Over the decades, Donald Trump has been involved in a handful of businesses ventures -- some lucrative (game shows). Others, like steak sold at the Sharper Image, have been more of a flop.
Now that The Donald is running for the highest office in the land, it seemed appropriate to review his 1989 Milton Bradley board game -- appropriately titled "Trump: The Game" -- to see what insights could be gleaned about the man.
The game cost $11 on eBay, the author being a very good negotiator... Very successful.
I grabbed a few interns and asked them to join me for a very special project: playing a round of Trump: The Game.
The Donald has two taglines for the game. The first is, "It's like no other game you've ever played." That is a bit of an exaggeration, as it's pretty much an accelerated version of Monopoly and for half of its eight maximum players.
The second appears on the front of the box above the title: "It's not whether you win or lose, but whether you win!" Suffice it to say, this also might be a slogan adopted by Mr. Trump should he not win the GOP presidential nomination and run as a third party candidate.
Opening the rule book, you're greeted with a letter from Trump himself:
Now that you are about to play my game, I invite you to live the fantasy! Feel the power! And make the deals!
The object of the game is to make the most money. I'm talking about hundreds of millions of dollars. If you are clever, aggressive and lucky, you could end up with a billion or more!
Start by bidding against opponents for eight different properties on the board. Play it smart and stack up huge profits! Pay too much and you could lose your shirt!
When all of the properties have been purchased, the deal-making starts!
Here's where shrewdness really pays off! Just about anything in the game can be bought, sold or traded! Millions of dollars can be won or lost in seconds.
When the dealing's done, count up your cash! The player with the most money wins!
Now, read the rules. Have fun -- and remember, it's not whether you win or lose, but whether you win!
Donald J. Trump
The game is certainly about making deals. Players are dealt "Trump Cards" and pick them up throughout phase one: the buying phase. The cards all play a central role, though only a few can be used during phase one.
Players move their pawns -- yes, we are all but pawns in Trump's game -- around the board, having to pay money to a property, become the broker for a sale of a property, or have the opportunity to win money on a dice throw.
During the buying phase, players bid on properties and can use the Trump Cards to force a competitor out of the bidding or bring in outside money to raise their bid. It's a relatively short process with some fun, screwing over competitors at the last minute.
Some of the Trump Cards players hold may be tied to a certain property -- like a profit of $50 million if you own the Hotel -- which makes bidding (and later the deals) an interesting part of the game.
Once all of the properties are sold, you move on to the next phase.
Phase two is "The Dealing Phase" which one intern observed is the "be an a**hole phase." That's because, unlike Monopoly, you stop going around the board with the roll of the dice, and you play your cards, turn by turn. Like Monopoly, you can quickly find out a lot about your friends: Are they winners like Trump? Or losers like those Trump looks down on?
The rules observe:
You can make practically any type of deal imaginable and it can be as simple or as complicated as you want. However, if you make a deal, you must try to honor it. You cannot lie to another player or intentionally break a promise. Of course, some situations may be open to interpretation. Players should work together to resolve any differences.
Shady deals were indeed made during our inaugural play. Instead of "I have a card that is worth $50 million to you, and I'll sell it to you for $40 million because I can't use it" the interns started speaking in vague terms. "I will sell you three cards, that if used properly, could net you $180 million, and I'll do it for $90. But you can't see the cards."
This was a beautiful thing to witness, as Intern Ben used the two cards I sold him for $40 million -- without letting him see them -- for more than double the price to cash-rich Intern Grant. (The two bidding-related cards were unlikely to have much use so late in the game, yet the two of us profited, and Grant lost big.)
One "Trump Tip" that Trump offers shaped the game:
"During the game, try not to reveal your total cash holdings to your opponents. That way, it will be harder for them to tell if you're cash rich or poor."
Trump, of course, ignored this advice when he formally filed to run for president, since he had to file a financial disclosure outlining his holdings.
There's a tense period in phase two where anyone really has a chance. But, by design, the game really can't last longer than 90 minutes -- unless you're playing with somebody like Donald Trump himself.
Later, the game descends into an acceptance of reality for each of the players. Some won't do business with you (Univision, Macy's), others try desperately to remain relevant and try to stage intricate deals to save them from becoming the ultimate loser.
As for me, I knew I had a good chance at winning towards the end, but a blood pact between Intern Ben and Intern Grant sealed my fate, and I finished second, with a net profit of $40 million.
When pitching the game in a 1988 ad, Trump said "I think you'll like it."
He was right.