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Players buy and sell stock in eight companies and trade options in these companies plus their related index. The first player to earn one million Euros in cash wins the game.
I found it interesting that Derek Carver mentioned Millionary is his Counter 17 article titled 'The Ones That Got Away'. Indeed, Millionary is a big game released at Essen 2001 and has graced the cover of Spielbox. Maybe I share a gene with Derek, in that I too was intrigued by this game and yet could find no information about it. That didn't stop me from buying it anyway, and it became the first real test for my recently acquired OCR and translator when I gaped at the 20-plus page rulebook with very small type. I was halfway through the translation when I read Derek's article.
Millionary is, as most would guess, a business game about trading stocks and options. The first player to generate one million euros in cash wins the game, and this is typically just after a big exercise of options. Players trade in stocks of eight real-life companies (Shell, L'Oreal, Microsoft, etc.) and also trade in options for all eight companies plus four exchange indices. Each index has two companies associated with it and as the share prices of the companies move, its related index moves proportionately. The basic way to make money is as old as business itself: buy low and sell high.
The game board is colorful and well-made, and it shows the four indices at each corner with the eight companies on the sides. Ringing the board are six colored lines, and each player 'works' a certain line. So, on the Microsoft piece of the board the Red player will show their holdings for Microsoft on the Red line. This is a very efficient way to keep track of a lot of things, and eliminates the needs for share certificates or paper and pencil bookkeeping. In addition to the six lines, each spot has spaces for the current share price (for the companies) or index value (for the indices). Another nice feature of the game is that each line of the board has indents which hold number counters. If the stock price is 80 Euros, you place an '8' next to the fixed '0' to clearly see '80' next to the company name. Similarly, share and option positions are noted in the same way, so counters are continually being exchanged throughout the game.
You act at a specific space on the board during a turn. Once a spot is selected, you can do up to three things:
Buying or selling shares is simple; you pay or receive the price times the number of shares and adjust your markers accordingly. The share price moves up during a buy and down during a sell linearly, and the related index moves in the same direction but as a step function only. Smaller purchases or sales of shares move the index the same amount, while bigger actions move it more. This is the first way to make money, and importantly you are never required to sell a stock at a loss.
Options are more interesting and create more leverage, but like in real life you can also get burned. For the uninitiated, an Option is the right to buy or sell a stock at a fixed price at a time in the future. When that time comes, if the stock has moved in the direction you predicted, you can cash out the difference. If it has not, you lose the money you paid for the Option and lose the position. In Millionary, Options are purchased in 10,000 unit increments for one euro each, and when you buy them you also note the current price of the stock or index and state whether you expect the price to rise or fall. When you come back to that spot, it is easy to see if the current price is higher or lower than your 'strike price' and also if the stock moved in the direction you expected. Unlike stock, Options must be exercised (cashed-in) when you return to them for the first time even if they are not 'in the money'. But, exercising Options for big payouts is the way to win this game since stock trades simply don't pack enough punch.
Movement in the game is accomplished with cards. There are two types of cards in the game: Strategy Cards and Millionary Cards. The Strategy Cards each show a specific Company or index name, and if you play that card on your turn you can perform any and all actions at that spot. If you don't have a Strategy Card you want (or choose not to play it), you can draw a Millionary Card. These cards also correlate to spots on the board, but depending on the type you many not be able to perform all the actions or may be forced to sell Options you'd rather hold. If you draw a Millionary card for your turn, you end your turn by taking a Strategy card for your hand. This is a nice mechanism and allows players to strike when hot with a Strategy Card while taking some useful gambles with the Millionary cards in between.
Around this movement, buying, and selling, Millionary adds some expected touches including the ability to go into debt for your purchases, the ability for stock prices to split, and for companies to reorganize which wipes out the current shareholders (like real life again!). The end result is a game that plays fairly fast and isn't very luck driven, but is also fairly formulaic. You can create some nice situations when you make a move that helps you in multiple places at once (since company prices affect the index values) while at the same time hurting one of your opponents. There is a bit of a group mentality in that it is difficult to bet on a price to drop when several other players are betting on it to rise. The key is to find opportunities that work for you and help others less, and fortunately this is not too difficult to do. Millionary replicates the basic idea of trading in equities better than any other game I've seen. The most obvious comparison that comes to mind is the Canadian game called 'The Composite Index'. This game features many of the same ideas as Millionary but with more luck, less flair, and more computation.
Millionary is mass-marketed as a family game as well; in fact, the box states 'two games in one'. The family game uses the same ideas but reduces movement to a simple roll the dice action, and introduces another set of cards that only Bruno Faidutti could love. Also, the Option value is more simplistically determined and this too adds to the luck factor. The 'strategy game' would be readily playable by teenagers and anyone younger wouldn't even like the theme, so I see no real use for the family game unless you want the randomness.