We reviewed Eric Sillies' Exchange last year. In that review, we reported that the game had found a new publisher and would be coming out in a new edition in 2020. Well that publisher is Bicycle - best known for their pre-eminence as playing card publishers but with a growing line up of board games - and the new edition is here.
The game itself is essentially unchanged. You're buying, selling and manipulating the prices of three categories stocks (Banks, Insurance and Bonds). Over five rounds, you will be placing cards in cardboard sleeves to select the stocks you will be dealing in that round, the number of stocks you will be buying or selling, and the upward or downward shift in a stock price. Check out our previous review for more on how the game plays.
In this new edition, the cubes and individual player boards that track your stock holdings are replaced with boards with sliders. This is a definite improvement: our one key criticism of the original edition of the game was that you could lose track of your holdings if anyone jogged the table. The rules still refer to the historical setting of the original version, and the names on the Founder cards are unchanged and still represent the brokers who founded the New York Stock Exchange in 1792, but the look and feel of this edition is much more contemporary. We rather liked the 'olde worlde' script used in the original game but the modern fonts are markedly easier to read. The all-important Market Forces event cards have all been shorn of their arcane historical references and replaced with descriptions that will be more familiar to 21st Century players but their effects are unchanged: in this edition, it's increased tax revenue that lowers the value of Bonds rather than the redistribution of tax revenues pushed through by Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin, and the fall in Bank stock is due to oil industry losses rather than Thomas Jefferson's vociferous opposition.
Tho' Exchange uses simple mechanics, the game offers plenty of scope for strategy, including some use of bluff and deduction. Your market influence card can be used to directly benefit you (depressing the price of a stock you are buying or increasing the price of one you are selling) or to screw over an opponent. The latter is made especially possible by the way the market value board operates: if the stock value rises above $90, the bubble bursts and its price moves to the other extreme end of the board. Likewise, if the price falls below $10, the price loops round to the upper end of the board. There can be a push-your-luck element to trading close to a stock's upper or lower margins...
This is a game that's based on much open information but you can always benefit from further inside information by spending $50 to look in advance at the market forces event card for the round... And other than in the first and last rounds, the player with the most liquid cash gets use of the Lobbyist - a chance to play an extra market influence card.
This edition of Exchange omits the variations that were offered as options in the rule book of the earlier version. We hope these get uploaded to the BoardGameGeek site so that those who buy this new Bicycle edition will also have the chance to give them a try.