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STACK MARKET

Reviewed by Ben Baldanza

(Z-Man Games, 3-4 players, ages 10 and up, 30 minutes; $24.99)

 

Stack Market is a dexterity game designed by Susumu Kawasaki camouflaged as a business game. The primary component is set of 60 dice with side values ranging from zero to four. These dice are stacked onto each other to create up to four “businesses”, with the height of the business determining its value. Players invest in the businesses, grow them (physically!), and can merge them. But if a business collapses (literally), the investors all foot the bill.

Initially each business begins with a three-story dice tower, with the dice stacked such that the highest value shows on top. Each player can invest in one business by placing a marker in their color on a card next to the tower. All businesses start with a value of three, by definition of the business value equaling the height of the dice tower. On turns, a player takes a number of new dice equal to the size of the business they are invested in, and rolls all of them. These dice must then be stacked onto the business using specific rules. These are:stackmarket

– The order of the stacking must be defined before any stacking begins.

– Only dice with a higher number than the current top number can be stacked, except that a “zero” can be placed directly on a “four”.

– Dice may be stacked individually or in groups, but only one hand can be used.

Using these rules, it is possible that all dice cannot be stacked. Let’s use an example: the top die of a four-dice business shows a “three”. On my turn, assuming I am invested in this building, I roll four dice and get a zero, two three’s, and a four. I could thus stack the four onto the three (it’s higher), the zero onto the four, a three on top of the zero, but now I’m stuck with a three that can’t be stacked. This die would be returned to the common stock, but the business is now worth three more (three dice were added). After rolling dice and stacking, optionally a player can then change their investment to a new business. Up to two players can be invested in each business.

Money is earned during the game in several ways. Any time five dice or more are added to a business in a single turn, the successfully stacking player earns a bonus. If a building collapses during a stacking, each investor must pay. The third way to earn cash during the game is through the takeover process.

Takeovers can occur between two companies, each of which must have at least one investor. The higher value business (taller stack of dice) takes over the lower value business, and all the dice from the lower value business must be stacked onto the acquiring business. Investors earn bonus cash if the takeover is successful (the newly stacked business does not collapse) and lose cash if the business tumbles. There is also a bonus for being invested in the most valuable business (highest dice tower). The round ends when all the dice are used, and the player with the highest total value (cash on hand plus value of business invested in) wins the game.

Stack Market is fun and fast. There is strategy is deciding which business to invest in, when to change investments, and whether to stack the dice in a stable manner or intentionally make it shaky while leaving for another business. The dice are small and wooden, and thus become unstable after eight or ten are stacked. The tracking board shows opportunity for up to a 35 value building; making anything close to this size happen is very difficult. With four businesses, a lot of table space is needed so each tower can be stacked and allowed to collapse without affecting the others. The business theme is nicely done and the ideas of investing, growing, and destroying a business all works well with the physical act of stacking the dice into towers. This game was originally published several years ago in Japan as Gra Gra Company. Japan has been the source for an increasing number of interesting games and it is good to see that Z-man has picked this one up for English publication. Stack Market is a great way to end an evening of more serious gaming. – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Ben Baldanza


 

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