When it comes to reviewing board games there are two primary things that I look for. The first thing is whether or not the game entertains those playing it, mainly myself and my teenage sons, eight-year-old daughter, and retired father. The second thing I look for when reviewing a game is whether or not the aforementioned group requests to play it again immediately after completing it. This past week we played the game Oneupmanship, a game wholly based in simple economics. Turns out, my family is more into the buying and selling of stocks and greed than I previously thought. That’s a lie. I knew they were all greedy, self serving punks.
Oneupmanship takes a page out of the Monopoly playbook, in that it is comprised of a square board with a few properties to own and some chance-type cards. This is about where the comparisons end. Where Monopoly is a game based primarily on land ownership, Oneupmanship is a game based on stock ownership and underhanded dealings. There is a particular edge to playing this game, something that we didn’t grasp the first time around. Reading and then following the rules, which encourage cheating (to a point), and missing one major point of the game kind of hurt our first session. However, once those mistakes were corrected, the competitive spirit emerged.
There is a little edge to the game when it comes to the chance-type cards including some off-the-table games such as knuckles and push-ups. There is a lot of conceding small victories, while your competition tries to keep themselves ahead of you in the finance part of the game. It’s billed in some ways as a drinking or party game, but after playing with my family, I think there is no way that anyone slightly inebriated would be able to keep up with the generally fast-paced play. If you have a piece of paper handy (to track when you bought stocks and at what price and quantity) then the math is pretty simple. While buying and selling stocks — based on a constantly moving slider — is the bulk of the game, there are four property spaces that can make for a bad time if you can’t seem to get moving in the right direction.
The property spaces are evenly placed around the board, and while this might not generally be an issue, every roll could have you moving in a different direction based on the arrow at the bottom of the space. This was an interesting development we didn’t catch right away. The other thing we didn’t catch right away was the frequency of the dollar sign cards. While there are several spaces for these cards, they are also supposed to be picked up whenever a player refuses to buy stock (if the price is too high or they have no money). It also took us way too long to declare a winner, forgetting that the trophies we bought (including a trophy wife, private jet and island) were worth a considerable amount of money.
When someone declares themselves a winner they can be challenged by the other players as to whether they are really the winner. Winning is determined by the first person to reach $100,000. Getting to that point is the entertaining part. The stocks are constantly changing each time a player moves. The four corner spaces on the board as well as several dollar-sign cards create huge swings in current stock prices, encouraging constant trading, buying and selling. The dollar-sign cards have a lot to with this progression, as they present challenges that can see other players engaging in physical activities, gambling and other bad/good luck situations that can quickly change the outlook of the players’ financial situations.
Here are some of the more functional dollar-sign cards (not to give them all away):
- It ain’t easy (or cheap) being green, and you’re not environmentally responsible. At all. Pay $1,000 fine, or do 25 pushups penance.
- One-time, all-access pass to go anywhere on the board right now.
- You just punched a Wall Street protester. Collect $500 reward. Just kidding. Collect $1,000.
- Challenge any other player to a staring contest. Winner receives $1,000, or can choose to give the loser a noogie instead.
- Hostile takeover: you may buy some or all of any other player’s stock(s) at the lowest board price.
Overall, Oneupmanship is a surprisingly entertaining game that encourages your family to become the cutthroat money-grubbing villains that they are. While my eight-year-old did participate, it was only in controlling the stock slider. Her math skills are competent enough to have played, though, but I would put the age group at 12 plus. The few negative points I had about the game will be negated in the 2nd edition, as the money will be printed on thicker stock in different colors and the rules will be refined to cover the things we missed. The game has a couple of PG13 things on the dollar-sign cards, but nothing that isn’t widely discussed on network television (such as getting caught with pants down and so on).
There is a lot of sarcasm in the game pointed clearly at big corporations and stock manipulation. While these concepts might not be clear to the younger set, making the most money is a concept that should be clear to every demographic. Oneupmanship is just like the real stock market — terribly unpredictable and full of shady deals. Just remember, if you go bust — there are no bailouts for you.