Published by John Franklin Games.
Invented by John Franklin (?).
Review by Graeme Coulam (firstname.lastname@example.org).
It's illegal, it's immoral and it sent Ivan Boesky to prison. It's Insider Dealing, the practice of dealing in stocks and shares with advance knowledge of likely changes in prices. Now anyone who can't resist the temptation of making a fast buck can yield with impunity by playing the board game instead.
Insider Dealing has just been released in the UK, by the small, independent outfit John Franklin Games. Apart from its unethical content, the game is quite unusual in a number of respects. It's also great fun.
For starters, the board comprises two playing surfaces. One represents the floor of the London Stock Exchange and contains sites on which players (up to six) can buy or sell shares in twelve fictitious companies. A nice feature is that the playing area is an hexagonal grid so players can move their piece in any one of six directions. It adds variety, and a fair amount of frustration, too. The other playing surface is a circuit, around which players move a piece that is common to them all. This circuit represents a trading period, and also dictates when dividends will be paid on the stocks and shares purchased by the players. When players alight on certain positions they are able to pick up cards which contain information on how share prices are going to move.
The collection of these cards is the basis of Insider Dealing. As the game progresses, each player will acquire cards which will enable them to dictate how the share prices will fluctuate. Thus they can buy or sell in advance of rises and falls in share prices. Alternatively they can use their information to ruin the buying and selling of the opposition - an essential point since players may not always be in a position to benefit from their own inside knowledge. If you've ever wanted a game where you can spoil things for an opponent even though you can't win yourself, then this is it!
Simple in concept, the game can be made more or less difficult depending on the ability of the players involved. Nice to have a game where the kids can join in if you want them to, but is also demanding for adults. The game comes with a personalised letter from the manufacturers giving you some clues on how to bend the rules. This is no bad thing. For example, the rules on receiving dividends are a little bit complicated. So, according to the manufacturers they can be ignored. Once you're familiar with the game though, it adds more interest to bring these rules back in.One thing you will need is a pocket calculator. Unfortunately, this doesn't come with the game, but I suppose that most people have one anyway. When dealing in thousands of shares the calculator certainly helps in working out how much money you're spending. Although the game is devised for the English market, so currency is referred to in Sterling, it is structured in such a way that this really doesn't matter. For 'pounds', read 'dollars', 'yen' or 'marks', and it still makes sense. Basically, Insider Dealing is a numbers game, and the currency issue is less important. Actually, it's more than a numbers game, although if you don't like numbers the game isn't likely to appeal. It could be argued that it is also educational, especially about financial markets. The way the game works, popular shares tend to go up in price, and unpopular shares go down. Thus the market reflects supply and demand rather than the inherent value of companies. (Clearly twelve fictitious companies can't have inherent value.) As such it might even be useful for educators trying to teach ideas behind dealing in shares, and free market practices. It will also be useful in teaching the basic mathematical skills which everyone needs.
Whether Insider Dealing will ever rival Monopoly as the world's favourite money game, who knows? In many respects, it's better than Monopoly because even the losing player can have an influence on the game. Even if you can't win, you might be able to make sure that your least favourite opponent can't win either. Or you can set your own target for achievement. If making a profit is your goal, you can still achieve this, even if an opponent makes more, and hence is technically the winner. You can still win on your own terms even when you're losing!
If there is one disappointment with the game it's the packaging. This is probably explained by the fact that it's only available by mail order. At the moment, I suspect there is a relatively low production run, so the real enthusiasts and novelty seekers may do well to get a copy sooner rather than later. A nice touch is that each game is personalised to the buyer, and also comes with a letter about the game. It's quite an amusing letter, which encourages you to play the game but not to get involved in genuine insider dealing. That's good advice. As I said before, insider dealing is illegal, and it's probably better to indulge your vices in a fantasy ie the board game, than to risk the courts in real life.
Mail order information:
John Franklin Games
19 Ashton Place
Berks, RG17 9XS
England £39.99 inc p&p in the UK. I suggest you contact the company for information about overseas sales.
The Game Cabinet - email@example.com - Ken Tidwell