I’m pleased to make the official announcement of the first of the two games of mine that MJ Games is going to be publishing this fall. It’s called Cash or Crash and it is, as it says on the back of the box, the “ultimate bluffing game.” The boxes and cards have already been produced, and now that the final French translation of the rules has been approved and sent off to our printer, production should soon be complete and the games on their way to store shelves for the fall.
Although Cash or Crash is themed as a game of commodity speculation, the fundamental mechanic will be familiar to fans of the traditional dice game known variously as Liar’s Dice, Perudo, Cachito or Santaba; players are invested in a bubble market for one or more of Oil, Wheat or Gold, trying to get rich by correctly timing the collapse and getting out at the right time. Each player is privy to his or her own “insider information” (face down cards) and must attempt to determine what cards the others have played based on their bids, all while bluffing them with his or her own bids.
Like Liar’s Dice, the players’ predictions for the total value of the commodities must constantly escalate, up until someone decides that the market is poised to collapse, whereupon he or she announces “SELL!” and the cards are revealed. If the market had indeed grown too big, the last bidder loses the round and his or her cards, while if it still had room to grow a bit bigger, the seller suffers the consequences instead.
Where Cash or Crash differs, however, is in offering a wider variety of tactical options and a poker-like escalation of stakes over the course of a round. Unlike Liar’s Dice, players cannot change from one commodity to another at will… but they are allowed to bid on multiple commodities at once. So, if the current bid is 4 Gold, the player cannot simply switch to 5 Oil, but can choose between increasing to 5 Gold, or branching out and saying “4 Gold and Oil,” which puts even more pressure on subsequent players, as these combination bids must turn out to be correct for both commodities. Alternately, players may switch to any single commodity of their choice, but only by investing an additional card, thus expanding the market (and their own knowledge of it), but simultaneously increasing the amount they stand to lose if they are the eventual loser of the round.
The game is playable by up to eight players (each with an identical stack of ten cards to start with) and the endgame becomes a tense war of attrition, culminating in an intense battle of wits between the final two players. The rules also include Blitz and Endurance rules, so you can play it as short filler or a longer, more serious competition, plus an optional Doubling rule for the nerviest sharks. Regardless of the version you play, Cash or Crash offers all the tension of the final table of a poker tournament, without the need for money on the line.