in General

Trump – the Game: Review

Trump:the board game

I’ve only briefly played “Trump – the game”, and I’m glad that I only paid 5 for this game, because in reality; it’s not worth more than that.

The objective of “Trump – the Game” is to be the player with the most money at the end of the game. We’re not talking Millions here, we’re talking Billions. You can do this in one of three ways: acquiring properties, playing “Trump” cards, and making deals with other players.

The players move their playing pieces around the board, and as they move money can be added to an unowned property, a property is auctioned and you can always draw a card too.

The auctions are one-off and players bid against themseleves to buy the property; you can knock players out of the bidding (regardless of how much money you have) by simply using a … “You’re Fired!” card (yes, that’s probably the only “The Apprentice” tie-in in the whole game, though).

Properties are, of course, the heart of the game, because they will generate wealth. The simple act of landing on a property’s space on the board will generate worth to that property…but this wealth is placed *inside* the property, and goes with it if the property changes hands! You also generate income through Trump cards; this is simply cash on hand and can be spent normally.

The game continues until all of the properties are sold. There are only 6 major properties, such as a casino, International airports, luxury cruise liner as well as many more.

On the player’s turn they can a) play one of the Trump cards they have, b) move around the board, or c) offer to sell one of their cards to the other players.

It’s all about acquiring properties, and getting a good return on investment

The Trump Cards are the most important part of the game system, whereas landing on the right space can bring in cash or trigger auctioning of properties. Unusual in itself, this movement system means that from the first turn you have to decide whether to build up cards for later in the game or to try and take your profits there and then.

Much of the game is dependent on open bidding and some cards enable you to forcibly take someone out of the bidding (ie: playing a “You’re fired!” card, or put yourself back in (via “The Donald” card). This means nothing is certain, even if you have the most available money. With the right cards and a little cash, properties can be picked up for way below their normal cost. The “Outside Investor” cards can also help boost your disposable cash.

The idea is to acquire the properties, each property has it’s own plastic box and as the game progresses, more and more cash is added to the property (into the box), thus building up a secret value (and therefore players have to remember what the value of each property is).

What is interesting though is that, throughout the game, properties come up for auction and the prices paid are always well over any possible nominal value – we established a broad average of about $200-$500m per purchase. The reason for this is that players, consciously or otherwise, work out the intangible benefits of holding properties and thus the ability to do deals and consequently, push the price up.

Once all the properties are sold, the game moves onto the deals phase. By this time, each player will have cash, cards and hopefully some properties. The fact that you don’t have as many properties as other players doesn’t cut you out of the action.

What is important is your number of good cards, and to a lesser extent your cash on hand. Basically, each player takes it in turn to play a card or propose a deal to another player or group of players. This deal can be based on cards in his hand or other knowledge.

The king of deals

Here is where half of the fun is. You can make elaborate deals such as “I’ll loan you the Hotel for two turns if you give me a Casino card and any one other card, but if I roll to get money I at least get $20 million.”

Deals can include buying, selling and trading cards, cash, properties and, importantly, borrowing properties from other players (although this isn’t said in the rules). In this way, holding a card such as ‘Receive $200m if you own both the Casino and the Hotel’ has value.

Through negotiation, you can rent the required properties for a period and claim the cash by playing the card. Alternatively, you could simply sell the card to an interested party. Of course, the other players will want a return from these deals too!

The kind of deals you make are really up to the players. Even though there are no clear examples in the manual, and nothing in the rules stating what negoations are and are not acceptable, we often found that really good deals could be made.

For example, one player could offer to pay another player $60m for the use of the Cruise Liner on the next turn and in return will give the current owner of the Cruise Liner a card.

I’ve also read about complex deals such as “multi-turn rentals”, “options” and “performance related profit splits”. I do not know how these work, but I’m working on a strategy on how to implement them the next time I play this game.

However, saying all that – the majority of deals can simply be reduced into the selling of a card. While some of the fun is lost, it does streamline things a bit.

Also, without the negotiation phase, players now have to make a choice whether they want to move about the board trying to get some wealth, or to play a card instead while you still can. In the old game, there wasn’t much reason not to simply roll around the board until all the cards were gone.

Once all properties have been purchased, all the players remove all the hidden cash from the properties they own, count up the money and the player with the most money wins!

The problems with this game

  1. The game plays sorta like Monopoly, but a very shorter version of Monopoly – you can complete it within an hour or even quicker than that.
  2. You start with too much money… $500 million to be precise! Heck you might as well just retire now — you’ve just made $500m! This really hurts the game, you should start out with nothing or have to roll the dice, or get an “outside investor” such as Angel Investor ($10m each)
  3. It’s not clear whether the $500m is either: (a) a loan, or (b) seed money and how much is meant to be returned. If it’s seed money, one could expect to pay 2 or more times the amount invested; and who in their right mind would invest $500m into a nobody anyway?
  4. The concept of starting with $500m may make you feel either incredibily poor
  5. There just aren’t enough properties – where is the oil industry, TV studios, apartments, hotel chains, food chains, utility chains? There should be minor and major properties
  6. Nothing bad ever seems to happen, sure there are tax cards – but you never seem pay “running costs” on your acquired properties; nor do you have to pay off salary desputes, legal bills or anything of that nature — where are the chance/opportonity cards?
  7. The denominations are silly, the lowest is $10 million; and the highest is $100m; where is the $1 million, $5 million and of of course the $500m?
  8. The thought that this game could be so, so much better; it’s mostly about deals… and how you make them.

The last point I made there is really what this game is all about; it’s about the deals — I’ve heard stories that players have been known to go into another room to make secret and shady deals — personally, I’d add my own rules, add way more properities and make it a much longer and harder game… I’m glad I only paid 5 for the game, I’m currently thinking of adding a few rules to make it a bit better, and perhaps print out some business cards with mocked up properties to help forfill my need for minor properties… I mean, according to Trump (well at least the game, anyway)… it’s just too darn easy to become a Billionaire.

If only life was like that!

Overall: 6/10. A good game that’s really about deal-making, and is a shorted version of Monopoly (but much weaker in overall game play, strategy and fun). Donald…. “You’re Fired”!