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Card Game Review: Billionaire

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Billionaire is a classic game redone by Fundex to lampoon modern big business, giving an extra level to the century-old stock trading game.

First invented by Edgar Cayce (the same Edgar Cayce who would later give hypnotic predictions and diet advice) and known as Pit in 1904, the idea of a stock-trading game goes back even further to Gavitt’s Stock Exchange in 1903, all of these reflecting on the fast-paced madness of the US Corn Exchange where stockbrokers shout deals at one another, all hoping to make a profit collecting and trading the most valuable commodities.

In Billionaire, the old stocks are updated to some of the most famous modern major industries: Media, Real Estate, Energy, Athletics, Retail, Technology, Finance, and Entertainment. Each of these carries a satirical caricature of people successful in the fields, such as Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump, Warren Buffet, which makes for great aesthetic. Every industry is given a rating of value from $60 million Athletics to the coveted $200 million Technology with the others in the middle, causing all manner of strategies whether to focus on the most valuable or go after lesser values to get the money first.

Billionaire’s rules are straightforward and can be mastered within the first round of play. In setup, sort the deck into its industries and use the most valuable ones for the number of players. For four, pick out four; for six, pick six, etc. This caps Billionaire at eight, but by that time the trading table will be so manic more players might diminish the game. The abridged deck is then shuffled with the extra cards (Taxman and Billionaire) mixed inside and then dealt to the players, two receiving ten while the rest have nine.

The goal of a round is to collect all of a single industry. After the announcement of “Ready, Set, Swap!”, trading begins by everyone offering and swapping matched card sets. For example, if someone says “I have two!” (facedown, a pair of Technology), someone else may trade two (another pair, also facedown) for it. The Taxman and Billionaire cards act as wilds, able to be added to any set. The round continues until someone collects all nine of an industry and calls out “Billionaire!” The winner adds the value of his or her industry ($120 million Entertainment) to his or her score total. Rounds continue until someone collects one billion dollars and is the first Billionaire. With each round taking only a few minutes, the game can be completed within half an hour, or players might go on out of the sheer enjoyment of it.

The Taxman and Billionaire cards throw entertaining wrenches into the mix, making for a sense of gambling on top of the simple trading. If the winner of a round has the Billionaire card in hand, his or her score is doubled. If someone other than the winner has the card, he or she is “fined” $25 million (losing those points on the total score). The Taxman card is always a $25 million fine and, according to some house rules, cannot be in hand while declaring “Billionaire!”, though that is up to each set of players.

Billionaire is a great game, full of the energy, competition, and thrills of the stock market trading floor. While a good deal of it is strategy and skill in collecting, there is also a good deal of luck involved, meaning that it can be anyone’s game. Rated for three to eight players six years old and up, Billionaire is perfect for family game nights, friends hanging out, or get-togethers that can use excitement and a good deal of frenzied, happy yelling.

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About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.