Monday 14 May 2012

Review - Cashpot

Published by Manik Enterprises Ltd
Designed in secret by someone who had access to stickers and a typewriter
For 2-6 players, aged 7 to adult

Every now and again, when I am searching the charity shops and car boot sales for games to add to The Vault, I will find something completely obscure that I have never heard of before. It's pretty much guaranteed that I will buy that game, regardless of the theme or apparent quality, because... Well, just because...

My wife knows this too, and that's why she picked up Cashpot in a charity shop for me. This is a game so obscure that it might not even have made it past the prototype stage. Yes, this game is of such poor quality that it almost feels like a mock-up of the final product rather than the final product itself.

To be fair, the box itself is rather nice (if a bit flimsy), and has some pretty gold lettering. It also claims that the game is "the complete family fun game." I'm not really sure what that means: Do you need a complete family to play (and what constitutes "complete")? Are they boasting that the game is complete inside the box (take note Fantasy Flight Games!)? Who knows? But as this is a game about gambling on a fruit machine, this hardly seems like the sort of thing you would want to sit down and play with your children anyway.

Cashpot box
Cashpot - looks relatively well made, until you open the box.

Once inside the box, you are presented with a glossy one-sheet advertising the game. Seems a little redundant, but does include a little tag line stating "It's funny, exciting and sometimes frustrating as you struggle to win enough cash to try for the Jackpot." As we will soon see, only two of those adjectives are true.

The game board is probably the nicest component. It's relatively well made, nicely mounted, and colourful. Unfortunately, one look at it tells you that this game is basically a Monopoly variant. That alone, is enough to bring into question that reference to "fun" on the box cover. Another quick glance and you will also notice a lot of spaces on the board marked "lose" with a thumb pointing down. Oh dear...

The most bizarre thing about the board is that all the spaces are printed so that, from the perspective of the players sitting around the table, all the text and pictures are upside down. This makes it look like all those thumbs pointing down are actually pointing up; but don't let that fool you.

Cashpot board
Anyone for Monopoly?

Apart from the board, the rest of the game components are a bit of a sorry state, and they really do help to give the impression that this is just a prototype of a game that was considered too evil to unleash upon mankind.

The paper money included looks like generic "fun money" that might come in a child's supermarket toy, and the IOU slips are even worse as they appear to be photocopies from a master document. The cards are also shocking: They are green slips (all slightly different sizes) with printed text that looks like it has been applied with a typewriter.

Cashpot cards
If you have a typewriter, you too can publish a board game.

With the exception of a rather unusual hexagonal dice (which is made of metal, and rather depressingly has three sides marked "lose"), the custom dice in the game are plain cubes with stickers applied. The playing pieces are simple plastic cups, also with stickers applied.

The game also comes with a six-sided spinner (because eight dice wasn't random enough), but I'll talk more about that in a minute.

The rules sheet in my copy (and yes, I mean one sheet of paper, printed front and back) is definitely just a photocopy of a document that was typed on a typewriter. It looks awful, it's badly written, and it manages to make a very simple game sound incredibly complicated.

Cashpot rules
Really? These are the rules?

Okay. Enough about the components. The strange pseudo-prototype quality of the pieces is completely irrelevant if the game is good. So what is the game about, and how do you play?

As already mentioned, this is a game that attempts to simulate the thrill and excitement of playing a fruit machine down your local boozer. It does this by working entirely on luck, with a heavy bias towards generating a result which makes you lose all your money. Here's how:

On your turn, roll four dice. The dice show different fruit symbols, and some of the symbols also have a number on them. If you throw two or more matching symbols, you have rolled a "win." If you do not roll at least two matching symbols, your turn is over. If you roll at least two matching symbols (i.e., "win"), but one of the other dice shows a "lose" result, then your turn is over.

If you manage to roll a "win," as long as none of the dice came up with a "stop" result, you can gamble to improve your score. Gambling is bad, kids; don't do it.

