Fun Financial Education with Wongamania

Farhan
Farhan

Wongamania cards in a pile

Here at DrWealth, we’re passionate about teaching people about personal finances and investment. Unfortunately, we also know finance can be a dry subject. Wongamania hopes to change that.

We’re giving away three copies of Wongamania (worth S$38) to three lucky readers! Read on to find out how to win a copy of this fun game for yourself.

At the height of my wealth, I was raking in the equivalent of thousands of dollars every month from my investment portfolio and had accumulated a trust fund that would have made famous oil baron John D. Rockefeller envious.

Then, the economy, which had been growing at a pace that would have made me even richer, took a calamitous corner as a result of a series of unfortunate events. My wealth plunged and my portfolio, a large percentage of which was in stocks and properties, was decimated.

A couple more turns later, I crumpled to the ground, defeated.

Fortunately, the three paragraphs above depicted a game of Wongamania that I was playing with the team behind it, and not based on real-life events. My real wealth (if you could call it that) was still safely ensconced in my different bank accounts and the investments that I had made over the past couple of years were still showing signs of growth. The only thing that took a beating was my competitive ego.

“As you can see, your investment exposure was far too concentrated on stocks, which meant that you took a beating when the market turned sharply down,” my opponent and the triumphant victor, Yee Chuang, wryly remarked. One of the folks behind Wongamania, the sassy young lady with the Cheshire smile, together with the game’s creator Xeo Lye, travel around Singapore and Malaysia to market Wongamania to financial educators, bloggers and the man on the street.

We played a couple more games and each session went down different economic paths, mirroring the chaotic and irrational world of financial markets. But, amidst the financial lessons, what struck me about Wongamania, with its cartoon characters and simple game mechanics, was that it was surprisingly fun and deceptively strategic.

I sat down with chief game designer, financial advisor, and self-professed geek Xeo Lye, and asked him about his thoughts regarding Monopoly (“bad game!”), the challenges of creating Wongamania, and the best way to crush my enemies friends.

Wongamania creator Xeo Lye

Okay, why do you consider Monopoly a bad board game, which is probably the best-selling game in the world?

Well, in Monopoly, your fate is decided by how lucky you are when you’re rolling the dice. There’s little decision making or critical thinking involved. You only need to decide whether you should or should not buy a particular property (psst, you should). If all the players have an equal amount of property, the game can drag on for hours and ultimately, is decided on the luck of the dice! The board games of today are far more elegant as compared to the past as they have mechanics that reduce the luck element and have multiple strategies to get to a clearly defined goal.

I want to be the ultimate property baron in Monopoly though. What’s the best strategy?

Buy every property you land on except for utilities as early as possible. Now, the key is to start taking mortgages on the properties you own so that you can build houses and hotels as quickly as possible. After that, practise your sinister laugh as much as possible every time players have to pay rent when they land on your property!

Great, thanks for the tips. Let’s talk about Wongamania. What gave you the inspiration for the game and what have been the challenges you had to overcome while bringing the idea into fruition?

The inspiration is actually quite simple. There are almost no materials on one of the most important aspects of financial literacy – economics. Over the years of managing other people’s money, I realised that every fundamental, technical or modern portfolio investor will improve his or her performance simply by understanding global economics. Since there were no materials, I decided to create my own. Thus, Wongamania was born.

It wasn’t easy though. The biggest difficulty I had to overcome was the manufacturing process. I had no idea how to mass produce a table-top game and could not find professional game manufacturers in the region. Even now, I’m still seeking ways to improve the build quality of Wongamania and have been seeking advice from American and European game designers.

What are the different concepts one can learn from playing Wongamania?

There are far too many to name! However, the most important concept that I hope to teach is critical thinking. Successful investors can gather information, create a hypothesis, deliberate on multiple complex scenarios, and make a quick investment decision. The mechanics I have designed in this game will help players develop these skills.

Another lesson is the basic concept of asset allocation and economic cycles. The most important foundation of any investor is to understand how stocks, bonds, and properties work. Couple this with the ability to identify which stage of the economic cycle the country is in will help investors make informed decisions under various conditions.

The economic cycle present in Wongamania

I find it interesting that you’ve managed to combine the concepts of financial cooperation and fierce competition in a card game.

The reality is that the rules of the financial markets are similar to that of a jungle and only the strong will survive. The financial markets can afford to hire some of the best brains in the world while the man on the street is often the worst prepared – professional traders often call us sheep. In Wongamania, you will struggle to make profit in the financial markets while juggling family obligations and have the chance to be part of the Invisible Hand that can manipulate the economy, similar to the power of governments, central banks, and mega financial institutions.

As the game gets bigger with five or six players, it actually becomes more difficult to take leads without working together as other players will plot to take you down. It’s the perfect analogy for the realities of the financial markets.

What’s next for you and Wongamania?

We’re currently developing an expansion set for the base game as well as an educational booklet and a portal to help players learn about some of the basic economic principles behind Wongamania. We’re also working on a mobile version of Wongamania. Some other ideas we’re exploring based on the feedback we’ve gotten from players is to include a variety of properties and stocks as well as commodities and derivative expansions.

Ultimately, we want to make a difference in helping people understand about economics and investment through fun, laughter, and perhaps a bit of betrayal!

We’re giving away three copies of Wongamania (worth S$38) to three lucky readers. To win, head on to our Facebook page and follow the instructions to get a chance to win. This contest will end on 28 February 2015.