It seems like the stock market is one of the most popular themes for
board games, and for good reason, as the mathematics of the stock
market seem to lend themselves to gaming. And while I find the stock
market to be fascinating, many stock market games tend to fall flat or
have little appeal to most people. Owner’s Choice (Z-man Games, 2007
- Yasutaka Ikeda), on first glance, didn’t seem to be anything
different. In fact, I was a little surprised to see that game
featured what appeared to be a “roll-and-move” track; something that
usually isn’t a good feature of games.
However, Owner’s Choice really surprised me, as it is a fun, clever
little stock market game that plays in thirty to forty-five minutes.
Players exert a great deal of control over what happens, but die
rolling keeps things light, and there’s interesting choices that
presidents of the four stock companies must make during the course of
the game. A modular board, slight differences between the stock
companies, and light, easy play make Owner’s Choice a stock market
“filler”, something fairly unique. There is a bit of “groupthink” at
times, and the lack of tie breaker is silly; but overall, I enjoy the
Four double sided “L” shaped pieces are placed on the table to form a
track, with another board, having a “Fund” space and a Stock Price
chart, placed in the middle. One pawn is placed on the start square,
and four stock market pawns (red, blue, yellow, and green) are placed
on the “100” space of the Stock Price chart, which goes from
“Bankrupt” to “300”. There are twelve shares in each of the four
companies, which are stacked near the board, as well as a
corresponding six-sided die of the same color. Each player is given
$690 (odd number) to start with, with the rest of the money placed in
the bank. One player is chosen to be the start player; and beginning
with them, players may purchase stock for the price of $100 of any
companies they choose. The first player then takes their turn.
At the beginning of a player’s turn, they may buy or sell stocks for
whatever the current price is of the corresponding stock market pawn.
Players may only have twelve total stocks and may not sell the last
stock of a company if no other player has that color. After doing
this, each company is checked; and the player with the most stocks is
the president of that company, receiving the corresponding die. A
player loses the die to another player only if the other player has
MORE stock than they do.
After this, the player moves the purple pawn one to four (three in a
four or five player game) spaces; and performs the action on the space
- If the space is a color that matches one of the four companies, the
President of that company has a choice. They can either pay $50 to
the “Fund” space (if a companies’ value is $190 or greater, the cost
is $100 rather than $50) to roll their companies die and take the
associated action; or they can roll the Fund (black) die, but only if
there is some money in the Fund. Rolling this die may either cause
nothing to happen, or cause the price of the company to go down one or
two spaces - yet awarding the President all the money in the Fund.
- Event: The player must roll a white event die and follow the action
on it: Take $100, move any company’s stock marker down two spaces,
take $50 from the fund and roll again, move all companies’ stocks down
one space, or switch out one color stock for any other color.
- Almighty Square: Acts as a wild space for any of the four companies.
- Dividend Square: The company with the highest stock price pays out
a dividend to each player for every stock they own. Dividends are
printed on the Stock price track and range from $30 to $80.
- President Square: Each player receives $100 for each president’s
die they own.
- Goal: The player receives $100 from the Fund, and the game ends.
When rolling a die, the president of that company follows the actions
on the die.
- Status Quo (G) - Nothing
- Price + 1 (B,G,Y) - The stock market marker is moved up one space.
- Price + 2 (B,R,G,Y) - The stock market marker is moved up two spaces.
- Price + 3 (Y) - The stock market marker is moved up three spaces.
- Price – 1 (Y) - The stock market marker is moved down one space.
- Other Company + 1 (R) - The player chooses another color’s stock and
moves it up one space.
- Other Company - 1 (B) - The player chooses another color’s stock and
moves it down one space.
- Other Company - 2 (B) - The player chooses another color’s stock and
moves it down two spaces.
- Dividend (B,R,G,Y) - Each player receives a dividend for each stock
they have in the company.
If a company reaches the "Bankrupt space", all players must return
their stock in the color with no reward, and then the stock market
price for that color is reset. Any player who loses stock this way
can also legally quit the game by declaring personal Bankruptcy. When
the game ends, all stocks are sold to the bank for their current
price; and the player with the most money is the winner!
Some comments on the game...
- Components: The games components, for the most part, are very
nicely done. The only thing I'm not fond of is the paper money,
although it is very nice quality. The pawns are generic plastic
pawns, and the dice need to have stickers applied but look pretty good
when finished. The board itself and the stocks are made of thick
cardboard and have an austere, good looking presence. Everything fits
into a thin, long box with more good artwork, and everything is very
clear and easy to read - the symbols and words on the dice are fairly
- Rules: The rulebook is five full color pages of very nicely
formatted rules, with a lot of space explaining what each side of the
dice do (explained so that even a moron could understand), and some
questions and answers. The game can be explained quickly, although I
would recommend pointing out to players the differences between the
dice of the companies. It also seems to be a game that players should
play twice so that they fully grasp the strategy.
- Companies: The die for each company is fairly different. If a
player is feeling mean, they will likely want the Blue die, which
allows a player to negatively affect the other dice. If a player
wants dividends, they'll want the Green die, as it has a fifty percent
chance of rolling that. The Yellow company will most likely go up in
value, although it has a chance of going down, also. The Red die is
the safest one but also can cause other companies to increase.
Knowing what each company does is crucial and will likely affect how
players invest in them (I prefer the Yellow company myself).
- Movement and Timing: Obviously, the game can be sped along if
players move the full amount each time. There are only thirty-six
spaces on the board, which means that the game could be over quite
quickly. A player must weigh this in when moving the purple pawn, for
they may want the game to go slower or faster. At the same time,
where do you move the pawn to? Obviously a player wants to go to a
space that benefits them, but will the president of a company they
have a lot of stock in make the right choice?
- Presidents: And that is most likely my favorite part of the game
- the choice that presidents must make. The first couple have no
choice - simply pay up and roll the die. But once the Fund is $100 or
more, it becomes tempting to roll the Fund die. Sure, it might make
your stock price go down, but all that money will come to you!
However, this will also likely have a backlash, because all other
players who control that stock will likely be annoyed and give you
fewer chances to roll the die in the future. Wheeling and dealing
will most likely occur, and players will argue for others to NOT take
the Fund money. It's greed versus the good of the company. Which
will you choose?
- Stock Prices and Bankruptcy: The highest a stock can reach is
$300, although I have yet to see that happen, as players will
collectively seek to bring it back down through the Event die or the
Blue company. I have seen Bankruptcy, and it's not a pretty sight, so
players will usually work hard to avoid it. Sometimes a president
will push the company into Bankruptcy themselves, which is stupid; but
I'm not sure I like the "quit" rule. The game is only thirty minutes
or so long, why allow players to quit? That and the lack of tie
breaking rules (all tied players win) are minor quirks - but annoying.
- Fun Factor: The time element keeps Owner's Choice refreshing and
quick. Much of the fun comes from the president's decision on what to
do with the dice, or which space a player moves to. This could (and
probably would) get tedious if done for an hour or more, but Owner's
Choice manages to make the short amount of time it lasts worthwhile
and fulfilling. It has all the feel of a larger, longer stock market
game, but it doesn't overstay its welcome or become too tiresome with
I can easily recommend Owner's Choice, simply based on the wide
audience I think it will have. One need not be a mathematician or
stock analyst to understand the basic nuances of the game. Players
can win without controlling any one company, but to control them is
fun - merely because of the decisions they can make. With practically
zero downtime and a short playing span, Owner' Choice is a game that
hits a sweet spot for me - stocks - without becoming a grueling,
lengthy affair. The modular board keeps it fresh, and the interaction
with other players keeps it human.
"Real men play board games"