Blue Chip Review

These comments copyright 1997 by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated March 9, 1997 [note at end added June 30, 2000]

Blue Chip, 1958 from Technical Ventures, is a game I played extensively in my youth. While I admit there is a lot of luck in the game, there are still some interesting decisions to make. These are primarily about what chances to take, true, but it's a fun game nonetheless.

The game simulates the stock market. It doesn't simulate the stock market very well, mind you, but it's probably more fun than the real thing. Things move more quickly in Blue Chip than in real life, which makes it a more exciting game, and it's kind of fun to drive a company bankrupt - at least, if your opponent holds more stock in it than you do. The lesson of the game seems to be that those who take the most chances in the stock market either win big or lose big. You may be able to win by sitting back and watching me go bankrupt as I take big chances, but I'll have more fun on the way to my bankruptcy than you'll have on your way to your victory, if you're simply playing it safe every turn.

The board consists of three sliding trays, each with peg holes. Stock prices are printed next to the trays, ranging from $2 to $80 per share. Each tray has real-world stocks, at least real as of 1958: four industrials, four railroads, four utilities. The stocks all start at $30 (put pegs in the holes at 30), and each player starts with $300. In addition to the board and play money, there are stock shares in 1, 5, and 10 denominations for each stock, a deck of event cards, and three special dice.

Each player takes a turn by buying or selling stock. You may only make one transaction per turn. When your turn is over, draw an event card to determine what happens - usually to the stock you just transacted, though there are some other events. When the event card pile is empty, the game is over, and whoever has the most money and stock value at that point wins.

The event cards drive the game. They range from the very good ("collect $30 per share dividend for the stock just transacted" or "2- for-1 stock split: give each player two additional shares for each share they hold of the stock just transacted", etc.) to the very bad ("stock is assessed a $20 per share fine", or "BANKRUPT!"). Some are neutral, others have unknown consequences such as the "Weekly Stock Averages: roll the dice and slide the trays accordingly." There are three dice: one red, one blue, one yellow, each corresponding to a color of a given tray. The values on each die are +6, +4, +2, -2, -4, -6. So a whole type of stock (say all the industrials) is affected at once when the dice are rolled. You only roll the dice when called for by the event cards.

Buying stock raises the price; selling stock lowers the price. How much it goes up or down depends on how many shares you buy or a sell - the game includes a simple, easy to remember formula. So one strategy is to buy a few shares of an opponent's big stock holdings - say five shares, which raises the price by $2 - then sell them off one at a time, driving the price down $2 each time. Of course, you'll be drawing event cards that primarily affect that particular stock, so you may be doing him a favor, if you draw lots of dividends and stock splits. Or you may drive the company out of business, a much more entertaining result, from your point of view.

Certain cards are stock tips: reliable or second-hand. These say so right on the backs of the cards, and you draw such cards before you make your transaction. So if you know in advance a stock will declare a dividend, don't transact one of your opponent's stocks, if you can help it.

It's a quick game, and one that gets a lot of groans and cheers. Because the luck element is so high, no one gets too upset when they lose - it's easy to blame the luck of the draw. Yet I've found that over many games, those who take the most chances tend to have the most fun - though they'll have quite a few thundering defeats scattered throughout. All in all, a very entertaining game I recommend, if you can ever find a copy.

Late Thought on This Game

After playing recently, I was struck how well this game simulates the current "dot-com" marketplace! At least four companies will go bankrupt, and some will probably double in starting price, etc. It doesn't model the Dow Jones very well at all, but it actually does look like internet stocks ...

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