Dale Yu: Review of Stockpile

 

Stockpile

  • Designers: Seth Van Orden, Brett Sobol
  • Publisher: Nauvoo Games
  • Players: 2-5
  • Ages: 13+
  • Time: 45-60 mins
  • Times played: 4, with both a published copy as well as on a review copy provided by Nauvoo Games

stockpile box

Stockpile is the maiden release for both the designers and their game company, Nauvoo Games.  I met them briefly at Origins, and I was excited to get a copy of the game to review.  From their website:

“Founded in 2014, Nauvoo Games is the byproduct of a life-long gaming hobby, which brought Brett and Seth together in high school. We aspire to share the countless hours of laughter and excitement that games have brought to us.

We believe that games offer the chance to intellectually and emotionally interact with friends and family. Our hope is to make these interactions enjoyable, but also unique. By offering a fresh perspective on game design, we aim to provide new ways to play games and ultimately have fun.

Nauvoo Games is dedicated to publishing games that break the mold with innovative mechanics that encourage player engagement. Our mission is to create memories through games.”

Stockpile is an economic/stock market game where the players vie to manipulate the market and end up with the most money at the end of the game.  There are 6 different color-coded companies in the game, and in the basic setup, they all start at a value of 5.  One stock of each company is removed from the deck, shuffled up, and each player is given one at random to start the game.

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The game is played over 5-7 rounds (depending on the number of players).  To start each round, players each receive a bit of insider information – they are dealt a company card and a forecast card – thus, they will know the fate of one of the six companies at the end of the round that none of their opponents will know.  Additionally, one pair of cards is placed face up on the board so that there is one piece of shared knowledge.  Any remaining cards are paired up and placed facedown next to the board to be revealed later in the round.

Next, the players create the Stockpiles.  Below the stock prices are the areas for the Stockpiles.  Each area is seeded with one face up card from the deck – there will be one available per player in the game.  Each player is then dealt 2 cards, and in turn order, each player placed these two cards in any of the stockpiles.  One of the cards will be placed face up and one will be placed face down.  The two cards do NOT have to be placed in the same Stockpile.  These cards can be share certificates for the different companies, they could be trading fee cards or they could be special action cards.

Once all the cards have been played to the table, then players bid to take control of the Stockpiles.  The first player in turn order can place his bidding meeple on any of the bidding tracks, at any bid – so long as they have enough money to pay for the bid.  The next player then takes their turn.  This player can choose to bid on any empty track or make a higher bid than an any existing one on an occupied track.  If, at any point, someone is outbid, they take back their marker and use it on their next turn (bidding continues on in clockwise order). You can never underbid or tie on an occupied track.  Once all of the tracks have a single meeple on them, the bidding is closed and each player pays the amount of money of their bid back to the bank and takes the cards from the Stockpile that they had just bid on.

If they had collected any Trading fee cards, they must now also pay the fees listed on those cards.  Any stock cards are placed face down on the player mat.  Any action cards are then put into play – again in clockwise order from the starting player.

Stock Boom! cards allow a player to choose any one stock and move the value up by 2.  If the stock value reaches the max value (the space after 10), there is a stock split.  When this happens, all current stock doubles in value.  Players reveal any stock in this company and move it to the Split Portfolio section of their player mat, thus signifying that each card in this stack is worth 2.  If the players would already have had double value stocks in the Split Portfolio for this stock, they would receive $10,000 for each share card there for the split.  The stock price for this stock now resets to 6.

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Stock Bust! cards allow a player to choose and one stock and reduce the value by 2.  If the stock goes Bankrupt – which means the price reaches the space to the left of 1, the company goes belly-up.  All stocks in this company are returned to the supply, and the company starts anew with a value of 5.

Once each player has had a chance to play all their action cards, then players get a chance to sell any shares that they want.  This is again done in turn order.  Each player can choose any number of stock cards to return to the supply, and for each, the player will receive money equal to the current value of that stock.  A player is not obligated to sell any stock, and there is no limit to the number of stocks that can be sold at this time.

After selling, then the stocks move.  Each pair of Company/Forecast cards are revealed, and the stock prices move accordingly.  There will be 6 pairs in each round, so something will happen to each of the companies each round. Most of the Forecast cards change the price of the stock.  Again, if a Stock Split or Bankruptcy occurs, follow the rules outlined previously.  One of the Forecast cards is for a Dividend –when this is revealed, all players show their stock holdings in that company and then receive $2,000 per stock revealed.  The players could choose to not reveal any/all of their stocks in the company in order to keep their holdings secret; however, if they do this, they will not receive any dividends for those unrevealed stocks.

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At this point, the round ends.  Move the turn order marker on space to the right (unless this was the final round) and then move the First Player marker clockwise.

If the final round has been completed, there is a little bit of end-game bonus scoring.  All shares in each of the player’s areas are revealed.  The player who has the most stock in each company earns a $10,000 bonus; if there is a tie, all tied players receive $5,000.  Then, all players sell back all of their stocks at the final price.  The player with the most money wins!

