I’ve always been interested in finance… both real and for entertainment.
(BTW, if you enjoy fiction as entertainment, you should check out my financial fiction reviews!)
Like a lot of people, one of my favorite board games when I was a kid was Monopoly. In college, though, a friend of mine introduced me to another game: Stock Ticker.
It’s been 20 years since college but I still enjoy Stock Ticker (although I don’t get to play as much as I did in college… who has the time?!?) In this blog post I want to tell you about the game and I’ll reveal strategies to help you win.
Stock Ticker: The Game And How It’s Played
Stock Ticker is a game of making money from… well… not stocks! haha. Players make money on the capital gains generated from buying commodities at a low price and selling them at a high, as well as dividends. (I’ll be using “stocks” and “commodities” interchangeably throughout this post but in real life that is not how you should think of real stocks or real commodities.)
The board, as pictured above, is shared by all players at the same time. The board itself is the stock ticker and the 6 playing pieces mark the prices of each of the 6 commodities. There are six commodities—gold, silver, bonds, oil, industrials, and grain (I own an updated version, pictured above, in which bonds has been replaced by tech.)
At the start of the game: The playing pieces are set at the center of the board, at the $1.00/share mark of each commodity(or, in the board pictured above, “100”—right in the center).
Players are given $5,000 with which to buy shares of any commodities they choose. (Therefore, players can buy up to 5000 shares in any combination.)
Then the game begins. Dice are rolled to impact the price.
- One die indicates the commodity: gold, silver, bonds (or tech), oil, industrials, grain
- One die indicates the action of the commodity: the price goes up, the price goes down, or there’s a dividend
- One die indicates the amount of the action: 5, 10, or 20
The game progresses as you’d expect: commodities fluctuate in price over the course of the game during dice rolls, and you can buy or sell your commodities. (For example, you may want to sell a high-priced commodity to buy more of a lower priced commodity.)
Commodities that drop below the center line of the stock ticker (below 100) do not dividend. Commodities that drop to the very bottom of the stock ticker have “crashed” and all investors who have bought that commodity will lose their money. Commodities that increase in price at 100 or above, will dividend when the dice indicate it, and they can eventually split, doubling the investors’ shares.
The end of the game is decided when one player is left with money, or when everyone decides to be done, or when you die of old age because this is a game that can go on forever.
You just count up your money and then brag about it if you are the winner.
Stock Ticker Preview
The game is pretty straightforward. Dice rolls influence the commodity prices, which determines the value of your holdings.
The game has a large element of chance to it because it’s the dice deciding the movement of the commodity prices and not fundamental factors or trends. In real life, the price of a grain commodity might go up because of a decrease in supply or increase in demand, or it might go down because of an increase in supply or decrease in demand.
However, just because the price can fluctuate randomly, that doesn’t mean there isn’t strategy involved.
… And that’s why I love this game. At first I didn’t like the chance element but then I realized: in real life I have little control over the supply or demand of a commodity, so it has the effect of chance. The only difference being: in real life I’d (ideally) know the fundamental factors ahead of time and can adjust my holdings before a price change, whereas in the game the price change comes first. And, the dice are purely random, which means there aren’t real trends* so every roll could change things completely, so you can’t buy on a trend. But hey, you can’t have everything, right? It’s just a game, after all.
*(A quick note on trends: Scientifically speaking, there are no trends in this game. The game is purely luck because dice have no memory and therefore are perfectly random. I know that to be a fact. I’m a logical person. BUT, ask any person who has ever played Stock Ticker and they’ll tell you that there are trends; they may also have favorite commodities that they buy, or despised commodities that they’ll never buy. Like grain… stupid grain. It almost always fails me. Stock Ticker is funny that way: perfectly logical people who know better will build theories around dice trends or commodities and interpret trends as a result. But I digress.)
Stock Ticker Strategies
So, how do you win at Stock Ticker?
Step 1. Please the gods with sacrifices and perhaps they will influence the roll of the dice enough times for you to win.
