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Board Game Review – Black Friday

2011 July 6

Review copy kindly provided by Rio Grande Games.

“If you lived through the great depression or any market crashes, you’ll feel right at home with…Black Friday – by Rio Grande Games/Kosmos.

Designer: Friedemann Friese

Number of players: 2-5

Age: 12+

Time: 55 minutes (yes, I said 55 – not an hour but 5-5)

Black Friday by Rio Grande Games

Black Friday by Rio Grande Games

What’s the game about?

A description from the publisher…

When you invest in the stock exchange, you want to buy low and sell high! But it does not always go that way, so sometimes you will need subsidies from the government to keep investing. To keep the stocks you have acquired on the rise, you must convince other players they have value so they will buy those stocks and keep your profits soaring.

Now the signs suddenly show that there could be a coming burst.You must decide quickly if the signs are right and sell your holdings or wait a bit longer for them to rise further and increase your profits.

In the end, of course, the player who has earned the most money (in this case in the form of gold reserves) will win the game! Times again the good taxpayer takes over the subsidies.

A fast-moving game with thrills and excitement as players try to outwit each other for the highest gains. But the bust can come suddenly and ruin all – even the fortunes of the other players.

A frighteningly realistic game that reflects the real dangers and opportunities of investing in the stock market. Bring your steel nerves and money to see how you fare!

Basic idea in my own words:

Black Friday represents a simplistic simulation of playing the stock market. the game even looks light hearted and somewhat simple with the 6 page rulebook and not too many bits – but that doesn’t mean this game is light on the strategy. The idea behind Black Friday is that your trying to end the game with the most silver and gold bars. And how do you get those bars you may ask? Simple…money. But getting that money is not so easy. To get money in the game, you follow the old and simple rule in stocks, which is to buy low and sell high. That’s how you’ll make money to buy silver bars.

Black Friday game in progress

Black Friday game in progress

What comes in the game and how do you play:

As you can see from the image above, the game comes with a game board, tiles, money, bars, a cloth bag and neat little briefcases that represent the different stocks in the game, amongst other things.

In the game, you have 1 action you may take, which is nice as there is little downtime in this game. The actions you may take are…

  • Buy stocks – if you choose to buy stocks, its exactly what you think it is, you pay for a stock or stocks based on the current stock price and give that money to the bank and take the color stock you purchased and add it behind your player screen. Also, you will need to take that color stock from the market and add it to the purchase table. A bit on the tables later.
  • Sell stocks – the opposite – you want to dump a stock or more. You place a stock you wish to sell back into the market and take money equal to the current stock price of that color that you just sold. Also, you take that color stock briefcase off of the current sales table, and place it into the market. Yes there’s a lot of little fidgety things to do in this game, more that I’ll explain later. also, I forgot to mention, when you sell a stock, you choose that color and move it one stock price to the left, essentially knocking down the price)
  • Buy silver – you may purchase silver equal or under the current silver limit. This is the action that is required to win you the game. Well, all actions are, but this is the direct action to get you silver bars. When you purchase a silver bar, you pay its current price. the silver price table is on the left of the board, ranging from 20-100. As the game progresses, it gets harder to purchase silver because the price is going up. Also when you buy a silver, on another table, called the silver buys table, you knock the marker over for how many silver you purchased. And finally, you take one stock (briefcase) of any color you wish, out of the market and onto the silver buys table.
  • Pass – There is an option of passing. When you take this action, you get to choose any briefcase out of the market and add it to the silver buys table. This is a good option for delaying price adjustments or to get more of a color you want to get onto the silver buys table.
Additionally on each turn, you may take subsidies up to the current subsidy limit in the game. Also, one time per game, you may use your special action card.
Black Friday. Stock purchase table on top, under that is the silver buys table, under that are the three sales tables, then at the bottom is the wall street journal which contains black briefcases, and a legend, which shows where to place stock prices at the beginning of a price adjustment. Additionally shows the stock/subsidy/silver limits.

Black Friday. Stock purchase table on top, under that is the silver buys table, under that are the three sales tables, then at the bottom is the wall street journal which contains black briefcases, and a legend, which shows where to place stock prices at the beginning of a price adjustment. Additionally shows the stock/subsidy/silver limits.

The tables:

Let me explain these tables as they are key in the game. In the game, stocks are constantly being added/removed from these tables – these tables determine when a price adjustment occurs. A price adjustment is what this game revolves around. A price adjustment will effect stock prices, the silver purchase price and what color stocks go into the black bag. A price adjustment occurs when exactly 5 colored briefcases (6 briefcases in a 5 player game) are in any of the 5 tables (black colors excluded for this). When a price adjustment occurs the person that caused the price adjustment reaches in the bag and randomly pulls out X amount of stocks. But before that, you’ll most likely feel the big dollar sign in the bag, that is a reminder that everyone has to pay their subsidies. Once you’re all paid up, the random stocks are placed on the board, then depending on the number in each color pulled, the stocks prices will move accordingly. For instance, if 0 blue are drawn, blues price moves left one, which means the price goes down.

So each color is moved, and if black briefcases are drawn, all stock colors are effected negatively. So if 3 blacks are pulled and 2 blue are pulled, blue has a net of -1, so blue’s price is going down. Pulling these black briefcases is what you’re trying to avoid…or not. See, in this game, the strategy is in trying to get the stock colors you want to go up, or down. If you have a bunch of blue and bought it at a cheap price, well, you better hope blues are going to be drawn from the bag. You obviously don’t have control of the random drawing of stocks, but you can increase the chances, and that’s a large factor in strategy in this game.

