REVIEW – Cashflow

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Name: Cashflow
Publisher: The Rich Dad Company
Type: Financial game, strategy game
Players: 2-6
Best with: 2-4
Length of Playtime: 1 hour – 3 hours

 

Give It to Me Quick: Cashflow is a financial wealth-building game. Oh, so Monopoly? No. Outclasses Monopoly in every way. Takes some time and mental investment to play, but you’ll have so much fun the “educational game” stigma won’t apply.

 

Introduction

Cashflow is a game created by Robert Kiyosaki, the author of Rich Dad Poor Dad. It is certainly a game, but is also meant as a financial teaching tool by the creator. The original Cashflow 101 was released in 1996. This review is based on the recent re-release of the game.

The goal of Cashflow is to 1) escape the Rat Race (the middle circling part of the board) by raising your passive income level (real estate investments, etc) higher than your monthly expenses and 2) use your accomplishments in stage one to drive a more traditionally board game style final round. There are several different occupations that players will be assigned; each occupation starts with different starting salaries, debt levels, and other expenses to add variety and different strategies to the game.

Escape the "Rat Race"  - the  middle circle part of the board.

Escape the “Rat Race” – the middle circle part of the board.

 

Gameplay Summary

Cashflow can be played with either a paper ledger to track assets, expenses, and other aspects of the game, or a free App that does a lot of the turn-to-turn calculations for you. Regardless of which you choose, your ledger or App will begin with the starting assets, expenses, and outstanding loans of whichever occupation you were assigned.

Pencil/paper or smartphone? Our game was mixed.

Pencil/paper or smartphone? Our games are mixed.

 

The gameboard has two “tracks.” The inner circle, or Rat Race, is what players will circle until they are able to build up their passive income higher than their monthly expenses. The outer track is used in the latter stage of the game once players have escaped the Rat Race.

When the game begins, players will roll the die to move around the inner circle on each of their turns. Common spaces on the board are:

Payday – upon landing or passing by, you are paid the difference of your Total Income minus Expenses for the month.
Deals – various real estate or stock market deals, some of which increase your Passive income level

Increase your monthly passive cash flow, but at the expense of a new loan to cover the down payment?

Increase your monthly passive cash flow, but at the expense of a new loan to cover the down payment?

Doodad – the “Community Chest” of Cashflow, except they’re all bad for your bank account and can drain your cash quickly

How irresponsible of you. Vacations at a time like this?

How irresponsible of you. Vacations at a time like this?

Market – cards that allow the opportunity to sell real estate or stock that was purchased earlier in the game

cashflow_sell

Sell the house and gain some cash to pay down your loans OR keep the house and the passive income it brings?


Players will add mortgages, investments, assets, and expenses to their financial records as they progress through the game. There will necessarily be a lot of erasing and recalculating as decisions are made.

Once a player achieves a Passive income level above monthly expenses, they have escaped the Rat Race and move to the outside of the board. They will start with an income 100 times their Passive income level at the end of the first stage and begin acquiring more expensive businesses in an attempt to increase their Income level by $50,000 and win the game.

After escaping the "Rat Race", players move to the outside of the board for the final quarter of the game.

After escaping the “Rat Race”, players move to the outside of the board for the final quarter of the game.

 

How many players is it best with?

Cashflow doesn’t have all that much player interaction (unless you decide to audit every turn–why would you?), so the number of players ties directly to the game length. More players would give more time to keep assessing your options between turns, but 3-4 players finds the sweet spot between waiting for your turn and having enough time to decide what to do.

Good luck auditing my handwriting!

Good luck auditing my handwriting!

 

Our Positives

Not knowing what to expect at first, I thought that the occupations would be unbalanced; for example, it would be unfair to be the lawyer who makes so much more than the janitor. However, as a game this balance works very well, since the higher income salaries will typically have larger student loans, credit cards, or house payments to overcome.  The higher salaried occupations have a steeper challenge initially, since the passive income level to be reached to outweigh higher expenses is necessarily higher. However, once these higher salaries climb out of the inner rat race ring, they have a huge windfall in the latter fourth of the game that dwarfs those with lower salaries. This creates different strategies for the two occupations but keeps balance.

