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Subject: For the Meeple, by the Meeple (Review of Stockpile) rss

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Michael Carpenter
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BOX ART



I know something you don't know, and I am going to try exploit it for every dollar I can... in... Stockpile.



QUICK FACTS:
Style of Game: Strategy
Play Time: 45 minutes
Theme: Inside Trading on the Stock Market
Number of Players: 2-5
Main Mechanics: Auction/Bidding and Stock Holding
Components: Good
Weight: Low end of medium weight games


THEME AND MECHANISMS:
For a theme that can often times be considered dry and mundane Stockpile actually offers a pretty fun feel. I believe this is because of the "inside trading" aspect of this theme. This area of the stock market theme is not often explored so offering a new feel in this theme and executing is so simplistically makes the game more engaging than the typical stock market or economic game.


GAMEPLAY OVERVIEW:
Stockpile is played over the course of 5 to 7 rounds depending on the number of players in the game. During these rounds players will receive "inside" information about one of the 6 companies on the game's stock market. This information will change from round to round and will inform the player as to whether the company's stock will go up, down, or pay dividends.

Players will be using this information to decide which companies they will try to obtain stocks in. Players will try to time when to sell stocks in rising and falling companies based on the public and private information they possess about each company. Players can also personally influence which companies are doing well and poorly by using stock busts and stock booms. There are also trading fees necessary at times.

Players will vie for the possession of the stocks they want by bidding on groups of stock cards, stock alterations cards (booms and busts), and trading fees cards. There will be one group of cards for each of the players in the game and each group of cards is often comprised of hidden and visible cards to add a little another element of hidden information and inside knowledge. A combination of random draws and players deciding where to place their own drawn cards will determine the exact cards in each group and there is no requirement for the groups to possess equal amounts of cards. The auction is performed using fixed bidding amounts ($0, $1, $3, $6, $10, $15, $20, and $25). Players will take turns placing their bidding token on a price of one of the groups of cards. A player does not have to start at $0 and if a player ever outbids another player the outbid player must reassign his or her bidding token. This may be done by bidding a higher amount on the group they were already attempting to win or by bidding on a different group of cards, as long as their bid is the highest bid on the group of cards they bid on. Once each of the groups of cards only has one bidding token on it, the corresponding player receives the group of cards they have won and pays the amount they are required to pay based on the winning bid.

Over the course of the game players will be selling their stocks as effectively as possible to maximize their profits, collecting dividends when appropriate, splitting stocks of extremely successful companies, and keeping a portfolio of stocks to earn bonuses at the end of the game for having the most or second most stocks in the different companies. Players will also sell all of the stocks they own after all majority shareholders have been determined. After all calculations have been made, the player with the most money wins the game.

ASSESSMENT


My assessment of board games is broken into three core areas: Depth of Strategy, Quality of Design, and Replayability.

Depth of Strategy

Stockpile offers a very distinct task, maximize your profit on different types of stocks. This task allows for multiple approaches to accomplishing the task, but none of the strategies or approaches differ too much in Stockpile. I wouldn't say you have to rely too heavily on luck because you get an opportunity to work with multiple companies and the fortune of the companies typically (not always) fluctuates and allows most, if not all, players to have an opportunity to make solid profit off of their specific stocks. I personally don't see a huge benefit in specializing in one company because you do not benefit from receiving a higher bonus for being a massive majority shareholder and you can't necessarily guarantee that having more stocks in a company will produce more profit for you than a player may receive from having fewer stocks in another company. Due to this lack of incentive for specializing, all players are driven toward a similar strategy of generalizing, or balancing their involvement with the companies that are proving to be more useful toward the end of the game. The strategy for me in Stockpile comes from deciding how to approach the bidding portion of the game. This is twofold. I need to have a good idea of how to place my drawn cards strategically in the groups when creating the groups of cards that will be bid on and I need to manage my money smartly while trying to drive up the cost of certain groups without overpaying for the cards I want. This area of the game allows players to differentiate their approaches to the game. Effective planning in this area of the game can allow for a more finely tuned approach to how each player will implement what resembles a long-term plan. Keep in mind there are only so many companies in the game and each player will have an idea of how multiple companies are going to behave so each player seems to do similar things to succeed, just for different companies, and in some cases for the same company. The game seems to promote competition of stocks in certain companies than a finely tuned strategy from start to finish.

Depth of Strategy:
3.0 = A simple strategy will give you an advantage but it isn't necessary to compete.




