GAME CLASSICS

[From time to time, we like to revisit great games that are, alas, no longer with us. In the past installments of our Game Classics series, we have featured Bantu, Can't Stop, Daytona 500, Holiday, Kimbo, Mr. President, Ploy, Rich Uncle, Square Mile, Stock Market Game (by Gabriel), Summit, Troque/Troke and Wildcatter. This time around, the Stock Market gets our attention once again with a little gem called Broker.]

BROKER (Spencer-Murray Corporation, 1961, 1965; Ravensburger 1967, 1972); out of print

   In looking through GA REPORT issues, the influx of American/English language editions of the latest game sensations from Germany, Holland, France etc. are easily found.  While we have relatively recently become accustomed to European games traveling well "across the pond", our European gaming brethren have long welcomed American games into their homes. The best known and probably earliest example of this transatlantic crossing may be Monopoly, the flagship game of the formidable Parker Brothers line. (In actuality, European games have long been at home in the USA as evidenced by the UK's Waddington's and America's Parker Brothers long enjoying a symbiotic relationship that has included, for example, Cluedo/Clue and Sorry.) But when a lesser known game from a lesser known company can make the leap, that's pretty impressive. And that's precisely the case with a rather cleverly designed stock market game from Spencer-Murray: Broker.

   Broker first hit the scene in 1961 in a slim white box which contained a stock board, a set of stock certificates for the four companies in the game (Proton Electronics, Golden Eagle Airlines, Sapphire Cartel and River Rouge Motors), play money, four tokens (used to mark the price changes on the board) and, as the impetus for the rise and fall of stock prices, Market Action Cards.

   The tokens were placed on the board to show that each stock started at a price of $100 a share. Players were given a starting bankroll of $300. The Market Action Cards were separated into three piles: $100 cards, "Double" cards and a $40 & $60 pile. Players were dealt a hand of 2 $100 cards, 3 Double cards and 5 mixed $40 and $60 cards. But what separates Broker from the rest of the pack is the novel approach in using these Market Action Cards - each Action Card had MULTIPLE and OPPOSITE values that were triggered SIMULTANEOUSLY!

   These "cross-cutting" cards give Broker its edge. The 40 and 60 cards were able to boost one stock at the expense of another. For example, the 60 card of the Sapphire Cartel pumped up the price of that stock by 60 points. At the SAME TIME, however, the same card allowed a player to lower by 30 ANY OTHER stock of his choice! The 40 cards allowed a player to raise any stock of his choice by 40 while, at the same time, LOWERED another, different, stock by 50! The 100 cards operated in a similar fashion, raising a specific stock 100 points but lowering ALL OTHER STOCKS by 20! The Double cards doubled the current value of a stock (sometimes a specific stock, sometimes ANY stock of the player's choosing) while slashing the value of a specific stock in half!

   Players took turns in clockwise order with the dealer going first. On his turn, a player MAY first buy or sell stocks on the board at their current price. Then, that player MUST play a Market Action Card and move the stock prices accordingly. Then, that player MAY buy or sell stocks again. This concludes a turn and play shifted to the left. One key consideration: while you can buy shares of a company's stock and play a card to increase its value OR sell shares of a company and play a card to decrease its value, you can NOT buy or sell shares of that stock until your NEXT turn. This prevents a "quick killing" and gives your opposition a chance to counter your move.

   Play continued until all of the Market Action Cards that have been dealt to the players have been played. (To prevent an unfair advantage, the last player may NOT buy any stocks on his final turn.) Players then sell their remaining stock holdings to the bank at the final price shown on the board. The player with the most money wins!

   Broker underwent a cosmetic change in a later edition in 1965, being  repackaged in a slim, smaller, red box which eliminated the extra (and really unnecessary) spaces on the board for stocks and cards, leaving only the four board tracks used for charting current stock prices. Later, Broker was picked up by Ravensburger in Germany, renamed Das Börsenspiel, and repackaged where it enjoyed a healthy run (evidenced by a new edition of the game published in 1972). The Ravensburger edition gave players a hard plastic board to mark stock prices, substituted real companies (IBM, British Petroleum, Deutsche Bank and Siemens) for the fictional ones in the original, and softened the blow that $100 cards caused by reducing all other stocks by only $10 (not $20) while keeping the original rules and concept. Ironically, especially in the light of knowing the origins of the game, Das Börsenspiel followed the then standard rules policy of many European game companies. It came with rules in German, Italian, French and Dutch - but NO English!

   In Broker, players have the power to manipulate the market and buy and sell stocks at advantageous prices before playing a card and reaping benefits after. Timing your play is the critical factor here. Player interaction is terrific as every card play has potentially devastating effects on opposition portfolios. And, since you know how many of each type of card each player starts with (although you don't know precisely which stocks are primed to be affected), this "limited intelligence" allows you to make educated guesses and plan accordingly, something not always possible in other stock market games which often leave you totally dependent on the luck of the draw or dice.

   With its innovative design, Broker broke the mold and set itself apart from the many less inspired stock market and business games. Broker is a worthy addition to our pantheon of game classics. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Herb Levy