The Golden Tulip

Concept Statement:

I plan to design a game to teach personal finance to high school and college students. I believe it will include these kinds of fun: trading with friends and growing your wealth. My learning outcomes are for people to understand the market and supply and demand. I will measure them by their ability to cope with uncertainties, and if they know the definitions of the terms used in the stock market. I want to do this kind of game because people find personal finance something intimidating, and I want to find them easier to understand. Games similar to this are: 

My biggest concern is making it parallel with the real world, without it being too abstract. 


Personal finance is something that is feared by many people. The ideas of saving, stocks, bonds, and many of these words scare people away. As an Asian person, saving is part of our culture, but optimizing your money is not. In western culture, I realized that many people have the mindset of living paycheck to paycheck. It is a relatively scary thought because people might not save up enough for their retirement. But in this game, I solely want to focus on demand and supply, and how that impacts the stock market. 

In this game, the game mimics the period of the Dutch golden age in which the prices of fashionable tulips rose and fell based on the demand for tulips. Named as the “tulip mania”, this is deemed to be the world’s first speculative bubble. Tulips were a coveted luxury item due to their saturated petal colour. As the flowers grew popularity locally and internationally, notably from the French, the demand increased exponentially. There are different kinds of tulips, however, in the game itself, all tulips are treated as equal. Towards the end of the tulip mania, the tulip contracts are exchanging hands 10 times in a day, but no deliveries were ever made to fulfil any of these contracts. As a result, there is a plummet in demand, due to the lack of supply. 

In this game, the players themselves are merchants that are trying to buy and sell the tulips before any bubble bursts. The objective of the game is to be the richest person in the game. Tulips are a medium for them to “buy low, sell high” so that they can be wealthy. 

Game Bits:

In the game, there is a board in the middle that shows the current price of buying a tulip. With the board, there is an 8 sided dice in the middle that ranges from 2-9. The function of the dice will be explained later on. Besides the board and the dice in the middle, there is also a marker to indicate the current price of the tulip. Another marker indicates the quarter of the year, and the last marker indicates the year. Lastly, there is also a 1st-person marker to note who started the quarter. 

There are tulips and florins (currency coins), and these are kept with the “bank”. 

There are decision cards, action cards and event cards. 

  1. Decision Cards

Each player is dealt with 2 decision cards, one indicating “Buy” while another one indicating “Sell”.

  1. Action Cards (Quantity – this need to be playtested to have the right number) 
    1. Fluctuation – playing this card will allow you to roll the dice. The result of the dice roll will be the new price of the tulip on the board (8) 
    2. Scarcity – playing this card will increase the price of the tulip by 1 (4)
    3. Shorting – playing this card bets on the rise or drop of the price. If the player plays shorting at price of 5 florins. Once all decisions are executed, the shorting will commenced. If the price drops to 1, the player will gain the difference i.e. 4. However, if the price rise to 7, the player will pay the bank the difference I.e. 2.  (3)
    4. Pre-market trading – playing this card allows you to execute your decision card right away. (3)
    5. After-round trading – playing this card allows you to only make and execute your decision once everyone has made and executed their decision. (3)
    6. Panic sell – playing this card allows you to sell all your tulips at the current price on the board, and the price of the tulips will decrease to 3 florins. (2)
    7. Insider information – playing this card gives the player the privilege to look at all previous player’s decisions, before making their decision. All previous players will not be able to change their decisions. (2)
    8. Speculation – playing this card forces everyone to open their decision cards to all even when they have yet to make a decision. However, everyone gets to change their decision cards if they wish to, even if they have made a decision. (3)
  1. Event Cards

The event cards are opened at the end of every year. There are different event cards that mimic similarly to the annual economic events.

