Hi, it’s my first early review. What is an early review? Well I called it early review because it’s a review for a game that not yet final or complete. Stockpile is on Kickstarter right now and therefor this is my early review of the game. Nauvoo games launched the Kickstarter project on 21st of October 2014. The game is designed by Seth Van Orden and Brett Sobol. You can check the project’s page here and maybe consider to back this awesome simple game.
Stockpile is a game about stock market and insider trading that can be played with 3-5 players (there’s a 2 player variant but not sure if they already make it official or not) in surprisingly 30 minutes. And in case you’re not familiar with and/or intimidated by stock market and trading do not be afraid, I can assure you the game is very simple and easy to understand. In fact aside from the fun, it’s a good way to introduce the topic to people that are strangers to the theme. What’s inside the game Stockpile is a simple game that involves stock shares and market with bidding element, set collection and also economy. In this game, players need to get the most money by the end of the game to win the game. In order to do that they will have to buy low sell high company shares, investing stock shares and try to be the most stock holders in all companies. The game comes with a double-sided board (picturing basic game and advance game board), player mats, money tokens, player & game markers and of course cards ( lot of cards).
The game plays in several rounds (depends on the number of players) which in each round there are several phases that will be resolved in order. At the start of the game, each player will get a player mat and a market along with 20 grand worth of starting money and also one out of 6 company shares (secret). The round runs in several phases, these phases are Information, Bidding, Action, Selling and Market phase. During Information phase, each player will be given 2 cards (hidden) that contain information of a company and what market condition their stock is in and also there is a set of cards opened in the main board as a collective information for all the players. Depending on the number of players, there are possibilities that there are also several sets hidden in the table. And each player get 2 cards from the draw pile (these cards can either be company shares, action cards or even trading fees) that are placed in player’s hand (not on his player mat). The second phase is bidding. Cards are drawn from the pile to fill the bidding slots on the main board based on the number of players and starting from the first player clockwise, each player assign the two cards from their hand to these slots, one face up and one face down. The cards can either be placed in the same slot or different. Once all the players already placed their cards, the bidding starts from the first player by placing his marker to one of the available slots. Each slot has spaces that determine the value of one’s bid. Players need to place his marker higher than the previous marker (if any) in the slot to outbid. Player that was outbid by other players can outbid or move his market to another slot. Players with highest bid marker on a slot cannot move his marker to another slot, they can only do this if another player outbid their marker. Once each player is the highest bidder, the bidding ends and each player needs to pay the bidding cost depends on the value where his marker is placed. If there are Trading Fees among the cards, the owner needs to pay the cost listed. One thing about bidding games is that the bidding tends to be flux based on the players or the gaming group. So it’s a mixed feelings to be sure, some players easily bid high or maybe some players really bid low, both kinds give the game different feels. During Action phase, starting from the first player clockwise each player have to play action cards that he has (he cannot keep action cards for future rounds) to manipulate the company stock values. After that in Selling phase, starting from the first player clockwise, each player is given the chance to sell their company stock. In this phase of course players can guess or read other players mind and insider information, whether to follow others or not which is a plus situation in the game, there’s a trick taking and bluffing situation going on and players will definitely react differently in each game. In the last phase, starting from the first player clockwise, each player reveal his inside information cards and adjust the company values. There are 2 conditions in this phase, bankrupt or stock split. When a company goes bankrupt, players need to reveal their shares to show whether they have that company share or not. If they have, they must discard that company shares (the company value then reset back to 5). But if a company value goes stock split (raise above 10), players need to show their shares, if they have split shares, they get 5.000 for each share in their stock split portfolio (10 grand for one card) and then move any company cards from their stock portfolio to stock split portfolio. Each company card on stock split portfolio slot is counted double in selling, dividend and majority shares. At the end of the game, players check majority for each company shares, player with the most shares get 10.000, if there is any tie, tied players get 5.000 each. Then players sell all their shares. Player with the most money win the game.
My story behind the game
I actually did not know anything about stock market and trade, these all are so alien to me and that’s intimidating. But when Seth (Van Orden) posted in BGG about playtester for his unpublished game, I was there and interested to try. So I asked him a permission to try the game and he delightfully gave me the print and play files. In order to print and play the game I read the rules first so I can understand the game and make necessary adjustment with the files as I see fit. I could see it uses a lot of cards and I decided to make the cards smaller that the real size so I can save papers (printed them front-side only). As for the board, I also resized it for the slots to perfectly hold the cards (single sided, didn’t print the advance board) and also made my own custom temporary player mats. When I learned the rules I noticed that it’s very simple for me, someone who didn’t know anything about stock market. So once I managed to get everything done I started to ask my friends to try the game.
The first try was in a 4-player game which turned out to be a success. We had so much fun with the bidding and push your luck element of the game. When I explained the game to some of my friends that actually know something about stock market, they confirmed that the game rules stay mostly real and correct. Some of them had comments about how the rules really work in reality which I already discussed them with Seth by mail as feedback of my plays. But Seth did managed to explain their reasons and I thought they’ve done a great job to convey the subject into such an easy but fun game. I did test the game several times, with different number of players (3 and even 5 players) and these tests were all successful.
The game also has advance board and character cards. The advance board gives players more variable in company share values (I have not try it yet, but I am sure it will change the players treatment for each company’s shares. And the character cards will give more variation to the game, with character abilities and also different starting money. The game has awesome artworks, it conveys the stock market world very well. The sophisticated cartoonish look with clear and simple vectorish style.
Game play: 7/10 It’s a fun game for both casual or non-gamers and serious gamers. Theme: 9/10 Successfully portrays the theme very well but still easy to play (you can say that the game is perfect as a beginner’s tool to undestand stock market and trading. Some rules are simplified from the actual reality but it’s for the sake of simpler game play and mitigate fiddly elements. Difficulty: 5/10 It’s difficulty goes as far as basic economy, so most people will find the game easy to understand and has simple game mechanics. Game time: 3/10 Even playing with 5 players, it only takes 45 minutes most, so it’s quite fast for a game that packs something clever in simple way. *some images are credit to the publisher and BGG users