Exchange Review

Exchange is a game by Eric Sillies, published by Bicycle. It is for 3-6 players. In this game, players take on the role of New York Stock exchange traders as they try to buy and sell securities to make tons of money. They’ll have to plan their strategies just right as the market will be constantly changing. In the end, the trader that can best predict the market and have the highest net worth after 5 rounds will be declared the winner.

To begin, the Market Value board is placed in the middle of the play area. The Market Forces cards are placed face down in a stack to the left of the board. The Lobbyist sleeve is placed on the right of the board with 3 Phase 3 cards placed inside it. The Money cards are placed in three separate stacks below the board. The tokens for each of the securities are placed on the board at the $50 share column. The Round token is placed on the 1 space at the bottom of the board. Each player is given a Ledger board, Phase cards and 3 Phase sleeves. Each player should have the following: Phase 1 – Banks, Bonds and Insurance; Phase 2 – cards valued 1-9; Phase 3 – Banks +/- 1, Bonds +/- 1, and Insurance +/- 1. The Founder Cards are randomly dealt to each player until all the cards have been dealt. Each player will then choose which founder to start the game as. The remaining founders are discarded. A marker is placed on the corresponding number for each of the three securities on their Ledger board. They will also take the amount of cash listed on the bottom of their Founder card from the stacks below the board. Play now begins.

The game is played over 5 rounds. Each round consists of 3 phases, along with a few other steps. In the first phase, each player will choose which of the 3 securities to trade; either banks, insurance or bonds. They will place the corresponding card into the phase 1 sleeve and place it face down in front of themself. Once all players have done this, each player will then simultaneously reveal their choices by flipping over the sleeve.

In the second phase, each player will decide to either buy or sell. They’ll also have to choose how many shares to buy or sell. Just like in the previous phase, the player will place the corresponding card into the sleeve. However this time, the player will need to make sure that the desired action is on the top and place the card into the phase 2 sleeve. Once more, the card inside the sleeve is placed face down in front of the player until all players have completed the task. This time the sleeves are not revealed until the end of the round, as noted below.

For the third phase, each player will choose which of the three securities that they wish to influence by either raising it or lowering it. Just like in the previous phases, each player chooses the corresponding card for the phase and places it into the phase 3 sleeve with the correct action at the top. The sleeve is then placed face down in front of them. Once everyone is finished, the sleeves are all flipped over simultaneously to reveal their choice.

With the three phases completed, this brings us to a quick series of steps that will be followed. First the top card of the Market Forces deck is revealed and resolved by adjusting the appropriate security token(s) either up or down. Next the corresponding security tokens are adjusted based on each player’s Phase 3 card that was revealed earlier. Once this is done, each player will reveal their Phase 2 sleeve and which how much of each of their chosen security they are either buying or selling. Each player will then adjust their ledger board and pay or collect money from the supply.

There are a few extra things of note that should be mentioned. The first thing is called the Market Bubble. At the top and bottom end of the market value board are noted as the Market Bubble. If a security goes above the highest value or drops below the lowest value on the board, it will flip to the other side of the board resulting in a huge price change. Next there is what’s called Market Intelligence and the Lobbyist. Market Intelligence is available to any player that chooses to pay $50 to the supply and allows them to look at the top Market Forces card, before returning it to the top of the deck. The Lobbyist cards and sleeve is given to the player with the most cash each round, beginning with the second round. These cards are used just like the other cards for phase 3 but are placed inside the Lobbyist sleeve and revealed during that phase. This gives that player another vote during phase 3.

The game continues until the end of the fifth round. Once this round has been completed, each player will get one more chance to influence the market. This step is called the Final Influence. Each player will cast one final phase 3 Market Influence vote before their final net worth is calculated. One thing should be noted, neither the Lobbyist or market Forces cards are used at this time. Once players have revealed their Final Influence, the market value board is adjusted one last time. Each player will then add up their net worth based on cash and the value of each security that they own. The player with the highest net worth is the winner.