    1. Taxation –  the richest player get taxed 5 florins, the 2nd richest person gets taxed 4 coins and so on until the last player, which will get taxed 0 florins. 
    2. Investments – the richest person get 2 tulips, whereas the person with the most tulips get 8 coins. 
    3. Priority – The richest person will determine the position of the 1st-person marker
    4. Inflation – all prices increase by 1 (that meant any number will increase by 1. If the board indicates 4 to buy or sell, it will be 5 to buy or sell now. If the event cards have any numbers, increase that by 1 too.
    5. Tremendous demand – Start the counter at 10.
    6. Auditing – if the player has more than 3 tulips, these players will have to pay either 5 florins or pay 1 tulip back. 
    7. Equity Leveler – the richest person will donate 7 coins to the poorest person, the 2nd richest will donate 5 coins to the 2nd poorest person, and the 3rd richest person will donate 3 florins to the 3rd poorest person. 
    8. Stimulus – the poorest and the 2nd poorest person will get 7 florins, the 3rd and 4th poorest person will get 5 florins, and the 5th and last person will get 3 florins. 


The assessment of the game would be to increase the economic knowledge of the players, while also educating them about the history of speculative bubbles of tulips (secondary and positive side effects).

I did not have formalized methods of collecting the results of these. However, all playtesters have indicated an increased interest and knowledge of the stock market and the effects of demand and supply on prices. Although the playtesters have extensive knowledge about basic economic theories, they manage to get something away after playing the game once. The game has also high repeatability that they can practice their skills in terms of understanding concepts and the volatility of the market before they face similar parallel in the stock market in the real world. I also manage to keep players engaged (somewhat) even though it is not their turn to make any actions or decisions. 

Something that can be improved on for this game would be having a reference card, so they can be reminded of the rules/actions/decisions. (Especially since there might be some changes when the market is operating at normal times and when the bubble has burst). Some quotes include “so what’s next?” Or “ what can I do next?” Is a big indication that some form of reinforcement is needed. 


There are 5 changes to this game. (Not in any chronological order as some parts of each gameplay are meant to test the viability of certain aspects – thus there are no versions, but rather more of very targeted game playing and changes)

  1. [I tested this on 2 games – 1 game with 2 players, me and a male friend (30), and another game with 6 players 4 female friends (23-27) and a male friend (24)]. There were no event cards, and there were 6 rounds and 2 years instead of 4 quarters and 3 years (they are the same thing, but has been rephrased because of a consistent storyline). So this made the game incredibly painful to play especially when there are a lot of players as this seems unendurably long. I broke down the game into smaller chunks with events that they could look forward to. However, more changes on this will be done as well, as players had mentioned that they would love to have more “drama” or events, hence the next iteration might include more “drama”, either by increasing the number of event cards, or shortening the rounds altogether. In the document I have submitted, I have made it 2 half-years, and 4 years. This increase the number of events in each round. One round is used to “collect resources to prepare for the event” while the other is to accumulate Florins to be the richest person. 
  2. [I tested this on 1 game – 1 game with 2 players, me and a male friend (30)] The range of steps that increases or decreases changes in every zone. The previous iteration has 1.5x steps, which is unfeasible since the price changes after every execution are done. Additionally, the game seems to regress to mean, as people are not willing to take risks to burst the market. Hence the zones are redrawn, and the steps are changed accordingly. The old zones are 1-3 and 8-10, with 1.5x steps of buying and selling, while 4-7 has steps of 1x. However, in the new iteration, the compact zone would be 5-6, in which the steps would be 2x, while the other steps are 1x. The steps come into play only when there is a change. For example, when a player buys at 2, it will only increase to 3, and vice versa. However, if a player buys at 6, It will increase to 8 (hence 2x steps), and vice versa to 4 if selling at 6. The change of this zoning and the change of steps will diverge away from the mean, and thus create more drama. 
  3. [I tested this on 1 game – 1 game with 6 players 4 female friends (23-27) and a male friend (24)]. There were also tightening of rules in the bubble bursting phase. Previously, it was unclear what happens at during the bubble bursting phase. Because players have already made a decision, they have to buy at 10 or sell at 1, which discourage people to burst the market. Another question was what would happen if the player plays shorting, and the bubble burst. In that case, if the price burst through a tremendous decrease in price, they will get 15 coins. Vice versa, if the price burst through a tremendous increase in price, they will have to pay 15 coins
  4. [I tested this on 2 games – 1 game with 2 players, me and a male friend (30), and another game with 6 players 4 female friends (23-27) and a male friend (24)]. There were also questions about selling when you have no tulips and buying when you have no money. To mitigate this situation, the players will not have execute their decision, however, they will increase 2 steps. For example, if the player is selling tulips even though they do not have them, they will cause unmet demand in the market, and increase the price of the tulip by 2. On another hand, if the player is buying tulips even though they do not have florins, they create unnecessary demand in the market, increasing the price by 2 as well. 
  5. [I tested this on 2 games – 1 game with 2 players, me and a male friend (30), and another game with 6 players 4 female friends (23-27) and a male friend (24)] I changed the number of drawn cards. Initially my intention was that the player draws two action cards after playing one action card. This is intentional so that the player will face the paradox of choice. However, the player will take the same card, and the paradox of choice only comes about from taking a different one. 

