Cryptocurrency: Challengingly Fun And Highly Engaging
When I first started with cryptocurrencies, there was an abundance of information about the crypto space everywhere. It was confusing.
There were the market analyses. There were the debates about block sizes, the hard forks, and the wrestle of power between the miners and the developers. Then there are the regulatory actions and the ICO (Initial Coin Offering) craze that followed shortly after.
My attempts to break down all these information to friends were mostly unsuccessful. It was probably somewhere between me being too new to the space and the technicals being too complicated. Most of the time, I probably came off as schizophrenic when I rapidly jumped from one obscured concept to another that is not apparently related.
It was this struggle that inspired me to write a book about cryptocurrencies and investing in them. I wanted a more organised way to share what I knew. Writing about this topic also reinforces my understanding of decentralisation.
Then, I came across the Cryptocurrency board game.
Wait, what? Board game? A physical game for a digital currency?
Beta Testing The Game
I volunteered to play test one of the first iterations of the game when it was still in its prototype stage — pen-drawn on cut-out drawing paper.
It was easy to grasp. You acquire coins either by mining or by buying them from the market and try to sell these coins for a profit. True to the volatile nature of cryptocurrencies, prices fluctuate wildly and you have to balance between holding coins and cashing out at opportunistic moments. More on the gameplay later.
I was invited to a second session when we played the final prototype — complete with well-designed and printed character cards, game cards, game boards, and coins. The gameplay did not change but I adopted a different strategy this time, choosing to focus on mining of one particular coin.
Although I have become familiar with the game, it did not give me a significant advantage over other newer players as they had their unique set of strategies. The random spate of events that influenced the prices of coins also made it very risky for me to put all my bets behind that one single coin.
Nonetheless, I appreciated better how the game introduces beginners to the basic concept of mining, trading, and market manipulation. My only gripe is that the game does not touch on the technical details of blockchain, which is not all that bad; the simplicity of the game allows any layperson to pick it up.
After all, if cryptocurrencies do become mainstream in future, perhaps there is no need for users to understand the underlying blockchain technology. Good design is meant to be invisible. In today’s world, most users probably do not understand the web servers, the Internet, or how computer programming works but still use them effectively everyday.
You compete with (up to) 3 other players to accumulate the most wealth, counted in the game’s native currency, Wongas. There are only 4 rounds in each game so every of your action counts.
Each round, you deploy a team of 3 subordinates to either mine, buy, or sell cryptocurrencies. At the start of each round, you have the option to hire a premium worker who can give you an advantage in mining, trading, or manipulating the prices of coins.
There are 4 different cryptocurrencies for players to speculate with, and at the end of the game, players who hold the most number of each type of cryptocurrencies are rewarded with bonus Wongas. However, at least one of the four cryptocurrencies will be declared a scam coin, which will make holding those coins worthless.
The mining portion of the game requires a bit of luck mixed with risk taking for you to successfully mine the coins. The trading portion of the game is more strategic as you have to balance between holding the coins and selling them at the right moments.
Staying true to the transparent nature of cryptocurrencies, you can actively see what coins other players hold and where their interests are vested in. Therein, you can either sabotage their coins or protect the coins that you are invested in. This makes the game highly engaging from the start till the end.
Verdict: Moderately Challenging With High Replayability
There were many things to look out for in each round of the game — the mining status of coins, market sentiments and coin prices, and what other players are plotting. These mechanics make the game exciting and it models after reality, where there are so many signals to pay attention to in the cryptocurrency market.
Casual boardgamers should find the game adequately challenging with multiple aspects to focus on. However, the game might be cognitively taxing for children, which is probably why the creators labelled it as suitable for “Ages 14+”.
The game has so many variables that each session can be completely different from the previous. Furthermore, there are the Event cards (included in the Complete pack) that are triggered at the end of each round, which would incur random penalties or create favourable conditions for mining or trading. These events will throw a curveball at players and they may have to modify their strategies midway.
I can already imagine how the game can be further expanded, simply by having even more types of cryptocurrencies, so that more than 4 players can play at once.
On my second trial session, I may have been a little too aggressive and taken a too risky strategy. Would a conservative approach work better? How about having a more diversified strategy? As I write this review, I am already looking forward to receiving the board game and playing my third session so that I can try something different altogether.
As I am always explaining blockchain and crypto concepts to friends, the Cryptocurrency board game will definitely be a handy tool to get conversations started and to have a nice chill out session with friends. If you are a crypto advocate, or a casual boardgamer, or just looking for a fun way to learn about cryptocurrencies, this is definitely something for you.
The best part of it all, Capital Gains Studio will be giving out 300 Freemium copies of Cryptocurrency in its upcoming Kickstarter campaign in August. I definitely enjoyed the full version and I expect the free ones to be snapped up really quickly, so be sure to share this deal with your friends.