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- 1 gameboard
- 12 pawns
- 2 dice
- permission cards
- news cards
- play money
- stock multiplier chart
- pad of stock trading sheets
"This is the best board game you will ever play!". This statement is: either
a.) This reviewer's opinion;
b.) Just a tag line to get you to read further; or
c.) The claim by the publisher with a further guarantee for your money back if you disagree.
The answer is 'C', and despite being a game that didn't look too good by description I felt compelled to buy it based on such bold confidence. To avoid keeping you in suspense, it is NOT the best game any of you will probably play but, to be fair, it is a decent family game that is probably better than 95% of what is available in most mass-market toy stores in North America. Unfortunately, this is a low hurdle but such a large market so I'm guessing Kirkland's marketing strategy is a good one.
As the name suggests, the Composite Index is a financial game based on buying and selling stock in six different commodities. The board shows a 'throw the dice and move' track, together with spaces for the current prices for each commodity and for the cards used to spice things up. The basic action of the game is moving around the board and buying or selling positions in the commodities when you land on their square. For example, if you land on a 'Gold' square, you can buy gold up to a limit or sell any amount you already own. Buying raises the price for future buyers and sellers, and selling lowers the price. This basic mechanism is used with better effect in Gandy Dancer's Pacific Northwest Rails, reviewed in Counter 8.
Around this basic system, some nice features are added that give the game a little more punch. Stock prices can crash or be forced to split, penalizing or benefiting those that hold the affected positions. If a player lands on an already occupied Stock square, a special 10% Dividend is paid to all holders of the stock. Using a Monopoly 'Go' process, players are paid based on shares held each time they round the Payday square and may buy shares of any stock if they currently don't hold any stock at that time.
Two card decks, 'News' and 'Permission', are drawn from when landing on the appropriate spots. News cards can be used immediately or held in your hand for later, and they typically affect the price of a stock. Permission cards are more interesting, as they create the ability to make a stock split or purchase an Option. An Option works just like in real life, in that you commit and pay for shares of a stock at a fixed price and then must buy them at that price when the Option is called. The Option is called when you land on one of that stock's squares, and based on the price at that time you either make or lose money. Of course, if the stock crashes in the meantime your option money is lost.
In what seems to be an after-the-fact addition, the game also includes a 'speculative pool' which is a marginally more interesting version of the 'Free Parking' variant often employed in Monopoly. A Permission card triggers this, and allows a player to bet a fixed amount against a $5,000 pool and they win by rolling 7 or 11 in three rolls of the dice.
All stock holdings are accounted for on tracking sheets for each player, and cash is used for the sale and purchase of stock. You may notice that no discussion of the victory condition has been made yet; this is because it is the choice of the players at the beginning using any combination of cash and/or shares held. Suggested ideas are the first player to earn $100,000 in cash, or a combination of $50,000 cash plus 50,000 shares, etc. Longer games add no depth, just length.
The game plays decently but as you can infer from the description is quite random. The square you land on determines what you can do, and usually if the price is below $1.00 (its par value) you buy all you are allowed and if it's above what you paid for it you sell. The cards, crashes, splits, and option features are like MSG--they make it more filling but have no real nutritional value.
I would choose to play this game with younger children before Monopoly, since the simple decisions at least reinforce some basic financial truths and undoubtedly kids would be excited to sell their Silver for $1.80 after purchasing it for $0.70. The production is well done, with a good-looking board, well made cards, and lots of decent quality money. In play the game is a bit fiddly, since at each purchase or sale the stock price indicators must be adjusted accordingly, and many of the calculations work faster with a calculator on hand. The game is supplied with a nice table that does most of the math for you, however, and this is a nice addition.
You can look at the game more closely by visiting www.compositeindex.com, in addition to purchasing merchandising items like caps and t-shirts or reading about upcoming regional and world championships. And, while the guarantee allows me to do so, I'm not returning my game because anyone who goes through the production process and convinces me to buy it deserves to keep the money.