Chance or strategy – Tabletop Games Blog

All games are a mixture of chance and strategy – Yahtzee is virtually pure chance, while Chess is virtually pure strategy, and there is a whole range in between of course. Chance and strategy affect specific aspects of games.

The more chance there is in a game, the more variable it is – but at the same time it levels the playing field, giving players with varying skill and ability a more equal game experience. Yahtzee is the classic example of a chance game – each turn is completely reliant on the outcome of a dice throw, so every player has an equal chance of winning. There is only a very small amount of decision making involved.

A game with pure strategy means that players’ experience becomes vital. The more you play Chess, the better you get at it – and the more you play with people who are better than you, the more you learn. Strategy games require players of roughly equal experience, or the game becomes very frustrating and boring.

Modern tabletop games usually have a good mixture of chance and strategy. Even strategy heavy games, such as Rising Sun, have an element of chance – the shuffling of Political Mandates for example. Artifacts, Inc. is an example where chance plays a huge role, because you roll dice on each turn, but then there is a lot of strategy when you decide where to place your dice.

What do you prefer in a game? Chance or strategy? Do you have a favourite game which has a nice balance of both? Please reply to this conversation with your thoughts.

Exchange: A Stock Trading Game of Strategy & Wit (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2018Players: 3-6
Designer: Eric SilliesLength:  30-45 minutes
Artist: n/aAge: 10+
Publisher: n/aComplexity: 1.5 / 5

The stock market is in turmoil. There is a financial crisis. Companies’ solvency is in doubt. Panic selling has started for some securities. The year is 1792, and 24 stockbrokers meet in Wall Street in New York under a buttonwood tree to sign an agreement that creates a new way of securities trading, which creates a closed market where everyone can trust each other to honour payments and where investments are legitimate. In Exchange: A Stock Trading Game of Strategy & Wit by Eric Sillies, you are one of the group of 24 and you have to use your wit and cunning to take the beginnings of a new stock exchange to what will eventually become the New York Stock Exchange.

Here is a really cut-throat game where you keep a close eye on your colleagues’ stock holdings to outmanoeuvre them and make the most profit from the constantly changing market. I know that games with a lot of player interaction can be a bit off-putting, but even though trying to ruin the other players’ plans is the core mechanism in Exchange, it doesn’t feel too bad, because there are other players who may actually help you. The market forces as a whole balance things out, and if you’re smart, you can hugely benefit from other players’ attempts to bring you down. Bluffing, double-bluffing and making constant tactical decisions is what makes this game tick.

Also, if you do feel really hard done by, the game only lasts half an hour or so, so it’s over relatively quickly. Yet, everyone trying to beat up a single player can quickly backfire, due to the way the stock market works. You see, Exchange uses a mechanism it calls market bubble. It is when the price of a stock either goes below $10 or above $90. Suddenly that stock’s value flips around to the other extreme of the market. A stock going below $10 will then be worth $90, while a stock going above $90 will drop down to $10. If a group of players decide to try and force a stock to drop right down, they may inadvertently push it to the top.

You aren’t allowed to discuss what your plans are with other players, so everyone makes their choices in secret and then everyone reveals at once. Forming an alliance with other players is virtually impossible, even when the game state seems to single out a player as a target for an attack.

What makes Exchange so much fun is the need to predict what other players’ plans are, while trying to hide yours. Even when it’s clear that you and another player should take a certain action, such as push down the price of a specific stock, you both have to be careful to avoid the market bubble effect. There will be nervous moments when everyone reveals their actions and you wonder if you hit the market bubble, just to find that the player you were trying to attack actually took advantage of your plans and pushed their stock value below the bottom price and back out at the top, cashing in a huge profit in the process.

So I would say take a closer look at Exchange: A Stock Trading Game of Strategy & Wit, even if you don’t normally like cut-throat games. Of course, if you like games with a lot of player interaction, then Exchange will be right for you. It’s a lot of fun and a short enough game to be the perfect opening or finish for your games night.

Transparency Facts

I feel that this review reflects my own, independent and honest opinion, but the facts below allow you to decide whether you think that I was influenced in any way.

  • I bought a copy of the game myself.
  • At the time of writing, neither the designers, nor the publisher, nor anyone linked to the game supported me financially or by payment in kind.

Unboxing Video

Podcast Review

Music: Inspirational Innovation by AShamaluev Music