Updated: Sep 2
You've probably seen reports in the papers about BitCoin and other cryptocurrencies. These are virtual currencies that aren't issued by any national government but are apparently 'mined' by computer algorithms. If you're not a geek, it all sounds rather fanciful. As do the confessional newspaper stories of folk who somehow had a handful of BitCoins five years ago and who bitterly regret they'd used their BitCoins to buy a pizza when, now, it seems they'd be worth £50 million.
Happily, you don't need to trouble yourself trying to understand such things in order to play Cryptocurrency, the 2–4 player game from Capital Gains Studio. Designed by Steve Ng Wen Xi, with art by Wong Chun Xi, Cryptocurrency is a market manipulation game where, instead of the usual stocks & shares, players are accumulating wealth by buying, selling and, yes, 'mining' cryptocurrencies.
The game involves some interesting mechanics. The four cryptocurrencies in the game are volatile, in that they are prone to rise or fall due to the impact of rumours. At the start of the game, one face-up and one face-down rumour card is placed by each of the cryptocurrencies. The face-up card takes immediate effect (pushing up or knocking down the currency's value); the face-down card is only revealed and its impact taken at the end of the game. In each of the rounds, players are dealt a rumour card and they choose which currency to apply it to. Turn order is important here because in each round only one rumour card can be played to each currency. To add to the game's tension, some rounds call for rumours to be placed face up, while in other rounds they are placed face down; so players are speculating in a market based on imperfect information and where an opponent may know more than you do about a particular currency.
Players can spend some of their cash to hire specialists in place of the hapless interns with whom they start the game. The specialists will mostly have potentially game-changing special abilities. They may also have more action points than the interns. This won't make so much difference on straightforward trade actions because only one action point is needed to buy or sell up to 4 coins. They are more significant if you choose instead to mine for coins...
Mining increases in difficulty level every time a mining action has been successful for that cryptocurrency. When you mine, you create a deck of 'hash' cards equal to the difficulty level such that just one of the cards represents success. For a difficulty level of 5, therefore, you create a deck with 1 success and 4 failure cards. The significance of the action points is that the number of cards you flip from this deck is equal to the number of action points you spend. If you are able to spend 5 action points, in this example, then you are guaranteed to succeed because you'll flip all five cards. Commit fewer action points and you'll be pushing your luck to hit that elusive success card.
Both mining and trade can affect the cryptocurrency prices. For every 4 coins bought in a single transaction, the price subsequently rises; likewise falling when 4 coins are sold. Mining can trigger 'validation' transactions that give the mining player a cash bonus but which also shift the currency value up or down.
Adding further spice to the game, all the rumour cards are revealed and resolved at the end, and the currency with the lowest value is deemed to be a scam and becomes worthless. That means, clever market manipulation can result in a wipeout for the player that previously thought they were winning. It can also lead to cautious players foregoing the prospect of winning an 'Ultimate Hodler' bonus (for having the most of a particular currency) and pushing through panic sell-offs in the final round. And, no, you're not the first to think that 'hodler' must be a typo. It isn't.
If you like stock market games, Cryptocurrency is a game you're sure to enjoy. And the game incorporates the facility for upping the scope for strategy. In the basic game, all the cryptocurrencies start off equal but if you flip over the boards to their 'advanced' side, you will be playing with cryptocurrencies with asymmetric markets and asymmetric mining conditions. Cryptocurrency also comes supplied with a 'mini-expansion' of 15 event cards, some of which affect just the round in which they appear and some of which apply throughout the game. It can certainly shake up a game if, for example, you find you are playing with an event card that declares that the second lowest value cryptocurrency must also be deemed a worthless scam.