What if you had gone to flight school like you had wanted?

What if you had gone to flight school like you had wanted?

The expense “doodads” built into the game, as well as available real estate investments or market changes feel realistic to current day prices. It is obvious that each card was written with a lot of thought behind it; many of the Deal cards read just like newspaper ads you would see for investment opportunities in the “real world.”

Everyone has different ideas on the best way to treat your money and savings; at the least this game will open discussion to some more advanced financial topics. The game does a good job of introducing the basics on the idea of passive income by way of real estate and investments.

 

Our Negatives

If you use the paper ledgers, Cashflow involves a lot of bookkeeping. You’ll absorb a 2 BR/1 BA mortgage, taking out a $5,000 loan which changes your mortgages ledger, which changes your expenses ledger, which changes your passive income ledger, your total income number, and then finally your monthly income number. All of those changes will involve heavy use of your eraser. There is a free app to use with the game (Cashflow Statement Calculator on Android and iOS) that works great and calculates a lot of this automatically.

Speeds up the game a lot.

Speeds up the game a lot.

It can be frustrating sometimes to spend several minutes working out a decision, then by chance land on the Downsizing space and ruin your strategy. For a game that asks so much of you to analyze and plan, there are a lot of random events built in. For example, if my goal was to pay off my credit card and bank loans, I sure wouldn’t be buying a cappuccino machine for $300! To balance these sorts of things, it would have been cool to build in a “quality of life” mechanic where you could decide to take a family vacation, join a gym, or something similar to increase a quality of life quotient – not that happiness can be bought, of course!

 

Accessibility:

playbegins_accessibility6

 

 

 

 

35_party for a Party Nope.
casual Casual This is a long game and requires some time and mental investment to play. If they’re cool with that, go for it.
35_competitive Competitive Competitive in the sense that you’re playing alongside others to win. You don’t often interact directly with them.
35_strategy Strategic Yes, though there are some chance moments that might frustrate.

 

Final Thoughts on Cashflow

Cashflow at first glance looks at best, challenging, and at worst, like a spreadsheet simulator. You’ll start the game by being presented with a cash ledger and a financial overview tracking sheet (unless you’re using the app). If that doesn’t scare you off, you’ll then be assigned an occupation. Within a few turns you’ll learn that it does have a lot of chance game elements and feels somewhat like typical American roll-and-move mechanics in that way. You’ll land on the “downsizing” space, which hits your bank account immediately with your current monthly expenses and costs you two turns. Or you’ll land a card that offers you the opportunity to win a $10,000 windfall by rolling a number larger than 3.

Cashflow has a lot more to it than chance, though. The meat of the game is spent juggling constant decisions on which Deals to buy, when to sell (if at all), when to pay off debts, or when to take a chance offered on one of the game cards. The free App allows you to spend less time doing the actual math from turn to turn and more time actually deciding what the best option is. Still, though, some players enjoy the turn to turn bookkeeping; my wife for one. To each their own.

The last fourth of the game is not as interesting strategically as the first three fourths; but that does work thematically. You have spent “years” building your wealth and then you can sit back, “relax,” and just roll die – relying on the luck of the roll. This can be a little frustrating or exciting, depending on how you feel about luck in games. In our game, one player was the first one into the final round, but hit each of the first four worst game spaces, knocking her out of a first place chance.

A review of the game would be remiss without some thoughts on the educational value of the game. As I understand it, that is the purpose per the game creator. I’d say that he definitely succeeded on both fronts: it doesn’t get bogged down in the minutia of interest rates or finance, but opens up the conversation of different investment options, the importance of saving, and anti-materialism. Plus it’s a lot of fun to play.

 

Check out more reviews!

Cashflow

8.15

Replayability

73/10

    Engagement

    80/10

      Game Mechanics

      80/10

        Theme/Fun

        93/10

          Likes

          • - Interesting strategies with different occupations
          • - Good balance between chance and strategy
          • - Fun art, components, and good game quality

          Dislikes

          • - Lot of bookkeeping (some won't mind this)

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