To gamble, pick up any dice that were not part of your "win" (i.e., did not have a matching symbol) and roll them again. Any symbols that match your "win" are added to your win; but if you roll a "lose" symbol, your turn is immediately over.

Cashpot dice
I like custom dice... Not these dice... Other dice.

If you rolled a "win" and managed to keep it, you add up the numbers on all four of the dice. This will be how far you move around the board. If you rolled a "win" but didn't roll any numbers, you still have the chance to get some money, but you can't move.

You must move the full movement value rolled, and then resolve any actions based on the space you land on (such as drawing a card, or giving money to another player). A large majority of spaces, as already mentioned, are marked "lose." If you land on a "lose" space, your turn is over AND you must pay the bank £10.

After moving, if your "win" is still going, then you get money from the bank based on the matching symbols in your "win." Refer to the chart printed on the game board, and take the correct amount of money. For example, if you rolled three bells, then you would collect £10.

Once you have collected your winnings, you have the chance to gamble again. If you choose to gamble, roll the special hexagonal dice. This could double or triple the amount you win, but as three of the six sides of the dice are marked "lose" there is a 50% chance that after all that, you will lose your bloody winnings anyway.

If, by some miracle, you manage to accumulate £100, you get to spin the awesome jackpot spinner to determine whether or not you are the winner. Yes. I am not kidding. The winner of the game is determined by spinning a six-sided spinner.

It gets worse:

Only two of the spinner's sides are marked "win." Two are marked "lose 1/2" which means you lose half your total money and play continues. However, the biggest kick in the teeth is that the remaining two sides are marked "lose." Spin that result, and you are wiped out - you go back to £0!

Cashpot spinner
Spin to win (or, more often, not).

Having explained the rules, I don't think there's a lot of need for me to go into any kind of detail regarding my opinion.

This game is terrible.

You have to be so lucky to scrape together even a small amount of money (and a wise player will NEVER gamble), and even if you squirrel away your winnings £1 or £2 at a time and finally get to £100, there is a 66% chance you won't win anyway. There is a 33% chance you will be smacked in the face and sent back to £0.

This game goes on forever. It's agonising.

I feel like this wasn't so much a game, but a teaching aid for helping people to understand the evils of gambling. I haven't attempted to work out the odds, but there must be a much greater chance of finishing your turn without gaining any money than there is of winning some; and if you do win you will probably only win £1 or £2. There is no incentive to push your luck, because you will probably lose whatever little you gained; and even if you do finally get to £100, you will probably lose it all anyway.

It's worse than Monopoly.

There. I said it.

So, if that's how I feel, why am I keeping this game in my collection?

Two reasons:

I rolled this out with a group of friends after a barbecue, and as we consumed a few beers, the game came alive. Everybody kept losing. The game was dragging. As a gaming experience goes, it was one of the worst. But everyone was having a blast. We mocked each other. We groaned. We laughed. We cursed.

We actually had fun.

Sometimes, you watch a movie that is so bad it actually becomes enjoyable (as evidenced by the existence of MST3K). I think of Cashpot in much the same way. It is a terrible game. It has poor design and poor components. It is just a luck fest that drags on far longer than it should. But with the right group of people, and with a beer in hand, it is actually a fun way to spend an evening.

Would I want to play it every week? No. Of course not. But every now and again, it's okay to switch your brain off and do something mindless.

And Cashpot is truly about as mindless as it gets.

And as for the second reason why I am keeping this game: Well, I look at those components, and I have to wonder. Maybe I really am the only person in the world with a copy of this travesty. I collect out of production board games, and maybe now I also own a never-in-production board game.

I have never seen another copy of this game anywhere, and for that reason alone it has earned a place in The Vault.

So, in a strange roundabout sort of way, this is actually a positive review.

I bet you wouldn't have gambled on that.


  1. It would seem to me that in order to enjoy this game I would require a beer in EACH hand. And I don't drink.


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