COMPONENTS
This game comes with several different pieces that make for an interesting looking game. First there’s the Market Value board. This is a nicely made multi-fold board that isn’t overly large so it fits nicely on pretty much any table. The graphics on the board are well done and fit in well with the theme. The Ledger boards are made of thick cardboard and have slotted grooves for the plastic sliders that are inserted into the board. These are supposed to be slid up and down as your commodities are bought and sold. The problem is that these sliders are a bit tough to move. Many times I feel like I’m going to tear up the board or break off the slider. The game comes with three brightly colored plastic pyramids that are used to track the commodity prices on the Market Value board. These are very nice. I really like the coloring of them. The game comes with only 1 cardboard token and that’s for tracking the round. I wish that they’d made a white pyramid like the other 3 colored ones. It would have made sense to me. Next there are all the different cards and sleeves. The game comes with several sleeves for up to 6 players to have one for each phase, plus there’s a sleeve for the Lobbyist. These are thin cardboard and get the job done rather well. The cards are in 2 sizes, the smaller euro sized money cards and the normal sized cards which make up the rest. Each card has a nice finish and is a good thickness. The money cards have the same amount of both sides and come in values of $10, $50 and $100 and have designs that look like the actual money in the background. The other cards include the founder cards, market forces cards and the player cards for each of the 3 phases, as noted above. The founder cards are nice and the colorations match those on the ledger boards. The market forces and phase 2 player cards are just black text on a white background. To me, that’s kind of bland and boring. I’d have liked a bit more color and life to these. The first and third phase cards have the same coloration as the different commodities they represent and have a bit of artwork on these. These are probably the best looking part of the game, apart from maybe the plastic pyramids. All in all, I think there are some good quality pieces here, but I feel that the designs and artwork fall a bit short for me. Thematically this all may work together, I think in some ways it probably does. It just doesn’t catch my eye or really draw me in like other games do. Overall I think it’s a mixed bag, some things work and some don’t. If the theme appeals to you then it might be more appealing to you.
7 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is a bit off for me. Most rulebooks start by giving you a list of the components along with how the game is set up. For this one, it tells you what the game is about, followed by the objective and then jumps right into a quick setup. After that, the book sort of explains the first 3 phases and then sort of explains all the other little nuances and steps of the game before telling you how to find out the winner. The last couple of pages of the book are divided from the other pages by a single green page with the words, The Fine Print, on it. The following pages are tips and tricks for the game, followed by 2 pages of frequently asked questions. That’s it. That’s all the rules there are for the game. The book has a couple of pictures and a few examples in it. Needless to say, I’m not thrilled on the presentation. I think a more step by step design process would have been better along with more explanations. That green page could have been removed making room for more rules and perhaps even a list of components. While the tips and tricks section is nice, some of the faqs felt a bit vague and didn’t exactly answer what I felt it should have. Another thing that would have been nice is some rules for playing with only 2 players and possibly even rules for solo play. Overall this feels like a big miss in my book. I’m not thrilled.
5 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
Let me start off by saying, I’m not a big fan of economic games so my thoughts may be a bit biased in the wrong direction. Granted, as a kid growing up I played a lot of Monopoly. To the point that I ended up winning more than my fair share of times. Once I discovered that there was more to board gaming than just Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit, I found myself not caring very much for non hobby related games like these. It wasn’t until I came upon Monopoly Gamer that I actually found a reason to enjoy Monopoly again. Still, I haven’t found much love for economic games. That said, this one falls right into that category and so didn’t really appeal very much to me in the first place. That’s not to say that the game isn’t good. I’m sure that there are fans of economic games that probably think this is the Taj Mahal of games. They may be right. Look, it’s not that I hated the game. In fact, it wasn’t really bad. It just wasn’t something that I’d normally choose to play. That said, if you’re looking for a commodities trading game or want to feel like a stock broker, then this is probably the game that you’d want to play. Making those tough decisions on which commodity to manipulate and just how you might want to do that, along with the speculation of what your opponents might be planning. It takes a bit of strategy and a whole lot of understanding your opponents to work things out for your own benefit. In a way, it’s almost like Poker in that way. You’re basically having to read your opponents in a way so that you know what they’ve chosen to do so that you can make the best decision to earn the most money for yourself. In the end, this game just didn’t work for me. While it wasn’t my favorite, I still didn’t mind playing it. However given the options out there, I’d be more apt to request playing something else. While this one didn’t work for me, I’m sure that there are players out there that would really enjoy it. I feel that the mechanics of this one worked in the way that the designer had planned. Overall this is one that I’d recommend for fans of economic games. For everyone else, I think it’s more of a try before you buy.
6 out of 10

OVERALL
Exchange is a light weight economic strategy game about buying and selling securities. This isn’t a super long game. In fact, most game sessions last around 30-45 minutes. The components look pretty good, even though the ledger boards didn’t quite work so smoothly and the artwork could have been a bit more exciting. The rulebook felt more like a game summary and less like an actual rulebook. The game itself wasn’t bad but didn’t excite me. Perhaps that’s due to my lack of excitement with most economic games or it could simply be that the game was a bit less that what I expected. Fans of economic games may actually find something to enjoy with this one. However for me, it is more of a pass. While it’s one that can be played fairly quickly, at least it doesn’t take too long to get through and be able to move on to something that I enjoy more. Basically this is one that I feel doesn’t suit me but may be a good fit for others that enjoy the mechanic. For those people, I would recommend it. For everyone else not big on the economic game style, it’s a try before you buy.
6 out of 10

 

For more information about this and other great games, please check out Bicycle at their site.

https://bicyclecards.com/

 

 

 

About Gaming Bits - Jonathan Nelson

I'm a happily married man with 2 wonderful kids. I love my family very much. I'm a big fan of board, card and RPG games and have been playing for over 20 years. As a board and card game reviewer, I'm hoping that this blog will inform, educate and entertain you. If you like it, please tell your friends and have them join in on the conversations. Thanks and GAME ON!!
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