Here are a few ways to play strategically that could influence your play. As a disclaimer: I’ve played all these ways and have won triumphantly and lost catastrophically.
Buy Near Zero And Hope. As stocks drop, they become cheaper. That means you can buy more of them. Unfortunately, it also means that you lose out on the potential for dividends and (more significantly) you run the risk that they’ll crash completely and you’ll lose everything. But the upside? If the dice turn in your favor, you can easily double your money in a roll or two.
I’ve used this strategy as a “hail mary” type of investment when my holdings have performed poorly and I’m clearly losing the game. I’ve also used this strategy with spare cash or or by selling an under-performing stock to really get ahead of my opponent
Buy High(er) And Enjoy The Dividends. The idea of buying low and selling high is often thought to mean buying when stocks are really cheap at the bottom of the board, and then selling when they are really expensive at the top of the board. However, what if you adjust your thinking just slightly and “shrink” that field of “low” and “high”. In other words: buy when a stock is above par and hold it until it splits. All you’re really doing here is simply choosing how you define “low” to mean 110, 120, 130 rather than 10, 20, 30. It seems costly at first but you also get the benefit of earning dividends.
The question is, what do you do with stocks that drop below par in this situation? If I’m using this strategy, my preference is (usually) to sell the stocks at a slight loss and reinvest in something just above par.
I like this strategy because it creates cash flow throughout the game. What’s challenging is when a stock drops just below par, thus making it ineligible for a dividend… but since the dice are completely random, it could turn around in the very next roll!
Full Diversification. This is where you invest in each of the stocks across the board. The goal here is (hopefully) that your losses will be offset by your wins so you don’t lose but at least break even. It’s a useful way to start the game and then pivot, which is what I do (usually to the Buy Higher And Enjoy Diversification strategy).
If I have a really successful game and make a lot of money, I often return to full diversification at the end of the game just because I can stand to take a loss on one stock.
Strategic Diversification. This is where you diversify into multiple stocks… but not all of the stocks. Maybe 3 or 4 of the 6. You might start the game this way, or you might combine this strategy with the Buy Higher And Enjoy Diversification strategy mentioned above.
When I play Stock Ticker with my friend and former college roommate (Terry), with whom I have a 20-year rivalry in just about everything, this is my default strategy: Basically, I start the game by choosing any stocks he didn’t choose. If he picks three stocks, I’ll pick the other three.
Of all the strategies, this is the one I recommend most strongly to players (at least near the beginning of the game) because it gives you options without spreading you too thin.
Focused Investing. This is like going into the casino, walking up to the roulette table, and putting all your chips on black. In Stock Ticker, you’re betting on a single stock. Maybe it’s near the end of the game and you are low on money and need a hail mary. Or maybe you put it all on a stock that is above par and hope that the dice land on “Div 20” a couple times, which can lock up the game in your favor. This move is risky and fun, although I tend to only play it when I have nothing left to lose.
Stock Ticker Game Hacks
Changes to the dice rolling: In theory, you roll once and then people choose whether to take an action, then you roll again. This can drag out the game. I prefer one of these two alternate rolling option:
- Roll continuously and just have someone call out if they want to pause the dice to buy or sell. This is a good way to keep the game moving at a brisk pace.
- Roll the dice for a brief period of time (you’ll need a timer or a way to track an agreed-upon number of rolls) during which no one can do anything, and then do your buying and selling afterward. This is a fun way to create some additional tension as commodity prices rise and fall but you can’t react right away.
I would love to see a hack where you could make money shorting the commodities (which is essentially “borrowing” the commodities to sell at a high price but you have to buy them (hopefully at a lower price) later.
More About The Stock Ticker Game
The game was published by a Canadian publishing company called Copp-Clarke Publishing and sold for many years but, as far as I can tell, is no longer in print. I reached out to Copp-Clarke Publishing to see if they stilled owned the game and they told me that they had been acquired by Pearson Canada (another publishing company) and that company owned all of Copp-Clarke’s former intellectual property.