Replayability

Stockpile is one of those games I feel truly makes good of the variable setup concept because there are multiple aspects of setup that are going to be different each time and each of these aspects truly impacts the way the games plays. I know that if I were to go play Stockpile right now, it would give the same overall feel as always, but it would definitely require me to read the circumstances of the current game and play them to the best of my ability. Unfortunately, my group doesn't seem to enjoy the overall feel and theme of the game offers. I on the hand, really enjoy the game and feel it's design offers a high level of replayability. I think because economics isn't widely associated with fun (despite Stockpiles light take on the issue) the theme hurts the overall replayability of the game with groups outside the realm of the "gamer" status.

Replayability:
2.5 = Fans of the theme will likely enjoy this game often.




Quality of Design


Bidding/Auction: The bidding mechanism gives the game strategy in my eyes because much of the stock market element of the game is out of your control. Approaching the auction passively will diminish the competitive feel of the game and cause it to feel stale and boring but if the group attacks the auction with the intention of influencing what the other players pay and taking risks then the game will be much more engaging. I don't like that the game tends to hinge on this aspect of the game because it is hard to tell some people how to play, but when the auction is competitive, the game is good.


Stock Holding: Don't get me wrong, I don't think you can succeed in this game if you mindlessly approach the stock holding portion of the game, but there is a decent amount of luck and competition involved when considering which stocks you will actually get your hands on so setting a strategy and sticking to it and only it, may be tough to execute. The enjoyment in this mechanisms comes more from trying to manage the timing of selling your stocks. Deciding if you are going to try to maximize on a company's current success or try to be balance selling high with being the majority shareholder is engaging and entertaining, more entertaining and rewarding than trying to obtain specific stocks


Quality of Design:
3.5 = A good design that engages the player for more than just a few plays.


FINAL THOUGHTS:
Stockpile is the perfect game for introducing players to the stock market theme. Unfortunately, I think the theme is can be off-putting to a lot of people outside avid gamers or any players that are specifically looking for economic/stock market games. The mechanisms are simple enough to catch on to easily and yet still convey a solid stock market feel and as I mentioned in an earlier section, tossing in the "inside trading" element of the theme does help to intrigue otherwise uninterested players. I think at the end of the day, this game ends up falling victim to not having a big audience. I am not an expert or deeply involved in economic games but I don't know that this one would offer enough strategy and depth to engage serious economic fans. I don't think it is a good gateway game, except to introduce players specifically to stock market games. I don't think most families are going to get a good amount of accessibility out of this one... The game is good. I'm just not sure there are many people that need this game in their collection for more than a few specific circumstances. There are certainly groups that can utilize and enjoy this game, I just feel the theme keeps the game from receiving more attention. It does do a good job of filling a niche. Unfortunately, my group seems to fall into one of the groups outside this niche so I don't play Stockpile very often. It is not entirely because I don't want to, I just know I won't have as much fun with it as I think the game can offer.


Overall Rating -
This game is good but it does not fit my group well.



If you enjoy my reviews please recommend and check out my geeklist For the Meeple, by the Meeple
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David B
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I don't think distaste towards economic themes is all that significant. Just look at the popularity of games like Monopoly. Stock market games are quite popular as activities in middle and high school and students usually report they enjoyed those games quite a bit. I think there is a lot of interest in that topic outside of avid gaming circles. I even think that of all the themes in our hobby, stock market and economic themes may be ones that have the most interest to outsiders.
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Scott Mohnkern
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I would agree with you, it definitely has a target audience, as all economic simulation games do. But I think this one is significantly more accessible when compared with the more complex ones out there.

This isn't a game I'd play every week (Then again, there are very few games that I would), but I do find at my FLGS it comes out fairly often, when compared with other games.

I can certainly understand it not being a good match for some groups, but I think it's got a broader base of appeal than you give it.



MariettaTennis wrote:
BOX ART



I know something you don't know, and I am going to try exploit it for every dollar I can... in... Stockpile.



QUICK FACTS:
Style of Game: Strategy
Play Time: 45 minutes
Theme: Inside Trading on the Stock Market
Number of Players: 2-5
Main Mechanics: Auction/Bidding and Stock Holding
Components: Good
Weight: Low end of medium weight games


THEME AND MECHANISMS:
For a theme that can often times be considered dry and mundane Stockpile actually offers a pretty fun feel. I believe this is because of the "inside trading" aspect of this theme. This area of the stock market theme is not often explored so offering a new feel in this theme and executing is so simplistically makes the game more engaging than the typical stock market or economic game.


GAMEPLAY OVERVIEW:
Stockpile is played over the course of 5 to 7 rounds depending on the number of players in the game. During these rounds players will receive "inside" information about one of the 6 companies on the game's stock market. This information will change from round to round and will inform the player as to whether the company's stock will go up, down, or pay dividends.