Print at-home version:

Also attached in this file 

(Hit me up if you want to playtest this; I will be willing to teach you – 

Rules and the steps: 

Setting Up: 

All players are given 2 actions cards, 2 decision cards with one indicating BUY and the other indicating SELL. 

There will be a Price Marker, and it will be placed at 5, indicating the cost of 5 Florins to buy one tulip. 

There will be a Half-Year Marker, as well as the Annual Marker. 

The 1st Person Marker will be given to the person who has the most experience playing this game


The first person has different options to play different strategies but it boils down to these 2 steps. 

(OPTIONAL) Step 1: Play one action card, and follow the instructions on the card

Step 2: Play your decision face down. 

Once these 2 steps are done, the next person will repeat until the last person do likewise. Once everyone has made their decisions, they will simultaneously open their decision card. The decisions will be executed based on where the first person marker is at. 

When a person buys or sells a tulip, the price of the tulip will increase or decrease by 1 respectively, except in the surge zone. In the surge zone, when the player buys or sells a tulip, the price of the tulip will increase or decrease by 2 respectively. 

Once all actions and decisions are executed, everyone who played their action card will discard the used action card and will draw one action card. 

The Half-Year Marker will progress from 1 to 2. If the Half-Year Marker is at 2, the Annual Marker will progress to the next year, and the Half-Year Marker will go back to 1. When the year has ended, an event card will be opened. This event card might impact 1 person, some or all persons in the game.

When the Half-Year Marker progresses, the 1st Person Marker will be passed to the next person on the left.

The game will commence once all years are completed. Note that in the last year (1637), an event will still occur at the end of the year. 

Bubble Burst:

(i.e. when the tulips cost 1 Florin and someone sells it, or when the tulips cost 10 Florins and someone buys it)

When this occurs, the rules of the game has changed in the following ways:

  • The player who causes the bubble bursting will be intact. However, anyone after the person will be affected by the burst. 
  • The Bubble Burst will only be limited to that Half-Year. Once that half-year finishes and moved on to the next half-year, it will be reset by rolling the dice.
  • To buy a tulip, it cost 10 Florins to purchase. To sell a tulip, it will be 0 Florins. 
  • For shorting, if you win the bet, you will get 15 Florins, and if you lose the bet, you will lose 15 Florins. The starting price when the bet is placed is ignored. 

Logistics: Cards

About the author


  1. This is a great, creative idea! While I haven’t yet played the game, I can easily see how the experience is both fun and informative.
    I especially like the idea of creating “drama” around the mean with the surge zone.

    If you decide to focus on this project for the final, I recommend cleaning up the documentation a bit (e.g. proofreading for typos and embedding links and images throughout the writeup).

    This is a small note, but at a cost of complexity, I could see this game expanding to teach even more personal finance concepts. For instance, a more advanced version might give players the option to invest in a safer asset vs. the risky tulip asset in a given round.

    Nice work!

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