This can happen because when for instance, a purchase table initiated a price adjustment, well, all stocks from that table are going into the bag. So if you want a lot of blues to get into that bag, either buy blues in the market, hence having to place another blue from the market onto the purchase table. Also, another way to increase a stock is when at any point, 3 colored briefcases are on a purchase table, that stock price goes up. Also, whenever someone picks the last of a color out of the market, the price of that color also goes up!

I realized I forgot to explain the market. The market is a pile of briefcases in all colors, placed on the side of the board. This is where your taking and placing stocks.

Back to where we were…well what about the sales tables. The sales tables work in the way that whenever you sell a stock, you take that color also from the sales table, and place it into the market, effectively, lowering the chances of that briefcase being pulled from the bag (as it’s not there), and also raising the number of that color in the market and remember, the moment a player grabs the last of any color out of the market, that price goes up. So selling stocks, has the opposite effect of the purchase table. But when a sales table initiates a price adjustment, all those colors remaining go into the bag, and the black ones as well – which is bad!

The whole point of this game is again, trying to buy low, sell high and get out before a crash happens. A crash would be when a ton of black briefcases are drawn.

Black Friday Stocks

Black Friday Stocks

And with this game, you really want to drive prices of your chosen color stocks up, and the only way to do that is to purchase that color – yet that’s going to render you wish less money! It’s a tough game at times. I get really annoyed when an opponent doesn’t place the color I want in the right table! Little things in this game effect big results.

Also, I wanted to mention with the black briefcases, when they are pulled from the bag, the price of silver goes up that many times.

So the game progresses in this fashion, everyone takes 1 turn and taking subsidies if they can and want to, and there are many price adjustments that happen in between turns and your goal is to try and increase the chances of certain color stocks being pulled from the bag, effectively driving those prices up, in the hopes of shortly after, selling them at higher prices, to make money. And with that money, you buy silver. For every 5 silver you have, you immediately swap it for a gold. So that’s the game in a nutshell.

Components: 3/5

The components in this game are standard fare. I really think the suitcases are neat, but they are quite small and fidgety. The stock price markers are a nice size so they are easy to grab. The insert is effective and the box is my favorite size, standard square. The artwork is lighthearted and nice as well. My biggest gripe is the manual. This is the worst rulebook I’ve ever played with. There are many spelling errors and there is a lot of ambiguity. After playing twice, I even found an errata on board game geek which described a rule that was not in the rulebook – not good at all! I repeat, the rulebook is AWFUL. Oh ya, there’s even a typo on the box!

Theme: 4/5

I really enjoy this theme. It’s stocks and money, something adult in nature and not embarrassing to say your playing. The theme blends perfect with this game, and the mechanics. The game does a good job of simulating the market on a very simple level. The randomness of the bag represents in my mind, being a shareholder – you don’t know what’s going to happen to your company’s shares. While you may have a clue, you don’t truly know, unless your some financial wizard.

Luck Factor: 4/5

There’s a lot of luck in this game. Hence the pulling random stocks out of the bag. But you have control of how many of the colored stocks you want are in the bag, that’s all part of the game! Now, you won’t a lot of control, as there’s a lot of stocks, but you’ll have some control. That’s the nature of the stock market! If I would have known Apple was going to go up so high in a short amount of time, I wouldn’t have sold it years ago, now it’s too expensive for me to want to bother getting back in.

Strategy: 4/5

There’s a good amount of strategy in this game. So much in fact, that I would not recommend this game to light euro gamers. There’s a lot going on in this game and a lot that you have to watch, and that’s all part of the strategy. The basic strategy though, is to buy low, sell high and try and drive prices up by buying more of that color. Think you have the most blues? Buy more blue…but if it’s cheap – you have to decide how much you want to spend on stocks. Another strategy that’s a simple one is the use of passing. Passing is a good option. It delays price adjustments to where you want them, and you can add any color stock you wish to the silver purchase table. Don’t underestimate passing.

Overall Feelings: 3/5

Black Friday is a very fun game that has a lot of strategy in it and I would recommend it to gamers that don’t mind when someone forgets a rule and they aren’t the type to walk away from the table mid-game because you forgot to move up a stock price. I must say, this game has a lot of little, fidgety rules that were annoying my gaming groups. For such a simple game, there is really a lot to do and it can be hard to remember. I would not recommend it to light euro gamers. I would recommend it to anyone at a level a bit higher. If they just have played games like Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne – I would hold off. Get them involved in some worker placement games first. I am looking forward to playing this game again so all the players I play against will be more at the same competitive level. I would recommend printing out some small summary sheet and place it in front of you, and doing that for everyone, so everyone can police each other. I feel there has to be a lot of policing in this game, as one forgotten rule can really affect the game harshly.

All in all though, I really do enjoy Black Friday and it fills a void of having no real money/stock games that do not involve trains. Again, I look forward to playing it and if you’re interested at all in stocks and euro gaming, I would highly recommend this game. Just be warned, don’t expect to get it all in one or two games. There are a lot of fidgety rules that everyone should have down before you play too seriously. This is not for the faint of heart. I’m tempted to give this game a 3.5/4 out of 5…

Notes:

This review is not meant to get all the rules in detail. This is my blog, my words. If you are interested in the game, I would suggest visiting the rulebook on Rio Grande’s web site.

I also want to thank those who posted the images on BGG, from which I have used.


2 Responses leave one →
  1. August 20, 2011

    So silver always goes up in price, eh? Seems like a lot of people think that’s true of gold in the real world..

    How’s the complexity compared to, say, a Martin Wallace game?

    • August 20, 2011

      Not was as complex to a Martin Wallace game. In this game you can only plan so far sue to the nature of the random bag pulls

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