Players will be using this information to decide which companies they will try to obtain stocks in. Players will try to time when to sell stocks in rising and falling companies based on the public and private information they possess about each company. Players can also personally influence which companies are doing well and poorly by using stock busts and stock booms. There are also trading fees necessary at times.

Players will vie for the possession of the stocks they want by bidding on groups of stock cards, stock alterations cards (booms and busts), and trading fees cards. There will be one group of cards for each of the players in the game and each group of cards is often comprised of hidden and visible cards to add a little another element of hidden information and inside knowledge. A combination of random draws and players deciding where to place their own drawn cards will determine the exact cards in each group and there is no requirement for the groups to possess equal amounts of cards. The auction is performed using fixed bidding amounts ($0, $1, $3, $6, $10, $15, $20, and $25). Players will take turns placing their bidding token on a price of one of the groups of cards. A player does not have to start at $0 and if a player ever outbids another player the outbid player must reassign his or her bidding token. This may be done by bidding a higher amount on the group they were already attempting to win or by bidding on a different group of cards, as long as their bid is the highest bid on the group of cards they bid on. Once each of the groups of cards only has one bidding token on it, the corresponding player receives the group of cards they have won and pays the amount they are required to pay based on the winning bid.

Over the course of the game players will be selling their stocks as effectively as possible to maximize their profits, collecting dividends when appropriate, splitting stocks of extremely successful companies, and keeping a portfolio of stocks to earn bonuses at the end of the game for having the most or second most stocks in the different companies. Players will also sell all of the stocks they own after all majority shareholders have been determined. After all calculations have been made, the player with the most money wins the game.

ASSESSMENT


My assessment of board games is broken into three core areas: Depth of Strategy, Quality of Design, and Replayability.

Depth of Strategy

Stockpile offers a very distinct task, maximize your profit on different types of stocks. This task allows for multiple approaches to accomplishing the task, but none of the strategies or approaches differ too much in Stockpile. I wouldn't say you have to rely too heavily on luck because you get an opportunity to work with multiple companies and the fortune of the companies typically (not always) fluctuates and allows most, if not all, players to have an opportunity to make solid profit off of their specific stocks. I personally don't see a huge benefit in specializing in one company because you do not benefit from receiving a higher bonus for being a massive majority shareholder and you can't necessarily guarantee that having more stocks in a company will produce more profit for you than a player may receive from having fewer stocks in another company. Due to this lack of incentive for specializing, all players are driven toward a similar strategy of generalizing, or balancing their involvement with the companies that are proving to be more useful toward the end of the game. The strategy for me in Stockpile comes from deciding how to approach the bidding portion of the game. This is twofold. I need to have a good idea of how to place my drawn cards strategically in the groups when creating the groups of cards that will be bid on and I need to manage my money smartly while trying to drive up the cost of certain groups without overpaying for the cards I want. This area of the game allows players to differentiate their approaches to the game. Effective planning in this area of the game can allow for a more finely tuned approach to how each player will implement what resembles a long-term plan. Keep in mind there are only so many companies in the game and each player will have an idea of how multiple companies are going to behave so each player seems to do similar things to succeed, just for different companies, and in some cases for the same company. The game seems to promote competition of stocks in certain companies than a finely tuned strategy from start to finish.

Depth of Strategy:
3.0 = A simple strategy will give you an advantage but it isn't necessary to compete.




Replayability

Stockpile is one of those games I feel truly makes good of the variable setup concept because there are multiple aspects of setup that are going to be different each time and each of these aspects truly impacts the way the games plays. I know that if I were to go play Stockpile right now, it would give the same overall feel as always, but it would definitely require me to read the circumstances of the current game and play them to the best of my ability. Unfortunately, my group doesn't seem to enjoy the overall feel and theme of the game offers. I on the hand, really enjoy the game and feel it's design offers a high level of replayability. I think because economics isn't widely associated with fun (despite Stockpiles light take on the issue) the theme hurts the overall replayability of the game with groups outside the realm of the "gamer" status.

Replayability:
2.5 = Fans of the theme will likely enjoy this game often.




Quality of Design


Bidding/Auction: The bidding mechanism gives the game strategy in my eyes because much of the stock market element of the game is out of your control. Approaching the auction passively will diminish the competitive feel of the game and cause it to feel stale and boring but if the group attacks the auction with the intention of influencing what the other players pay and taking risks then the game will be much more engaging. I don't like that the game tends to hinge on this aspect of the game because it is hard to tell some people how to play, but when the auction is competitive, the game is good.


