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Thursday, 30 July 2015 11:27

The bad bank game – or how to ruin Greece twice in one day

Written by Julia Schulte
eurocrisis
Photo courtesy of doppeldenk-spiele

Still can't get enough of European austerity politics? Not afraid of a delicate financial situation in your own living room? Then, "€uro Crisis" might be just the right board game for you! In the wake of the latest Greek crisis, the spotlight has once again been cast on the European financial crisis. E&M author Julia Schulte shares her experience in playing the recently developed board game "€uro Crisis" and explores how it depicts these troubled times. 

I just bought the Spanish national football team at a give-away price. When the government had to privatise some of their most valuable possessions, my bank struck gold. Simon has a good run, too: as a major bonds holder of a highly indebted Ireland, his bank expects a nice dividend at the end of the year – unless I stop it.

I rearrange my tokens and think about which card to play next. This is by far the happiest I have ever been about the financial crisis. Simon smiles. He is one of a group of five students who developed "€uro Crisis", the board game which sometimes is so painfully close to reality that it leaves the winner with an uneasy feeling. Still, a lot of people seem eager to gain the title "Best Euro Crisis Gambling Bank". A crowd funding campaign to produce the game on a larger scale finished on 19 July, and provided the five of them with over 15,800 € – a lot more than the necessary 13,400 €, a goal they had already reached six days before the campaign’s official ending.

"It started in 2010", Simon explains. "None of us really understood the crisis. But we thought maybe it would be easier from the banks' point of view." So, the board game enthusiasts started out with a game that used the financial market's mechanism of banks giving out capital to gain profit via dividends. "But it quickly becomes boring, when you only lend out money", says the tall medical student. That was when they decided to bring political elements into the game. 

An introduction to the game

Banks can buy gold and weapons on the black market in Moscow. Lobbying is a valuable option in Europe –  mainly by throwing Bunga-Bunga parties for politicians in order to get a much needed reform. During the next round, I bribe the French conservatives. This lowers the national debt, but also the people's happiness. (Socialist reforms work the other way round.) The discontent in the country grows and due to the subsequent rebellion of the French people, my opponent’s privatised property is re-nationalised. The Eiffel Tower is back on the table! Meanwhile, Greece faces yet another haircut. And in this game, there are no all-night political discussions in Brussels, no bailout funds. 

"Of course, we are somehow cynical" says Simon, himself a former Erasmus student in Greece, with regards to the latest events in the country. "But it is meant to be a positive, pro-European project. Satire should point out deficiencies. Normally, as a player, you don't question a game's rules. Here, you do. And it is not just bankers that cause a crisis. It is also a political system that always demands more and more economic growth." 

He imagines his audience consists of experienced gamers –  whichdoesn’t come as a surprise for a game that takes 30 minutes to explain. But there might also be financial experts who simply cannot get enough of their job. "I hope there won't be a Gordon Gecko effect" he laughs, referring to the Eighties bankers that idealised Michael Douglas' infamous greedy stockbroker character.

eurocrisis1
Photo courtesy of doppeldenk-spiele

Everything for sale: gain Irish Guinness, the French Sécurité Sociale or some nice Greek islands

For now, the group are concentrating on producing the game, presenting it at the next board game fair in Essen, Germany, and selling it via their website. They hope to find foreign resellers to distribute "€uro Crisis" all over the continent. Their Erasmus friends already had to try it, with the French being most indignant that their country, too, can be in for a haircut. Meanwhile, Simon is already thinking about which countries to include for future add-ons.

For not so experienced board gamers, that might be too much. By the time we finish the game I, for instance, am a bit overwhelmed by the complexity of the rules - even though there is a considerable number of simplifications compared to the actual Euro crisis. I count my remaining gold and property and come second of four. Not too bad for the first time as a bad, bad bank. While my privatisations paid off, the Euro is worthless at the end. Kind of scary – but there is an upside, too: this crisis only lasts three (game) years.

 

julia schulteABOUT THE AUTHOR

Julia Schulte studied law in Germany and France and is currently working on her PhD in European Private International Law in Hamburg. She loves travelling the continent, especially to discover new food.

 

Last modified on Friday, 31 July 2015 07:45

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