During the recent trial of Kweku Adoboli, a former trader with UBS, the prosecution described his trades that saddled the Swiss bank with a $2.3 billion loss as “unprotected, unhedged, incautious and reckless”. Sound like fun? Now there is a way to channel your inner rogue, without the seven-year prison sentence.
The makers of “Market Meltdown“, a new board game, enable rampant speculation with borrowed money to play a role in family gatherings during the upcoming holiday season. In the game, you are a trader facing severe market turmoil. As your piece (a private jet) moves around a Monopoly-style board, instead of collecting money when you pass “Go”, nervous depositors withdraw funds from your bank in sums that double with each revolution, simulating an unstoppable bank run.
To keep your firm afloat you need to borrow liberally and play the market, which is represented by a roulette wheel. As loans come due and the bank run accelerates, increasingly desperate bets are required. The winner is the last player not to miss a loan repayment or deposit withdrawal.
Winning traders typically leverage their banks to obscene degrees, delaying their day of reckoning only marginally longer than their rivals. “Ultimately, the meltdown will wipe everyone out,” says Will Sorrell, one of the game’s co-creators. Despite this somewhat fatalistic conclusion, a series of reorders by Fortnum & Mason, a London department store that stocks the game, suggests that people are eager to put themselves in Mr Adoboli’s shoes.
More than five years after the start of the financial crisis, the era-defining downturn is steadily making its way into popular culture—from the films we watch to the novels we read and the games we play. When even the plot of “Margin Call”, an Oscar-nominated film, can hinge on the fate of mortgage-backed securities, it comes as less of a surprise that a board game, aimed at players aged 12 and up, name-checks quantitative easing (drawing the QE card in “Market Meltdown” results in everyone receiving a wedge of free money from the central bank).
If you fancy yourself more of a dealmaker than a trader, another game worth a look is “Billionaire Tycoon“, in which you start with a small bank loan and build a business empire via partnerships, hostile takeovers and outright sabotage (see our review). At the more satirical end of the scale, in “Crunch” you are a bank CEO looking to siphon as much money from your own firm as possible. The winning banker in “Bailout!” is the one whose firm amasses the most debt before pleading for a government rescue. “Collapse!” (a variation of Jenga) has a notable event from the crisis etched on each piece. Most video games feature only tenuous links to post-crisis finance, unless, of course you think the zombie-banker apocalypse is nigh.
The granddaddy of all financial games, “Monopoly”, is also in line for a 21st-century makeover. Although the game itself will continue to reflect its roots in the Great Depression, Ridley Scott, a director, has been rumoured to start production on a film adaptation of the franchise, reportedly based on the recent housing crisis. Subprime mortgage-linked derivatives were not available to Rich Uncle Pennybags in the 1930s, but it is not hard to imagine that the old rogue would have been an enthusiastic trader.
Read more: Why board games are good family fun for hard times, from Intelligent Life
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