CONSUMERS : Dismay Greets New Game on the President

The Washington Post

British entrepreneur Jack Jaffe might have called his board game Save the Prime Minister! Or he might have called it Off the Queen!

But he didn’t--to the dismay of some in this country.

“It wouldn’t have seemed relevant,” said the Glasgow-born creator of Save the President!, an assassination game that has just gone on sale at FAO Schwarz. “The threat to the American President is much more serious than the threat to the prime minister, only because there are so many crazies in this country.”

Jaffe, who considered naming his creation Shoot the President! before cooler heads prevailed, has spent six weeks stateside promoting the game, which involves agents of the Soviet Union and the United States competing to kill or protect the President, depending on their nationality, as he motorcades from the White House to the Capitol to be inaugurated.


“How awful,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Alixe Glen replied. “I’d rather play Trivial Pursuit or Pictionary.”

Secret Service agent Richard Adams observed: “Probably at this point, without seeing the board game, it’s premature to make any intelligent comment one way or the other.” But he added, “You’ve piqued my curiosity.”

Ian McDermott, a senior buyer for the legendary toy emporium, said FAO Schwarz decided to market Save the President! at its Fifth Avenue flagship store in Manhattan and a Washington outlet called the Game Boutique after learning it “had established itself in just about every leading toy and game operation in England as well as in Europe. We were impressed.”

McDermott added: “When we had initially run into this game way back four years ago at the American Toy Fair, we were a little skeptical in view of the Washington scene at the time and what had recently taken place"--a delicate reference to John W. Hinckley Jr.'s attempt on the life of President Ronald Reagan. “We’re known as trend-setters in the toy business, but we’re always very, very sensitive to anything that might be ‘off-color.’ ”


Queasy Feeling About It

Not as sensitive, apparently, as Wayne Schmittberger, the editor of Games magazine. Schmittberger, whose magazine boasts a circulation of 700,000, declined to print a review of the game because of “my queasy feeling about it.”

“Maybe it’s just a personal thing,” he added, “but having lived through the ‘60s and ‘70s, I felt it was subject matter that would be distasteful to a lot of people. . . . I felt this was a little bit over the edge of the line.”

The game retails for $30 and, with the exception of wooden dice, is made entirely of cardboard pieces representing a map of Washington, the President and agents for the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency, as well as for the KGB and other Soviet assets.

It accommodates from two to six players. The Soviet players must wound the President before killing him, and a successful shot is determined by proximity to the target and a roll of the dice. Players gain points for capturing enemy agents and lose points for wounding innocent bystanders. No one knows who has been playing for which side until the game is over--a built-in surprise ending, said Jaffe.

“I have designed this game to take care of my old age,” he said, estimating that 30,000 copies have been sold so far in Europe. “Hopefully, it will become like Monopoly. . . .”