Stock Holding: Don't get me wrong, I don't think you can succeed in this game if you mindlessly approach the stock holding portion of the game, but there is a decent amount of luck and competition involved when considering which stocks you will actually get your hands on so setting a strategy and sticking to it and only it, may be tough to execute. The enjoyment in this mechanisms comes more from trying to manage the timing of selling your stocks. Deciding if you are going to try to maximize on a company's current success or try to be balance selling high with being the majority shareholder is engaging and entertaining, more entertaining and rewarding than trying to obtain specific stocks


Quality of Design:
3.5 = A good design that engages the player for more than just a few plays.


FINAL THOUGHTS:
Stockpile is the perfect game for introducing players to the stock market theme. Unfortunately, I think the theme is can be off-putting to a lot of people outside avid gamers or any players that are specifically looking for economic/stock market games. The mechanisms are simple enough to catch on to easily and yet still convey a solid stock market feel and as I mentioned in an earlier section, tossing in the "inside trading" element of the theme does help to intrigue otherwise uninterested players. I think at the end of the day, this game ends up falling victim to not having a big audience. I am not an expert or deeply involved in economic games but I don't know that this one would offer enough strategy and depth to engage serious economic fans. I don't think it is a good gateway game, except to introduce players specifically to stock market games. I don't think most families are going to get a good amount of accessibility out of this one... The game is good. I'm just not sure there are many people that need this game in their collection for more than a few specific circumstances. There are certainly groups that can utilize and enjoy this game, I just feel the theme keeps the game from receiving more attention. It does do a good job of filling a niche. Unfortunately, my group seems to fall into one of the groups outside this niche so I don't play Stockpile very often. It is not entirely because I don't want to, I just know I won't have as much fun with it as I think the game can offer.


Overall Rating -
This game is good but it does not fit my group well.



If you enjoy my reviews please recommend and check out my geeklist For the Meeple, by the Meeple
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David B
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Yikes! Be careful when you click the QUOTE button. Takes me a long enough time to read the review once.
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Michael Carpenter
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pfctsqr wrote:
I don't think distaste towards economic themes is all that significant. Just look at the popularity of games like Monopoly. Stock market games are quite popular as activities in middle and high school and students usually report they enjoyed those games quite a bit. I think there is a lot of interest in that topic outside of avid gaming circles. I even think that of all the themes in our hobby, stock market and economic themes may be ones that have the most interest to outsiders.



That's perfectly fair and I know these activities are quite popular in schools but I think that is because it fits the scenarios quite well. It is a theme that goes hand in hand with education and schooling. Colleges often offer economic classes, but you seldom see Star Wars classes, Fantasy classes, pepper farming classes, D&D classes, etc. It would be much more difficult to take a theme that is not interwoven with education and create classroom acceptable activities so we are left with historical games/activities, economic, trivia, etc. This isn't a bad thing, just circumstantial. I know that when I was in school (at any level) if the teacher offered us a creative alternative to reading out of a book I was all over it. Whatever the theme/subject.

I would tend to disagree that the stock market and economic themes are the most intriguing. I would agree they are likely very familiar whether through main stream themes or through every day life, but I don't know that they are the most interesting to outsiders. We may be skinning a cat in different ways when I say the game is familiar to people and you say intriguing because they are used to the concepts and ideas. It is my personal opinion that familiarity offers a sense of comfort that is disguised as "intrigue", but in reality people are okay with stepping into a game that is familiar to them and then the real interest comes in when they look at all the other options. I have no data to support that and I think you make a good point that could certainly be the case but I know that when I offer new people an opportunity to pick a game they NEVER jump up and grab Stockpile. This may be my group, city, region... On the other hand though, when I suggest the game most people do not dislike it, but I don't see this game being the game that a group comes to my house and asks for regularly. That's more of the point I was trying to make. It does a great job of being that game that bridges a gap to the deeper economic games and it typically entertains people. I just don't see this theme being the theme that becomes a regular guest on the table for a lot of groups. If a family is looking for a stock market game to play this is it... I would think. If a gamer wants to try to get his Monopoly playing friend deeper into gaming, this or Acquire may do it... These are circumstantial situations though and I think due to the very nature of using a game to get a person hooked on other games means it isn't the kind of game that will be played a ton by any group, and since it is not the kind of game that hits the top ten gateway games kind of lists I don't think it is going to be the first choice to use. Those are just my thoughts though. Like I said, I don't think you're opinion is wild or anything. It just doesn't seem to trigger any kind of long-term excitement for the people I play with regularly.

Look, I like the game and don't want to be a downer about it. I'm just not willing to say it has a large audience. Larger than almost any other game like it out there, yes probably, but a big portion of a small number doesn't make the portion large compared to other audiences.

 
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