A game of ‘Checks & Balances’

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  • Courtesy photo) Sandpoint High School graduate Chris Johnson, left, and his wife, Sasha Bentley, right, created a card game to teach people about American politics.

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    (Courtesy photo) Sandpoint High School graduate Chris Johnson and his wife, Sasha Bentley, created a card game to teach people about American politics.

  • Courtesy photo) Sandpoint High School graduate Chris Johnson, left, and his wife, Sasha Bentley, right, created a card game to teach people about American politics.

  • 1

    (Courtesy photo) Sandpoint High School graduate Chris Johnson and his wife, Sasha Bentley, created a card game to teach people about American politics.

SANDPOINT — A Sandpoint High School graduate, Chris Johnson, and his wife, Sasha Bentley, have created a card game designed to simulate the current United States political system.

The couple, who now live in White Salmon, Wash., are the founders of Jently Games, LLC, recently started digging into government, learning how it all works, and decided to make it into a game called "Checks and Balances."

"We wanted to learn as much as possible, and as we were doing it we thought, 'Man, this really takes a lot of effort,'" Johnson said. "So we thought it would be nice to make it a little bit more accessible and easier ... and more fun."

Johnson and Bentley kicked off their Kickstarter campaign on Aug. 8 with a goal of $65,000. Kickstarter requires "all or nothing," so the game will only be funded if the couple reaches their goal by Sept. 7. So far, about $2,500 has been raised by 21 supporters.

The political system includes three branches of power: The legislative branch, composed of the House and Senate; the executive branch, composed of the president, vice-president, and the departments; and the judicial branch, composed of the federal courts and the Supreme Court.

The objective of the two-player game is to campaign voters who elect government officials who pass legislation in support of the platform goals played on the table. There are a number of "curve balls," or action cards, that players face that are based on real hurdles American democracy faces in the real world, Johnson said. The game demonstrates how the balance between branches can vary, and also shows how the tables can suddenly turn. The game also aims to educate players about the political parties, which they do through legislation cards that reference the political party’s platform.

In the game, players compete against each other as America’s two major political parties — Democrats and Republicans. The legislation cards also have information from the party platforms, Johnson said, so players learn what each party believes in and the goals it is trying to accomplish. The first player to pass three pieces of legislation to support their platform goals wins the game.

Although the game focuses on federal, Johnson said, some of the knowledge can be applied to state government as well.

"Initially we wanted to do federal, state and local, but it would have been a 300-card deck," Johnson said.

Johnson said the game can last anywhere from five to 60 minutes. A five-minute game, he said, could happen if someone gets the president right away and starts passing executive orders. Generally, he said, the game time averages 25-30 minutes. It also depends on how often the players engage in side conversation or research on a topic that comes up.

"I'm pretty excited about it," Johnson said. "I think there is a lot to learn in there."

There are several options for Kickstarter donors, from a $5 "Grassroots" supporter, to a $1,000 "Be a Voter" supporter. Each supporter will receive a gift depending on the donation, such as a "play with your neighbor" postcard or the first edition of "Checks and Balances." Some options allow supporters to receive a copy of the game, as well as donate a copy to an educational institution.

Visit kickstarter.com/projects/checksandbalances/checks-and-balances-the-game?ref=preview&token=8e61c472 or the game website at checksandbalancesgame.com.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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