 2 behind Jefferson for leadership of the liberal party. The only weakness of Bruce’s team is that Franklin is the oldest and Washington the second oldest Statesmen on the board, and one of them is likely to die in the near future.

@Cuthbert: Cuthbert has the excellent Alexander Hamilton, who has 3 ability and 4 popularity, tied with John Adams for highest conservative popularity after Washington, and is one of the younger founders (16th in line to die). Hamilton also gets a free influence every turn, which is a strong bonus. Cuthbert’s other two Statesmen, Timothy Pickering and William Henry Harrison, are both nonentities (1 ability, 1 popularity, and 1 or 0 votes). Cuthbert controls 3 conservatives however, which will be useful when a Conservative leader is trying to staff a cabinet.

@Panzeh has Thomas Jefferson, who is the leader of the Liberal Party with 5 popularity, and who also has 3 ability. Jefferson also controls 5 votes. Panzeh also has John Marshall and Thomas Pinckney, who are 2/2 and 1/1 Conservatives, respectively, each with 2 votes.

@Ironsight has Aaron Burr as his initial statesmen, who is a 2 ability 3 popularity Liberal with the same excellent free influence ability as Hamilton. Ironsight also has Charles C. Pinckney, the more popular brother of Panzeh’s Thomas Pinckney, who is a 1/3 Conservative with 2 votes. Daniel Tompkins is a Liberal nonentity, 1/1 with 1 vote.

@Navaronegun has the Vice President, John Adams, who is a 4/4 conservative controlling 3 votes. John Adams is the most effective character currently on the board, although he is stuck in the Vice Presidency, which we know is worth about as much as a warm bucket of spit. Navaronegun also has John Jay, a 2/2 Conservative with 2 votes, and the enigmatic Elbridge Gerry, who is the only Statesman who can be in either party.

After I prepare the deck, I will deal 2 action cards to each of the players, and we can get started.



Aaron Burr - You best not have any thoughts of besmirching my character Mr. Hamilton (@Cuthbert) for I have a pistol and know how to use it! My advice to you is to “Go West, young man.”

And so it begins… :)


Maybe do less treason then, @Ironsight !


One area where I’d like to poll the players: what are thoughts on open versus secret negotiations? I tend to favor that all negotiations happen in the thread for this kind of game, and I think that is what is contemplated by the rules, although it is not clearly stated one way or another.

Note that, unlike in Republic of Rome, all agreements are non-binding.


I’m fine either way, but face to face there wouldn’t be much secret negotiation so that works for me.


Do the rules speak at all to negotiations away from the table?

In ay case, I am eager to get my Alien and Sedition Act through Congress. No Jacobism in my new country, gentlemen.



No…supporting the Stuarts as kings of England and Scotland?

(Did you mean Jacobinism?)


You know I meant, Bahamian!


SIR I am from St. Kitts-Nevis


Page 5 of the rules:

Deals: Players are permitted at any time to negotiate the
exchange of Influence Points, unplayed cards and promises
to do favors. However, players are not required to follow through with
promises. Let the buyer beware.

Given the above I think players should be allowed to negotiate in private if they want, and nothing posted in this thread as a “deal” is binding anyway the way I read the rules.

Edit - To clarify, I do think if someone posts here that they are taking an action like trading influence then at that point the transaction must happen. Before that either party could back out of that example transaction if they want. I think in the RoR thread people put something in bold if it was official. Anything else was not enforceable.


I defer to Kane, but it does seem Private Negotiations are a go. I recommend re:actions we use the bold methodology; if bolded, it’s an action not a conversation.


Great minds think alike @Navaronegun. See my edit above that I made just as you posted! :)




I am here to serve the players, so secret negotiations are a go.


Gratis, Kane, but do you think, in your opinion as moderator, that it is allowed in the rules? I bow to your moderation.


After all, I suppose that no one else was in the room where it happened…


The rules don’t say, and I suppose it is appropriately thematic, which makes me think that is appropriate here. I might do public negotiations if I were playing face to face to keep the game moving, but that is a lesser concern on the forum.


Speaking of which, the link to the rules above, it does not seem to work. Might you have another, pray tell?


The are available here, somewhat down the page: