Friday, January 23rd, 2009...1:14 pm

10 Games To Get You Through The Recession

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By Rassam Fakour-Zaker
Know Your Money Editor

Just because world is on the verge of a horribly messy economic apocalypse doesn’t mean we can’t have fun, right? Right. However, we all know that expenditure on leisure is one of the first casualties of a recession; therefore, financially prudent entertainment is the best option.

That’s where board games come in. Not only are they relatively cheap, but they represent excellent value for money: you get plenty of playing time, loads of people can join in, repeated use is guaranteed and they can last a lifetime. With this in mind I have rummaged around the internet to find some games with a particular relevance to the economic downturn…

Pay Day
Ah, Pay Day – the board game that, according to Amazon, “makes family finances fun”. That’s a formidable task: family finance isn’t anyone’s idea of fun. Unless, perhaps, you’re one of the Rothschilds. Or a Mafia boss. But seeing as this game has been around in various forms since the mid-1970s it’s fair to assume that there is some truth in such a bold assertion. In fact, Pay Day is an admirable game that introduces kids to many aspects of real-life family finances such as income and expenditure, juggling household bills and paying taxes. Ideal edutainment for children and a handy refresher course for the millions of credit-addicted citizens of the West.

Credit Crunch
You know something’s going seriously wrong when free market-loving The Economist magazine starts satirising the state of the economic system. But that’s just what they did in their Christmas issue with the Credit Crunch board game pull-out. Players traverse the board using coins rather than dice, gaining or losing money as they go, borrowing from banks and performing hostile takeovers and other such financial practices.

The tongue-in-cheek game board name checks many of the financial institutions and figures that got us into this mess, so you’ll know who to curse as your house gets repossessed. The Credit Crunch board game is available to download and print from their website.

Hock shop
This vintage game from the mid-70s is, curiously, the only game that I could find based on the ancient industry of pawnbroking. It’s a basic “roll and move” collection game in which players can pawn collected items to raise extra cash.

With pawnbrokers currently thriving as more people turn their direction for quick cash and easy credit, Hock Shop could provide some essential training. Furthermore, since the game hasn’t been in production for around 30 years, you’re most likely to pick it up at a bargain price in a charity store or on eBay.

OK, let’s clear up one thing right away: just because I’m including this game here, it doesn’t mean that I’m condoning drug dealing as a career choice. But still, it’s a cracking game that has players making big bucks selling weed stashes, putting heat on rival dealers and avoiding the dreaded paranoia cards.

Also, it might give you a few ideas on making some extra cash. Whoops…

This game was released at the end of 2008 by an Icelandic casual games company as a humorous rejoinder to the devastation of the country’s economy. Kreppuspilið – which translates as “The Crisis Game” – is a simple “roll and move” board game that has players buying private jets and mansions and subsequently receiving severance pay and protesting outside parliament.

Tipped for success last Christmas in Iceland, Kreppuspilið is a testament to the resilience and grimly dark humour of the Icelandic people, and a rousing example of laughter in the face of economic adversity.

Public Assistance
In 1980, the barren, desolate wasteland of “right-wing humour” (which recently gave us such revered gems as The ½ Hour News Hour and An American Carol) spewed forth a board game of such staggering awfulness – as well as staggering racism, sexism, classism and general intolerance – that it was subsequently banned.

Now re-issued, Public Assistance: Why Bother Working for a Living?, to give its full title, was created by publisher Ronald Pramschufer and Robert Bowie Johnson Jr., author of the succinctly-titled Sowing Atheism: The National Academy or Sciences’ Sinister Scheme to Teach Our Children They’re Descended from Reptiles (he really has a way with subtitles, doesn’t he?). Claiming to be an accurate representation of the US welfare system, the game plays like Monopoly with added bigotry, attacking the underprivileged. Players must negotiate the “Able-Bodied Welfare Recipient Promenade” and avoid the “Working Person’s Rut” while having out-of-wedlock children, enjoying a “jail jaunt”, committing crimes, avoiding “ethnic gangs” and generally squeezing as much money out of the welfare system as possible.

On the game’s official website you’ll find the ever-succinct Mr Johnson Jr’s 10-page denunciation of the “government liberal conspiracy” that brought about the game’s ban (personally, I found the court rulings a tad more convincing), images of his game’s board and its equivalent to Chance cards (listed, in all their prejudiced bizarreness, here) and handy contact details should anybody wish to congratulate him on his contribution to humanity.

Cashflow 101
Here’s one with a serious emphasis on financial education. Cashflow 101 – and its offshoots, Cashflow 202 and Cashflow for Kids – combine common “roll and move” board game mechanics with real-life accounting, finance and investment lessons.

Created by the US investor, businessman and successful self-help author, Robert Kiyosaki, this game imparts the teachings of his books such as Rich Dad, Poor Dad and CASHFLOW Quadrant which promote “financial literacy” and the idea of attaining financial freedom through generating passive income and acquiring assets.

All this seems very helpful in the current economic climate. But as far as I’m concerned, the multi-millionaire Kiyaosaki can go on about increasing financial literacy and attaining financial freedom all he wants, but since his board game retails at a whopping $200, he can stick his advice up his arse – there’s only one person getting rich from this game.

Ba$tard$ Inc.
Another satirical game. This one, from German creators Marc Röder and Nikolaus Ruf, puts players in control of global mega corporations exerting their influence on international politics and the economy. Billed as “an educational game for the entire family” the game encourages unethical practices, letting players engage in all sorts of corrupt activities in order to maximise profits and win the game. What it lacks in flashy design it makes up for in scathing humour, awesome title and recession-friendly price (it’s available to download for free from the official website).

There are countless licensed and unlicensed versions of the daddy of all financial games – the most comprehensive list I could find topped 1600, and that was from 3 years ago – but none of them seemed to offer any particular relevance to the current economic downturn.

Fortunately, I came across an intriguing set of alternate rules which can be played on any standard Monopoly board. Credit Crunch Monopoly mirrors the sorry state of the economy by starting the banker off with a massive pile of debt and the players with a mere £5. In this wonderfully apt system, players are forced to negotiate loans from the bank while avoiding repossessions and the imminent collapse of the entire banking system. As the rules state, “Anyone who is bankrupt loses – i.e. everyone eventually.”

Further searching dug up some great alternative Community Chest and Chance cards (pictured above), presented as a taster for the Melting Pot Project’s Monopoly: Subprime Mortgage Edition. Featuring such gems as “All of your money was in AIG and Bear Stearns stock. Lose $200.” and “You’re dating Bristol Palin, and her period is late. Lose $100 for wedding tux.”, I can only hope that the full game will be in all good toy stores soon. Those that haven’t shut down yet, that is.

That’s Noughts and Crosses for us in the UK. It may not be as sophisticated or educational (or as board game-like) as the rest of the list, but I’ve included it here because it is brilliantly cost effective – you can play it on any old scrap of paper, like eviction notices or electricity bill final reminders – and it has genuine universal appeal. However, if the players are aware of the unbeatable strategies then it just becomes a rather depressing exercise in futility. Perhaps not ideal for a recession then.

Let us know what games you’ll be playing this recession…


  • You can be sure that recession is not funny as games

  • You missed one of the best:

    “Go For Broke 1″

    It’s a board game where each player starts out with a million dollars and the first one to lose it in the stock market, casino or race track wins. It’s great fun blowing your money on bad investments and trying to lose in the casino, only to win big. It was the inspiration for the 80s movie Brewster’s Millions.

  • Great listing. One more should be added. Careers for all of the people retooling and reinventing themselves in this economic downturn.

  • Great resource!

    I play Payday and Cashflow.

    Cashflow is very, I mean, VERY, expensive – BUT effective and I in fact playing the real smal deal, big deal game in real life…


  • Really enjoyed this article – nice tie in with the games and the economic climate! While I wait for the 3D interactive Monopoly, one or two of these will do! Thanks for lively read!

  • The game I’ll be playing is called, “Picking Up Trash, Put It In My Pocket, Save It For A Rainy Day.”

    It’s better known as recycling.

  • Great article! I love Monopoly :)

  • Saul Arseneault
    June 27th, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    Good info. I’ve gotta say though that for games, I’m still hard core and adore monopoly. Which is your favorite?

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