I’ve bought For-Ex with my own money.
The game: For-Ex by Tom Russell, published by Hollandspiele in 2017.
Elevator pitch: This is a game of foreign exchange trading: players trade seven different currencies, trying to make profit with future trading.
What’s in the box? The flat box contains a currency rate board, lots of laser cut chits, card currency and certificate cards. Everything looks fine; the art design is by Cole Wehrle, who has an eye for design, but some of the components are not really convenient. The money, for example, is double-sided cards, with 1/2 cards and 3/5 cards… and not very practical. But poker chips aren’t an ideal solution, either, given the seven currencies.
What do you do in the game? The possibilities are simple. You can invest or divest in the currencies, create future contracts and resolve them.
When you invest, you can buy up to two different certificates. They cost two units of the currency in question, and pay you dividends later on. Also, when you buy a certificate, that currency gains value compared to all the other currencies. This value is tracked on a board, which has tracks for each currency and a counter for each currency pair.
When you divest, you choose a currency and then everybody gets to sell their certificates in that currency. You get your two money back, and the value of the currency goes down for each certificate sold. The sold certificates leave the game for good.
Contract is a promise to do a currency trade in the future. You choose the currency you pay and the currency you get, and the rate is determined by the current exchange rate. The contract is placed in the end of the contract queue. Once it comes up again, you have to pay and you get your money. If you can’t pay, you still get the money, but the contract becomes a loan. The price you pay is increased by one and the contract goes back to the queue. When it comes up again, you pay or go bankrupt.
The fourth action is to resolve the first card in the queue, triggering the contract in question, or paying dividends, if there’s a dividend card at the front of the queue.
There’s a limited number of contracts, only six of them, and you can only buy four certificates for each currency. These restrictions limit your actions somewhat, sometimes forcing you to resolve the queue.
There are four dividends, after which the game is over. All monies are converted to the strongest currency and the player with the most money wins.
Lucky or skillful? This is a very chaotic game, full of opaque butterfly effects. There are no random elements, though: only random thing in the game is in setup, where a bunch of random certificates are removed from the deck to give some variety in the setup.
Abstract or thematic? It’s quite abstract, but then again, so is foreign exchange trading.
Solitaire or interactive? Highly interactive, everything you do will affect all the other players somehow. You’ll probably end up doing really nasty and evil moves, but most of the time by accident.
Players: 2–6. I’ve tried both extremes, and wouldn’t recommend either. The sweet spot is 3–4 players, I think. With six players, it’s easy to spend a lot of time just resolving contracts and not being able to do anything.
Who can play? There’s no age recommendation from the publishers. This isn’t very difficult game in terms of rules, but as far as figuring out the game – well, experienced gamers are going to have difficulties with this one. My son is soon 12, and likes the game.
What’s to like: Really unlike anything else, lots of space for clever moves. Opaque, chaotic, and unusual. A very cool theme.
What’s not to like: Very hard to understand. Slightly too long for what it is. Hard to play, as most people will not enjoy this. Opaque, chaotic, and unusual. A bone-dry theme.
My verdict: This is a tough one. The box back is pretty much an essay that suggests you shouldn’t buy the game, and there’s a good reason for it. This is a really weird game, and you’ll find that most people will not want to play this.
At the same time, some people will really love this, just the idea of the game will pique interest. And playing this – if you can tolerate not understanding anything at all, despite the very simple rules, you’ll find For-Ex charming, captivating and unlike anything else.
I find it really difficult to recommend this game to anyone, and I won’t always feel like playing it, but I’m still going to keep it and play with the few people who really dig it.
On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, For-Ex gets Suggest from me.