Watergate – Conspiratorial Cardboard Cunning

Watergate game
Watergate game

Fifty years ago the American political landscape was rocked by the scandal of scandals. The Watergate Controversy forever changed politics in America and led to homages both heavy and humorous. But this is a board game website, so we’re looking at a board game adaptation. Today, it’s Matthias Cramer’s masterpiece two-player game Watergate, published by Capstone Games.

Watergate is a card-driven strategy game where one player plays as the Nixon administration (Nixon) and the other as the journalism corps (Editor), seeking the truth! A game of Watergate lasts around 45 minutes and is best for players 10+ (though the game says 12+).


Put the white initiative token and one red momentum token on the “0” space of the research track of the central player board.

Put the initiative card next to the board pointing toward the Editor, who goes first. Then, put each player’s momentum card on the appropriate side. Keep the remaining momentum tokens nearby and shuffle each players’ decks. Finally, put the evidence tokens into the draw bag.

Watergate board setup
Editor player is on the left, Nixon player is on the right.


Players begin each round by drawing cards. The player with initiative draws five cards, the other player draws four.

Nixon also draws three evidence tokens from the bag, looks at them secretly, and places them face-down on the “0” space of the research track.

Starting with the player who has initiative, play alternates back-and-forth. Each player must play a card on their turn. Players can use cards for their value to move tokens (evidence, initiative, or momentum) or perform the specialized action listed,


The upper left of each card has a picture of tokens and a value. Playing a card for value allows players to move an evidence token (of the matching color), the momentum token, or the initiative token. A multi-color evidence icon allows players to move tokens of any represented color.

Investigative Journalism

If the Editor wants to move a face-down evidence token, they must first reveal the card they plan to use. Then they pick a color from that card and ask the other player if that color is present on any face-down evidence token. Nixon must answer truthfully and select an evidence token with that color. Flip that token face-up and move it the appropriate number of spaces toward the Editor’s side.

Yellow tokens and a fraction of a card with 4 & yellow visible
Moving the yellow token 4 spaces towards the Editor

If there are no such tokens, the Editor may instead move the momentum or initiative token.

Leverage and Power

Nixon may look at evidence tokens at any time. When moving a face-down token, however, they must flip that token face-up.

Absolute Control

If a player moves any token to the “5” space on their side of the research track it is immediately awarded to that player.

yellow and blue cardboard token
The Editor moves this evidence token past “5” and may immediately place it on the pinboard.


The Action part of each card may be an Event, a Conspirator (only Nixon), or a Journalist (only the Editor).

Events are powerful moments in history with various effects. Some of these effects put picture tiles face-up (Editor) or face-down (Nixon) on the evidence board. The Editor wants face-up tiles so they can connect these conspirators to Nixon to win the game. Nixon wants face-down tiles so those conspirators are inaccessible to the Editor.

After a player plays an Event card for its action, they then remove the card from the game.

Conspirators and Journalists offer less powerful effects for their respective sides, but players discard them after use – to be cycled into the deck again when it runs out.


After players have played all of their cards, evaluate the tokens on the research track.

  • Return evidence tokens on the “0” space of the track to the bag.
  • Give the momentum token to the player whose side of the research track it’s on.
  • Point the initiative card at player whose side the initiative token is on. Return the token to the “0” space and put a new momentum token with it.
  • Award the evidence tokens. Players may place these tokens on the evidence board aligning with the colors. The Editor is trying to connect Nixon to two Conspirators with face-up tokens. The Nixon Administration is trying to block those paths off by playing their tokens face-down.

Then both players draw new cards and begin another round.

End Game

Nixon immediately wins if they get five momentum tokens, or there are no more momentum tokens during Evaluation.

The Editor wins immediately upon connecting a second Conspirator with Nixon.


There are few moments in American political history that have the impact Watergate had; to the point where the term “-Gate” has been co-opted to represent most recent controversies. This two player adaptation expertly captures the back-and-forth chess match that was the hiding and uncovering of evidence by the Administration and the journalists.

It’s easy for us to look back on the events of those two years and wonder why either side what they did, but the constant jockeying for position in Watergate evokes those nervous advances. The balance board of the research track and the moments of elation or despair when a conspirator is added or removed leads to stories for days, as victory slips through one player’s fingers.

Watergate has no objectionable content and simple mechanics; but the weighty subject matter will be lost on younger children. For older children who may be studying Watergate now (or soon), this is a fantastic opportunity to bring the subject into view in a fun and exciting way. There’s something for everyone to learn here too: the 23 page rulebook is more than half historical information.

The Watergate rulebook, describing the history of the scandal
Tons of historical information in the rulebook.

Watergate is the perfect length for a date night. Its moderate table presence means you can even bring it to a restaurant. You may never know when you stare into the eyes of a loved one if they’re about to drop The Saturday Night Massacre on you, but you can always go to Operation Gemstone if you get in too much trouble.

You can get Watergate from Capstone Games, Amazon, or from your friendly local game store.

The Family Gamers received a promotional copy of Watergate for this review.

This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.

  • 8/10
    Art - 8/10
  • 10/10
    Mechanics - 10/10
  • 7/10
    Family Fun - 7/10


Number of Players: 2
Age Range:12+
Playtime: 30-60 minutes