stockpile

Stockpile from Nauvoo Games Review by Christopher Dickinson

Publisher: Nauvoo Games

Game Designer: Brett Sobol & Seth Van Orden

Artwork: Jacqui Davis & Ian O’Toole

Players: 2-5

Ages: 13+

Playing Time: 45 minutes

Game Mechanics: Auction/Bidding and Set Collections

Contents: Doubles Sided Board, Turn Marker, First Player Marker, 6 x Stock Tickers, 6 x Company Cards, 6 x Forecast Cards,  5 x Player Boards, 96 x Currency Cards, 80 x Market Deck Cards, 7 x Bidding Meeples & 10 x Investor Cards

Suggested Retail Price: $50 (UK rrp tbc)

Parental Advisory: n/a

SPBanner

“Manipulate financial markets and misdirect your opponents to amass the most money in this fast-paced economic game for 2-5 players.”

Introduction

Stockpile is the first game to be published by Nauvoo Games and was successfully funded on KickStarter in November 2014. I missed the campaign when it first hit KickStarter, but fortunately a friend backed it so I have had the opportunity to play this several times over the past few weeks. The game has rules and a double sided board for a standard and advanced mode and also character cards to add further variation.

The premise of the game is simple really; each player is vying to become the richest stock broker by bidding for the choicest shares and using their insider trading knowledge to manipulate the markets to their advantage. This is a fairly light stocks game and does not require anywhere near the time investment or learning of some of other stocks and shares games on the market. It plays exceptionally quickly even with five players and is a lot of fun to boot.

If games about stocks and shares really aren’t your thing, don’t throw the towel in just yet. Please read on as you may well be pleasantly surprised.

Overview

The game of Stockpile is played out over a set number of rounds which varies dependent upon the number of players (between 5 and  7 rounds). Each round has a number of phases where players will bid for stocks and action cards (which can adjust stock values, or force a player to pay trading fees), sell shares if they wish and finally adjust the markets. Victory is awarded to the player who has the most cash at the end of the game (in actual currency and current value of any stocks held).

I am going to focus on the standard game for this review. At the start of the game each player is dealt a Market Share card of one of the six companies and starting capital of $20,000. This first Market card is placed on their player board (where they keep any future acquired stock). Each round of the game then moves through the following 6 phases (all players take their actions on each phase, starting with the start player, before the next phase is played out).

1. Information Phase

2. Supply Phase

3. Demand Phase

4. Action Phase

5. Selling Phase

6. Movement Phase

In the Information Phase each player is given one Company Card and one Forecast card. Then a Forecast and a Company Card are each placed face up on the board in the corresponding space, with any leftover Forecast and Company Cards placed face down next to the game board (though all will be revealed in the course of a turn).

Each player is now privy to a little common knowledge; the face up Company Card and Forecast Card provides general information on what will happen to the stock of the company. The Forecast Card will show an increase in stocks, a decrease in stocks or give advance notice of any upcoming dividend payments ($2000 per share), the Company Card details which company this will apply to.

Additionally, players also now have some insider knowledge. The Forecast and Company Card that were dealt to each player are kept secret so they have advanced knowledge of the future share activity of a single company.

The Supply Phase starts by dealing two Market Cards to each player. In player order these should be played to the game board forming stacks of cards. There will be one stack per player as each player will collect one of these sets of cards during a later phase (the Demand Phase). Cards can be played on the same stack or one each on two different stacks. The only other rule governing placement is that one must be played face up and the other face down. Market Cards will either be a share for one of the six companies, trading fees that need to be paid by whoever buys the stack in the next phase, or stock adjustment (these can be positive or negative). This gives each player some important decisions to make when placing their Market Cards. What information do they want to go public and what would they like to remain a secret?

The Demand Phase is the bidding phase of the game where players will purchase one of the stacks of cards (comprised of a number of face up and face down market cards). Above each supply stack is a bidding area with a spots numbering from 0 to 25. Players will place their meeple in one of the slots above the stack of market cards they wish to bid for. If a player is outbid they can either increase their bid to the next available slot in the area or move to a new Market Stack. Once someone takes the ’25’ slot then no further bidding can take place in this area and all other players are forced to choose another stack of cards. Bidding is over when all players have bid on different stacks. They then claim their stack of Market Cards and pay the required amount to the bank (plus the cost on any trading fee cards they have acquired).

In the Action Phase players then resolve any action cards they have picked up. For each card they have collected they can adjust a stock of their choice by two points positively or negatively.

Stock Adjustment Market Cards

Stock Adjustment Market Cards

The next step is the Selling Phase. Starting with the first player and moving clockwise round the table, each player can decide which, if any, of their shares they wish to sell. This is important because it is the final phase before the end of round stock price adjustments are made. Players need to balance the risk of holding on to shares too long and watch the company go bankrupt (at which point all stocks for the bankrupt company must be discarded), or sell too early and see the company stock split (shares in the company are multiplied by two, or handsome dividends paid out for shares that have already split).

The final phase is the Movement Phase. Each player reveals the Company and Forecast Cards and the companies’ share tracks are adjusted accordingly, or dividends are paid.