There are two different expansions included in the box.

The first expansion is the advanced board variant – there is a different stock market on the back side of the board – in this instance, the stocks have varying values and different ranges to determine Bankruptcy and Stock Splits.  The second expansion is the Investor expansion.  In this case, players are given an Investor card at the start of the game which determines their starting money as well as giving them a unique special ability that they alone can use whenever it applies.

stockpile second side

My thoughts on the game

On the whole, Stockpile is a nice take on the stock market game genre.  Like most, the main idea is to buy low and sell high.  In general, being able to do that will predict good success.  One of the things I like most about this game though is the semi-hidden information in the stock movements.  Everybody knows one pairing of cards – the one placed on the board – and each player has their own pair of cards that only they know.  This provides players with enough information to make some plans based on what they know and what they can infer.  Additionally, you might be able to read into some of the actions of your opponents – i.e. if one of them sells all of their Epic Electric stock, maybe they know something that would make you want to sell all yours too?

I like the method in which the players create the Stockpiles.  With one face up and one face down card from each player, there is enough known and unknown to make it interesting.  Did your opponent place a desirable stock facedown on a stack so that he could pick it up himself?  Or did he instead hide a 3K trading fee card there as a trap?

The bidding method is very similar to Amun Re – and it works just as well here as it has in previous games that I’ve seen it in – though it is a little different as the re-bids are not immediate nor are you prevented from going back to the same stack with your next bid.  The system can both encourage you to slow roll the bid in hopes that you are able to get something at a low price – but it also might cause you to bid early and high in hopes on preventing other people from competing with you for a particular stack.

The rules are well written and are easy to learn from.  There are good illustrations and examples in the rulebook.  The artwork is clean and functional, though not spectacular.  Though I didn’t notice it until my second game, I like the way that the rules and the player mats are illustrated as open file folders.

 

There are two things that I wish were a little different in the game.  First, the game with 5 players feels a little short with only 5 rounds.  The 6 rounds that you get with 4 players feels a bit better – that extra round gives you a chance to work on some longer-term strategies.  However, I can see where 5 rounds makes sense because each player gets to be start player once, and in order to keep the game length down, it may have just worked out that way.

Speaking of the start player, this is the other beef I have with the game.  In the game, the initial start player goes to the person who spent the most on their most recent meal.  After that, it rotates around the board clockwise at the end of each round.  While there are some times that it’s advantageous to go first, and possibly one occasion when it’s better to go last (in the stock selling phase because you get the most information by seeing what everyone else has done), the fact that the turn order is not evenly split up in a 3p and 4p game (which is how I will generally play it) bothers me.

In a 5p game, there are 5 rounds – so everything is even.  In a 4p game, there are 6 rounds, and in a 3p game, there are 7 rounds.  With an uneven distribution of start player turns, I’d prefer some other mechanism to determine the start player each round (perhaps the player with the least money or some other criteria based on the game state) as opposed to the arbitrary rotation around the board.

 

Now, of course, I’ve only played the game 4 times now, and perhaps the player order positions are more balanced than I perceive – and this is something that I intend to discuss with the designer(s) when I see them next at GenCon to see what their feeling is about this.

The expansions add some nice variety to the game.  I really like the Advanced Board expansion – as the revised stock market really changes the relative value of the six stocks and gives players different reasons to go for the different stocks.  I’m not as enamored with the Investor expansion – though I’ve only played with it once – because I’m not a fan of the asymmetrical special abilities, which in our only game with them, felt a bit unbalanced in their strength.  I know that some of this is balanced out by changes in the starting money for each Investor – but I’m just personally not a fan of asymmetrical abilities such as this.  Of course, YMMV – and if nothing else, it does provide you with yet another way to enjoy the game, and that’s never a bad thing.

Overall, this game is a good entry in the stock market genre.  It is easy to learn and can be used to teach the basics of stock investing.  The game does play quickly, and as I mentioned earlier, I would actually not mind another round or two in the game.  Thus far, I think that I prefer the advanced board to the basic game, but I’d gladly play either.

Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers

Karen M: I bought this game at Origins because a friend told me about it and I have been wanting an easily accessible stock-investing game and Stockpile definitely fills that niche. I would even go so far as to say this could20 serve as a gateway game if played with the basic side. It is very intuitive and fun to play. I love the mix of insider and public information. I do prefer the advanced side because each stock behaves so differently. In a game this weekend, Cosmic Computers started off splitting twice right away and someone commented that it was the stock to own, and the rest of the game it went bankrupt a couple of times. On the basic board, all stocks behave the same, so it’s a good way to teach the game, but I can’t imagine anyone who knows how to play wanting to play that side again… The investors offer variable starting money and special powers. I have only played once with them, so I’m not sure how I feel about them. My power was to move one card to a different stockpile before bidding began and I don’t think it was as strong as some other powers.

 

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! Karen M
  • I like it. Dale Y
  • Neutral
  • Not for me…

 

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About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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One Response to Dale Yu: Review of Stockpile

  1. Thanks for the review! Glad to hear you loved it. :)

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