You loosen your tie as you clink the ice cubes around your glass. The amber liquid inside is your reward for a hard day work. You smile to yourself and pick up your Armani jacket from the back of the chair and hang it up. The line of expensive suits speaks volumes; you are one of the Banana Republics top brokers and after today’s deals you have cemented your place at the top! You made your clients a lot of money today; yet took a huge risk in doing so. But Economics is your life and passion; no one knows it better than you.
Place the Economic Cycle Board (For beginners, you may choose to start with the Basic Board) in the middle of the table and separate the Trust Fund, Insurance and Bank cards from the draw deck. The draw deck is also known as Market. The first player is called the Chairperson. The job of the Chairperson is to roll the Productivity Die and move the Economic Token at the start of each round before his or her turn. The last player gets to pick the starting grid of the Economic Token.
Each player places a Bank card in front of them. Collect 3 cards from Market and place them face down under the Bank card. This is to be your in-game currency called Wonga. All fresh money from Market is to be placed under the Bank card in any order of your choice. Collect another four cards from Market and place them in your hands. These action cards are called Opportunity cards, and can be activated during the game. Players have the choice to discard up to four Opportunity cards they do not want, and draw replacement cards from Market before the start of the game. This can only be done once, before the game begins. The last player picks the starting grid of the Economic Token, and the Chairperson starts the game by rolling the Productivity Die and moving the Economic Token based on the number indicated on the Die.
The game play is broken up into two Phases:
Players get to collect their salary and any returns that they have made from their Assets.
- Earn 2 Wonga as salary from Market.
- Earn or lose based on the Income track from any Assets in play. The grid on the Income track which the Economic Token is on will indicate the amount earned or lost for each Asset the player owns.
Players get to perform up to 3 actions, out of the 6 options listed below.
- Draw – Draw a card from the Bank and put it into your hand.
- Trade – Discard an Opportunity card and draw a new card from Market.
- Play – Play an Opportunity card. Players can play one of the Asset, Professional, Incident or Global cards.
- Sell – Sell an Asset. Players can sell a Bond, Stock or Property as an action.
- Protection – Buy Insurance. Players can buy Insurance to protect themselves against insurable events.
- Trust Fund – Buy a Trust Fund. Players can purchase a Trust Fund for 8 Wonga.
When a player accumulates three Trust Funds, the game ends after the current round is completed. The round ends after the last player finishes his/ her turn. Players may use cards such as the Politician card, to prolong the round. At the end of the game, players will tabulate their scores based on the Score Card. If there is a tie, roll the Productivity Die. Whoever has the most points win.
I find with most educational games there is so much emphasis places on the education of the game, that there is little to no real thought put into the game play and mechanics themselves. It just feels so clunky and really takes all the enjoyment out of it and you may as well just have someone teach you from a text book. Wongamania: Banana Economy is not one of those. It has game mechanics that flows, it is enjoyable and you almost forget this is an educational game. You still learn a lot about how much economics effect markets and trends, and why and how it does this. But I found you were never bored or feeling forced to learn, the learning just came naturally and effortlessly.
The mechanics and gameplay of Wongamania: Banana Economy is really intelligent and incredibly well thought out. I was a little worried going into this game as I thought, ‘Am I going to subject my friends to a boring clunky game that is forcing you to learn about a sometimes dry subject?’ But that truly wasn’t the case, as the game was super fun and entertaining. It had its challenges and made you think and plan several moves ahead. The different levels of difficulty really add quite a bit to the gameplay as well as to the replay value.
The difficulty level is actually my only real complaint about the game, and I use that word very loosely, as it is hardly a complaint. It could have been just us or that we didn’t learn enough to fully understand the next level of gameplay. We started as beginners and thought we’d simply move up the three levels after a single play through. And let me just say, that isn’t as easy as we thought. The levels really add a level of complexity into Wongamania: Banana Economy. It really does make you think and fully understand the complexity of the previous level. Actually now I think about it more, this really shouldn’t be a complaint, as this is an educational game and is actually quite smart when you think about it. You have to fully understand the previous lesson before you move forward to the next. So scrap that said complaint!
The art for Wongamania: Banana Economy is amazing, the box art is stunning. Debt is represented as a Godzilla-like monster, trashing the business district as a corporate looking man runs away with a briefcase full of money. All while an older gentlemen in what looks like a mech suit tries to save the day. This whimsical anime art really does add to the game feel. Though it is educational it clearly doesn’t take itself so seriously that it feel like a text book. Andy Choo did an amazing job with the art, giving it an anime style which he also carried through onto the cards and it is this art that really sells this game even more. He has done an amazing job of making this made up place, the Banana Republic, come to life and give it its own personality.
Overall I was actually quite surprisingly impressed with Wongamania: Banana Economy. I expected an educational game that lacked the game aspect. What I got was a super fun and clever game, with a level of depth and intelligence that somehow made me smarter and learn stuff. I understand that this game may not seem like everyone’s cup of tea, but I would definitely tell you to reconsider. This game is a great little surprise that gives more than just knowledge of economics but a very enjoyable and intelligent game.
If you would like to get your own copy of Wongamania: Banana Economy, you can purchase it from their online shop here .