Each companies’ share track (in the standard game) starts with a trash can on the left and has a $ sign on the far right, with the numbers 1 to 10 in between. Companies are considered bankrupt if the stock marker for that company ever reaches the trash can. Should they reach the $ sign on the far left then the share will split (and the stock marker is moved back to position 6 on the track, but shares in the company are now worth double).

As well as balancing the decision to buy / sell stock based on the market value, players are incentivised to retain company stock because, at final games scoring, the player with the most stock in each company is awarded an additional $10,000.

As stated above the game offers both a standard and advanced mode by way of a double sided board. In practice, what this really offers is great volatility in some stocks, while others are far more stable investments. The more volatile stocks have shorter stock tracks so the speed at which they can bust or double is far greater. While other stocks tracks are longer and may require more than one movement before they are rewarded (or penalised) by a change in stock value.

There are also ten Investor Cards that come with all first edition copies of the game. In the investor variant two of these cards are handed to each player at the start of the game. Each player will decide which to keep and which to return to the box. Most have an ability which the player can use throughout the game, while some merely start with additional cash.

SPInvestor

Investor Cards

 

Components

The components in the game are produced to a reasonably high standard. The double sided board  is a nice touch offering variation to the gameplay and all the cards are really nice, with a gloss finish. Money in this game is printed on smaller cards, which is sure to please many people (as paper money is definitely out of vogue right now). Everything here is pretty much as you would come to expect from a professionally produced games these days. The only let down is the turn marker and the stock value markers (the red ‘x’ and the black circles in the picture below). These are cardboard counters and seem out of place with everything else.

components

Board Set Up for a Five Player Game

A note on the rules and the rule book as I realise I was about to overlook this. The rule book is excellent. It is well laid out, the examples are clear and everything is explained in a simple, straightforward manner. The game is simple to learn from the instructions provided and very easy to explain to new players. I can’t say it is ever truly a joy to read rule books, but this was pretty close.

Analysis and Evaluation

The theme of stock markets, to me at least, does not tend to point toward a family game. However, I would place Stockpile firmly in the segment. The artwork, the simplicity and speed of game play all contribute to making this a very fun game that families will enjoy playing together. The blurb states that this is for 13+, but I assume this is only because of theme and nothing more.

I really like the use of the bidding mechanism in this game. While a straight up auction could have been employed, handling the bidding in the manner chosen keeps the game moving along at a pace and not being slowed down while people allow final bids to be called, only to jump in again or by moving round every player, for every single stock pile. The fact there is a ceiling on any given bid also brings the auction phase to a swift conclusion.

The clever use of hidden information and open information (both with the Company/Forecast Cards and the Market Cards) also leaves plenty for players to think about when deciding what information they want to make available to their opponents and how they will conduct their bidding. Sometimes it is worth seemingly overbidding, only to be able to trash an opponent’s shares (which can do a great deal of financial harm, especially if you manage to bankrupt a company).

The general length of the game, even the first game, is somewhere around the 45′ mark. This makes it a perfect game to start or end an evening and it certainly feels like you are getting plenty of game in for such little time.

There is obviously some luck at play in terms of how shares get affected, but as you bid on the shares you want to collect it really shouldn’t have any lasting impact on your game.

I think it was an excellent decision to create a double sided board to provide variation to the game play and give the game further replayability by changing the dynamic of the stocks track. As I have already said, I am not certain about the investor cards at this point and would certainly advise against them while playing on the ‘advanced’ board.

Conclusion

I am a big fan of Stockpile and not only am I happy to play should it hit the table, it is also my current game of choice if there is only an hour so to play something and this is in the vicinity. The length is more or less the same with 3, 4 or 5 players (I have not played a two player game) due to the number of rounds being shortened with more players which further adds to its appeal. On top of this, even with bidding it is hard for the game time to be artificially extended by slow bidders or a protracted auction. The box states 45′ – 60′ minutes to play and this seems to be spot on the money (and how rare is it that).

The art and components are solid for the most part, my only criticism is the decision not to make one of the priority stretch goals an upgrade to the Round number token and the Stock Markers.

I really only have minor niggles about this game. It is a wonderful first time effort from a new company and the two designers are clearly ones to watch for the future!

The RRP of the game is set at $49 in the US which would point to a price tag of somewhere in the region of £35 in the UK which seems very reasonable for this game.

Club Fantasci Scoring (Based on scale of 10):

Artwork: 8

Rules Book: 9

Re-playability: 8

Component Quality: 7.5

Club Fantasci Overall Score: 8

I am giving Stockpile 8 out of 10 because it is a great game for anyone to play. Its real strength lies in the simplicity and the speed of the game which opens it up to a wide spectrum of players. It has enough depth to satiate regular games as a start or end game for an evening, but is easy enough for non gamers, or younger family members to pick up as well (the artwork on the box and investor cards also help in this regard too). All credit to the designers Brett Sobel and Seth Van Orden for putting together such a great debut game.

This game is Club Fantasci certified

Club Fantasci Certified

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