Economics is often lumped in as one of a number of driving mechanisms behind a game. It is an all encompassing term to associate the idea that players will a) gain resources and b) have to manage said resources. However, when I say that WongaMania Banana Economy is an economic game, I mean it in the most thematic sense possible. As someone that found the Big Mac Index the single most titillating aspect of Econ 101 at my local community college, I was skeptical at the thought of a game that boasts being essentially a learning tool. However, there was cute anime-ish art and more than one monster on the box art, so I kept an open mind.
Banana Economy comes from Capital Gains and plops 2-5 players into the bizarre and financially focused world of WongaMania. The goal is pretty straightforward, as soon as one player purchases three trust funds, the game ends. Players use the large deck of cards as both money AND opportunities. Money stays face down under your bank card while Opportunities reside in your hand. On your turn you first collect your standard salary of $2. Then, and here’s the tricky part, you gain or lose money depending on the status of the economy and the types of assets you have in front of you. Each round, the starting player rolls a die that moves a golden boat-thingy around a track to represent the state of the economy. This affects your Stocks and Properties, primarily how much you lose or earn and how much they’re worth. There are essentially three types of opportunities you can buy. 1) Bonds, which are the safest, they’ll each give you $1 at the start of your turn. 2) Stocks and 3) Properties. As the economic cycle spins your property and stocks fluctuate in value. You may want to sell off your bonds before that recession hits and starts losing you money, OR you may want to buy some property just as the economy swings upwards. It’s this weird, interesting little dynamic that means the cards you play in front of you shouldn’t be the cards that stay their the whole game.
Cash is interesting in this game too. Because there is a very limited way to get cards INTO your hands. Rather, in order to do so you have to pull blindly from your bank. Your money, which is needed to buy those precious trust funds and is worth points at the end of the game, must be used to increase your wealth. There’s a large “take that” element to the game as well, which encourages players to use their action points to buy insurance to prevent unforeseen circumstances from happening. I know I certainly could have used some after one player divorced me then caused me to get in a car accident all in one turn.
Once someone buys their third trust fund, the end of the game is triggered and the round is finished out. The player with the most points wins. At least in the variant we play. It’s important to note that the above scenarios were played on the more complicated side of the economy tracker AND with the points variant. This is necessary. Without the addition of the differences between stocks and property AND the accumulation of points, the game becomes overly simplistic and just a cute little take that game. With those additions (that are listed in the rule book) you get something really pretty good.
- Easy to learn
- Unique game play
- The “take that” element can be a little strong
- The theme may be off putting for some
- The easier mode for the game is pretty boring
In conclusion, WongaGamania Banana Economy is a cute looking little game about managing resources within an ever fluctuating economy. You balance the winds of change as well as the attacks of your opponents with resources that you can purchase at the cost of one of your precious three actions each turn. It keeps your time and money tight, making your decisions meaningful, but still allows for some unpredictability…kind of like how people interact with the economy and life in the real world. Played on the more “difficult” setting it’s a fantastic little game that’s easy to learn and quick to play and most importantly, it’s fun.
Designer: Xeo Lye
ArtistAndy Choo, Made Lidya