Nov 20, 2017

5 Financial Lessons from Financial Boardgame: Debtzilla


Debtzilla: The Board Game is a superhero co-operative board game that puts players in the role of a secret identity superhero, who has to manage his finances as a common salaryman during the day, and combating villains at night. At the end of the game, the players have to defeat Debtzilla as the final boss in order to win the game. The game is making use of the superhero theme to bring out essential financial lessons and here are 5 of the important ones:


1) Savings is Important

Unlike Robert Kiyosaki's Cashflow game which requires players to make use of a complex income statement, Debtzilla redesigns the balance sheet into a simple 5 card system whereby each card represents 20% of the player's income.


For example, in a typical draw like the above, you as a player will get 5 cards that symbolize what a working adult’s income might end up to be - 40% of comfort expenses (aka Luxury Card), 40% loan interest (aka Credit Card Loan Card), and only 20% left as savings (aka Savings Card)

The game emphasizes the importance of savings by budgeting and paying off credit card loans to avoid interest piling up. These ways to increase savings are represented in the game by:
a) removing Luxury Card using Budgeting Card 

b) paying off Credit Card Loan using Savings Card

A good cashflow by increasing your savings is essential to buy the necessary gadgets to defeat Debtzilla!


2) Good Debt Vs Bad Debt

Like in the real world, debts are powerful cards yet they are also double-edged swords. As a player, if these debts are not managed well, the disadvantages of cumulative interest will outweigh the benefits that you can get from the items bought via debt. This is when any good debt turns into bad debt.

In Debtzilla, there are 3 kinds of debts that symbolizes what we have in real life which players can choose to take.

Each of the debt cards gives different benefit to the players in the game. 

For example: credit card loan gives a player $3 immediately but incur $1 of expenses every time it is drawn, while housing loan does not give upfront cash but generates $2 every time it is drawn. However, taking any of these debts will also make the game more difficult as it will add to the power of Debtzilla, making it harder to be defeated.


Maintaining Good Debt and reducing Bad Debt is critical in staying on to the game!

3) Importance of Insurance

The game also highlights the critical need of insurance coverage for unexpected situations when one least expects them. In this game, Debtzilla acts like a natural disaster and inflicts penalties on everyone out of the blue.


Getting insurance in the game acts like a shield against the devastating effects inflicted on the heroes, like how real life situations could be. As a player, together with your team mates, you must accumulate a good amount of insurance coverage before you confront Debtzilla as the final boss. 


Failure to have sufficient coverage will result in severely disadvantaged heroes stomped into bankruptcy!

4) The Danger of Compound Interest

In many games we have curated, players tend to borrow when debt level is low and only attempt to pay down the debt when the compound interest has rolled to such a big amount. No matter how much money they tried returning the debt, they could just only delay the inevitable. This effect is similar to ‘Loanshark’ (debt creditor) victims who are stuck in debt traps due to the high interest rates charged. They will not ever be able to pay off the initial loan amount and will be always paying off the ever increasing interest. 

The interesting aspect of the game is how this laws of compound interest is used to power the life of Debtzilla, just like how compound interest could bankrupt people in real life, like the case of Loanshark victims mentioned above. In the game, Debtzilla’s life increases based on the level of interest which your game is at, which is shown on the right side of the Debtzilla’s card. This interest level is designed to increase exponentially, just like how interest on interest can snowball in real life. As this number gets bigger, Debtzilla becomes stronger, leading to an exponential burst of health and difficulty of destroying it.

Debtzilla is also used as a metaphor of a nation's level of debt. A country will typically face a deep recession or financial crisis when the debt level has gotten to an unsustainable level like in the case of Greecein 2010. Similarly in the game, allowing the Banana’s Republic’s debt - Debtzilla's health to reach an unsustainable level of 100 will trigger the Debt Apocalypse, bankrupting all citizens and having you and your team lose the game.


Always beware of the lurking danger of over-borrowing that will endanger everyone in the game!

5) Finance is a Team Game

A real economy works where both over-borrowing and over-saving cause problems in the economy. This is demonstrated by Zimbabweliving on borrowed money since decades ago, and also Japan’s over-saving the 1990s that caused ‘Lost decade of Japan’  


This game emphasizes how team work is important even for a real country’s economy to be well balanced, where failure of balancing would lead of catastrophes like the above real scenarios. In the game, in order to win over Debtzilla, you as a player must act like a member of the economy in order to maintain the balance of savings and debts. 

One of the ways to strategize in the game can be by:
  • A player acting as like an entrepreneur, borrowing heavily and become a powerhouse in taking out the Villains
  • Another player acting as an investor, saving up money and financing the borrowings of the entrepreneur. 

Your team must balance between saving and borrowing as any team that indulge in too much of either, will find themselves stomped by Debtzilla!

Why Learn Financial Lessons From a Game

One of the problems of financial education is that there is lack of a formal curriculum which allows student to interact and learn from each other. We often learn about financial concepts from reading and watching the news and often lack interaction with other people to share about the good and bad experiences they have been through. A board game is one of the most effective way to bring people together in a safe space, whereby they can relate their personal experiences through the common adventure of defeating Debtzilla together. While Debtzilla is designed as a game meant to entertain and replayed again and again, we also hope that it can be use as a conversation starter to allow people to open up and talk about money, savings and the most fearsome subject of all: Debt!

Welcome to the world of Debtzilla!

Debtzilla is currently on Kickstarter! Click here to pledge and get a copy!




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