Review - Crunch

Aged 12+ , 2-4 players, 45min playing time
Crunch - The cards and the box

Crunch was kindly provided by its publisher Terrorbull Games (who also publish War on Terror) courtesy of the artist Tom Morgan-Jones.

Crunch - Artwork, Stockmarket Slump
Crunch is a satirical card game that takes a pop at the world of banking; published following the 2008 banking crisis the game seems every bit as relevant today as the EU and the IMF try to work out a solution to the Greek debt crisis. As CEO of a global bank you seek to do whatever it takes (including awarding yourself huge bonuses and embezzling bank assets) to ensure a comfortable retirement, and if this bankrupts your bank then never mind there is always the chance of a government bailout just so long as your bonus pile is protected........
The subtitle on the box front “The Game for Utter Bankers” gives clear indication of the spirit that this game should be played with and the humour involved.

The game comes in the form of one double sided A4 page of rules and four decks of cards:

Crunch - The Workforce card backs
15 Workforce cards - 4 Low Risk, 5 Medium Risk and 6 High Risk

When placed face-up in front of you these represent the bank's workforce or to our mind the subsidiary companies / divisions the bank owns / has invested in.

62 Asset Cards -5 Cash totalling 9m, 8 Gold totalling 25m, 21 Share Cards made up of 7 Oil Shares worth 10m, 7 Arms Shares worth 10m and 7 Reconstruction Shares worth 10m with the balance being 29 cards worth 88m, each of which has a possible Action on it.

Each Asset card has a value on the top right hand side and it is any of these cards that can be:

Crunch - The Asset card backs
• Held in your hand as bank assets

• Lent as debt on your Workforce in which case they are placed face up in on top of your Workforce cards (each Workforce card states how many Asset cards may be lent on it).

• Paid to you as bonuses when relevant Actions or Events allow this.

• Played as an Action card to help feather your own nest or cause havoc amongst your fellow banks.

Crunch - The Trust card backs
• Embezzled (i.e. secreted about your person) whenever you like / can get away with it; in any other game this would be called cheating!

15 Trust Cards - 13 cards give you a government bail-out i.e.allow you to draw a variable number of additional Asset cards but 2 cards give “No Help”!

As the bank gets larger in terms of Workforce so it builds its stash of Trust.  These cards are crucial in keeping the bank afloat when it is found to have over-extended itself - you can never have too much trust!

Crunch - The Event card backs
34 Event Cards - There are variety of positive events e.g. 15 Interest Payment cards, 5 Bonus etc and 14 negative event cards e.g. Stock Market Slump, World Peace, Bankrupt Country and Crunch. 

The Crunch card forces all Banks to demonstrate that they have sufficient value of Asset cards in hand to cover those they have at risk i.e. that have been lent out on the Workforce cards.

Game Play
Now to the game - this is a brief overview, I am not going to cover every aspect of the game but rather try and give a sense of how it plays.

You start with 1 Workforce card and, depending on the number of players, a variable number of Asset and Trust Cards. The remainder of the cards will be set out in the middle of the table with the top Workforce card placed face up. As cards are played through the game they are placed at the bottom of their respective pile.
Crunch - The four card types in the game, Workforce, Trust, Event and Asset

Each players turn is then made up of the following steps:

1. Manage Your Workforce

i)  Take the face up Workforce card or if you don't want that card, pay 1m in Assets and turn the next one up; hopefully you will want this one. In choosing to take a Workforce card (and place it face up in front of you) you also increase the trust in the Bank so get to take another Trust card.

ii)  Choose to liquidate one of your Workforce cards and all assets on it, plus one of your Trust cards.

iii)  Do nothing

2. Pay Your Overheads

Each Workforce card has a cost associated with it on the top right hand side. This needs to be paid in bank assets i.e. Asset cards from your hand.

3. Lend Assets

Each Workforce card indicates how many Assets cards may be lent against it (placed on it). If you have capacity to lend more on your Workforce then you may chose to place them at this point.

4. Turn over an Event card and apply its effects to ALL banks. 

If you are lucky and turnover an Interest Payment card this will give you more Asset cards depending on the Workforces you have laid out before you and the nature of the Assets lent on them.

Other actions that can be played at any time in the game are:

A. Implement actions on your Asset cards. Typically bad news for other players e.g. Aggressive Takeover (take another bank's Workforce card and all the Assets lent on it ) or good news for your personal wealth e.g. Bonus Time (award yourself a personal Bonus by taking up to three Bank Asset cards and putting them in your Bonus pile).
Crunch - Some example Actions found on the Asset cards

B. Turn over a Trust card and hope it awards you enough Asset cards to keep the Bank solvent (when you take a Trust card it is placed at the bottom of your face-down Trust card pile, you may not look at them until they are played).

C. Do a deal with another bank (player) to lend, sell or swap assets.

D. Embezzle assets i.e. secrete Asset cards about your person when nobody else is looking! This is a good game to wear jackets and trousers with lots of pockets!
Crunch - A players Workforce, loans and Bank Assets

The game ends when there is only one surviving Bank, at which point the players work out the value of the Assets they have paid themselves in bonuses, stashed away in Tax Havens and embezzled. It is therefore an exclusion game but one in which the CEO of a Bank that goes bust early in the game could still end up winning if he has amassed a significant fortune, legally or otherwise.

What Did We Think?

Good and bad. We liked the satirical nature of the game, although the banking theme did not inspire us. The cards are of a reasonable quality and the artwork is crisp with the cartoons very amusing (it is worth having a look at their web site to see more examples - ).

During our games I suffered a number of Aggressive takeovers (losing a significant element of my Workforce), launched Audit's of the other Banks (forcing them to prove they had Bank Assets to cover their lending), had other players place various Workforces on strike, but benefited from a couple of Bonus Time cards where I legitimately squirrelled (?!) away some of the Bank Assets into my bonus pile (retirement fund).
Crunch - A players Workforce, loans, Offshore Tax Haven, Bonus Pile and Bank Assets

It is in the nature of the game that players will be excluded as it progresses and we would tend to avoid games of this type now; whilst understanding the humour in the embezzling of Assets this just didn’t feel right to me personally although some of my opponents well and truly got into the spirit. Almost an aside - I couldn’t help feeling that the Workforce cards should have been called Company or Division cards.

If you like the theme but not the exclusion element then we found it worked well as a two player game or you could set a time limit.

Who Will It Work For?

Whilst it won't make onto our personal favourites list we did come away from it thinking that there are a number of groups for whom the game mechanics and theme would definitely work:

1. Anybody who likes Financial / Economic games and is looking for something light and humorous - much as Braggart might appeal to fantasy based gamers.

2. Players that enjoy the likes of Flux and Munchkin both of which have the same sort of satirical flavour.

Crunch - Artwork, Offshore Tax Haven
3. People who likes games with screwage.

4. I think it would also work in an educational setting as a tool to provoke discussion around the moral and ethical issues that can arise in the investment markets and that even the most balanced and ethical (just because the cards give you the opportunity to screw over your opponents you don't have to take them) approach can at times come unstuck through the whims of fate.

Crunch - Artwork, Market Confidence

Perhaps the heightened fears of Greece defaulting on its debt and the contagious fallout which might ensue could fuel a surge in demand for the game as non bankers try to find some humour in the current predicament.

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