With board games making a comeback during the recession, it's good to know there is much more out there than Monopoly to pass the idle time while waiting for callbacks from employers.

While Monopoly has its fans, it seems a little old-fashioned and based on the idea that being a ruthless landlord and land-grabber is the way to win. And even though the Nintendo Wii is gaining such popularity that it might be surpassing board games in popularity, not everyone can afford the steep price.Here are a few games, both online and played at the table with friends, that take a new look at the recession. Some even aspire to teaching cooperation when dealing with finances, and they're all a lot cheaper than a video game. You may even learn a thing or two about economics.
  • Crunch is a new satirical card game inspired by the credit crisis that is popular in Britain. It's available online and is scheduled to hit independent retail toy stores in the United States in July.
Players in Crunch play banking executives and secretly embezzle their banks' assets, pay themselves gigantic bonuses and use government bailouts to increase their personal wealth. It's meant to replicate the modern banking system and foreshadows what the game's website calls "the inevitable collapse of capitalism, but that's just a bonus."

It's a bit odd in that the way to win is embezzling, or taking cards off the table, without the other players realizing you're stealing. If you're caught, you lose a valuable trust card. It sounds like the Monopoly banker palming a few $100 bills during bank transactions.

Crunch was made by the same three people who made the game "War on Terror" in 2006, which was banned at toy fairs for being too controversial.
Players strategically trade resources with other players to get what they need to build their settlements, cities and roads. The board can change with every play, creating a game that can be played hundreds of ways.
  • The Bailout Game is an online game that is probably best played by yourself, although probably not at work. If you do play it at work, especially at a bank, turn off the sound. The goal of the cartoon-like game is to go around the board and save the U.S. and the global economy by not getting caught by the recession.
The game has quite a sense of humor. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chief Ben Bernanke drive dump trucks full of cash down Wall Street and bail out banks. An Alan Greenspan character offers advice.

It's probably the most educational game on the economy, with entertaining videos and good advice from Greenspan. The game may take awhile to play with all of the interaction, but it's worth at least a quick tour to learn something about the federal bailout. If nothing else, it's fun to see banks burn to the ground if you deny them a bailout.

Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job search at www.AaronCrowe.net

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