Workshop game 'Trading floor'

This game is designed to show participants in workshops
  1. how trade is affected by the availability of money
  2. how outside control of the money supply may be counter productive to a local economy
  3. how money is separate from real value
  4. how using debt as money can obstruct the economy

By simulating trading in an actual marketplace, the traders feel the difference, which reinforces the learning objectives. The game is designed to need minimum of materials, but it is useful to have a helper to the faciliator and to plan ahead which rounds to play to make your point.


Time: 4 or 5 quick rounds with reflection easily takes 90 minutes. Much more is possible.

Player objective: to assemble the most sets of cards of the same value by exchanging cards (one for one).


  1. Packs of playing cards (see below)
  2. Lots of green pieces of paper.
  3. Permanent Marker, preferably red
  4. Small unwrapped sweets e.g M&Ms around 10 for each player, in a bowl on a table
  5. A bell, gong, triangle, hooter, horn, gavel OR hand-raising rule to end each round
  6. (Optional) mutual credit wallets

Number of playing cards

To get the game working well requires that attention be given to the number of cards in circulation. Each player holds 4 cards and enough extra cards are needed to ensure there is a good mixture on the table. It is never possible to buy playing cards or green cards from the source.

  • For 7 players remove the picture cards from one deck.
  • For 10-13 players is the hardest - add picture cards from a second deck
  • For 13 - 20 players use two full decks.
  • For each 10 subsequence players add another deck.

Format Players exchange cards to make a set of 4 the same number. IMPORTANT direct exchanges must be beneficial to BOTH parties They bring the sets back to the table, mix them up and get 4 new DIFFERENT cards and one sweet. There may be an attendant at the table helping to shuffle and redistribute the cards and reminding people to take sweets. Needed cards may be exchanged directly only for needed cards (see barter rules). Green cards can be traded in place of a needed cards, allowing players to split the barter. Green cards cannot be submitted like a wildcard in a set of four but only used in exchange. Players keep their materials between rounds though some rounds may require redistributing green cards. Each round consists of the following stages:

  1. Explain the rules
  2. TRADE
  3. Settle up / clearing
  4. Count sweets; count paper; reflect on inequalities
  5. How do you feel?
  6. What does this tell us about economics?


Direct Barter Players swop cards they don't need for cards they do need. Because there is an implied transaction cost it is not allowed to swop a card someone wants for a card you don't want. No paper is issued to start.
N.B. This should be a short round because it is very frustrating and is just to make a point about double coincidence of needs.

Chartalist Approx 1 player in 12 starts the round with additional 4 greens
N.B. This is better than barter, but unfair and more greens needed. Explain that the greens are to lubricate the economy and in principle could be withdrawn. Don't mention interest.

Credit money
Anyone take as many greens as they like, and receive a (red) mark on their skin.
Perhaps play for longer to see the effects. Inflation?
N.B. Sufficient quantity of greens makes exchange work well

Debt money
Players are told that at the end of the round they must repay double what they borrowed.
Perhaps play for longer to see the effects. Inflation?
N.B. many players unable to pay back. The bank ends up with the most tokens. Reluctance to exchange?

Commodity money
Trade with sweets instead of greens
N.B. Sweets aren't optimised for storage or exchange and get sticky. Must be earned before can be used as money. May be a reluctance to exchange.

Mutual Credit
Each player given 3 greens. Must end with 3 greens.
A 'wallet' can be printed, cut, stapled and distributed if you have resources (awaiting link)
N.B. Note how there isn't currency any more, just balances which add up to zero.

Self issued credit
Users issue as many greens with their name on. All greens must return to issuers at the end. N.B. Some players unable to redeem all their credit shows the need for governance!

Basic Minimum Income
Each user issued with 2 green at the start of the round N.B. Clearly after a couple of rounds of this inflation would be a problem. Inflation is solved by taxation. This distributive dynamic flattens out inequalities as they arise.

Start with no greens are issued every few seconds to whoever is at the front of the queue. The queue is proof of work. Agree with the group before hand how often to issue coins. N.B. Notice a slow start and let the round continue until you see people trading 2 greens for one card (inflation) Not ideal!

players decide the rules
NB Don't worry if you never get around to actually trading.


Round 1 barter
Don't even talk about green paper.

  • Did anyone set up a multilateral exchange i.e. a 3-way?
  • How can we get around the problem of the double coincidence of needs?

Round 2 Commodity money
If players have not eaten sweets, allow the exchange of sweets for cards

  • did it help to be able to exchange a sweet for a card?
  • How did you feel when trading a sweet for a card
  • What are the drawbacks of using sweets as a medium of exchange?
  • What is the optimum quantity of sweets?
  • What do economists mean when they talk about adding liquidity?

Round 2 Chartalist money
Give about 3 greens to 1 player out of every 10, this should be much fewer greens than the marketplace needs.

  • What advantage was conferred on the recipient of the greens?
  • Are the greens worth more or less than playing cards?
  • How did the greens get their 'value'?
  • What is the optimum quantity of greens?

Round 3 Credit money
In the last round greens were scarce, but now players are invited to take as many greens as they like (in their own name) Questions:

  • Are the greens worth more or less than playing cards?
  • Is there a danger of having too many greens cards
  • Did the people who took (more) green cards do any better than the ones who took less?

Round 4 Debt money
Players continue from the previous round but probably will not want to borrow any more!

  • (Interview the person who has the most sweets), give them praise and attention and more sweets.
  • Moralistic lecture for the debtors sitting on the floor
  • What happened to productivity?
  • What happened to the liquidity?

Open discussion

Try to leave plenty of time at the end. Usually there is LOTS to talk about!
What are the parallels with the prevailing money system?
How should money be issued fairly? To whom, how much and on what terms?
What is the role of government and what is the basis of its claim to govern markets?
Why can only the bank / government create green paper?

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