Pension Plan Game Rules

This is a short game in which you start businesses in order to safeguard your pension and build the basis for an advanced society. The more points you score through starting businesses, the more comfortable your retirement will be.

Many thanks to Anouk Pinchetti for the inspiration.

Game components

Industry cards (2 decks of 244)

These are the cards you need to collect in order to start a business. There are 4 categories of cards per deck:

  • Common (120 cards): these are worth 1 point when turned in (5 sets of 4 copies each).
    • Farm
    • Bakery
    • Construction firm
    • Gym
    • Carpenter shop
    • Butcher
  • Uncommon (80 cards): these are worth 2 points when turned in (4 sets of 4 copies each).
    • Bus company
    • Powerplant
    • Hospital
    • Library
    • Package delivery service
  • Rare (36 cards): these are worth 3 points when turned in (3 sets of 4 copies each).
    • High-Tech research center
    • Space agency
    • Asteroid mining company
  • Ultra rare (8 cards): these are worth 5 points when turned in (2 sets of 4 copies each).
    • Warp drive facility


300 bills of 1000.

Game play

1. Goal

The goal of the game is to start businesses in order to safeguard a pension after retirement. In order to start a business, players need to collect industry cards. Collecting 4 cards of the same type (same pictogram) allows someone to start a business. Starting businesses allows players to collect points. The more points a player has at the end of the game, the higher their pension will be when they retire.

2. Setup


The game is played with 4 to 15 players. If there are more than 15 players, make teams of 2.

Depending on the number of players, each player is handed a number of industry cards.

  • 4 players: 10 cards
  • 5 players: 9 cards
  • 6 players: 8 cards
  • 7 players: 7 cards
  • 8+ players: 6 cards

Money distribution

Players need money in order to be able to trade cards. Money in the game only exists in notes of 1,000. An amount equal to 6,000 per player, or at least very close to it, should be handed out in order to play a balanced game. The money can be distributed any way you like. Either hand everyone 6,000 or distribute the money unequally in order to illustrate inequality in society.

A proposal for unequal distribution for 15 players is the following:

  • Player 1: 0
  • Player 2: 6,000
  • Player 3: 6,000
  • Player 4: 14,000
  • Player 5: 0
  • Player 6: 6,000
  • Player 7: 6,000
  • Player 8: 14,000
  • Player 9: 0
  • Player 15: 6.000

Common good cause

The group chooses a cause they deem to be for the common good. Examples are climate change, education, public transport, health care, … A donation cup is placed where it is easily accessible to everyone.


3. Play

A game is played in 4 rounds of 3 minutes plus the time for actions taken in between rounds. Playing the game twice will take about an hour in total. The game requires at least one person, the game host, to keep track of scores and to handle the money. The game host is not an active player in the game. We suggest 2 game hosts for smooth play.

3.1 Trading

Industry cards are traded amongst players. Players negotiate a price for the cards they have on offer and/ or in demand and pay the other player accordingly if they come to an agreement. Every transaction has to be a monetary one which means that every transaction moves money from one player to the other and moves a card/cards in the other direction. It is not allowed to swap cards or to add cards to the money in order to pay for the card(s) one is buying.

Example: Jack and Jill want to trade. Jack has a Farm card Jill wants and Jill has a Gym and a Powerplant card Jack wants. To make the trade, two transactions need to occur, in any order. Jack needs to pay Jill an agreed upon amount for the Gym and Powerplant cards, which is one transaction. For Jill to get the Farm card she will have to pay Jack for it, which is a second transaction. It is not allowed that Jack pays Jill for the Powerplant and Gym cards and adds the Farm card as part of the payment. Cards can NOT be used as a form of payment.

3.2 Handing in cards

When a player has collected a set of 4 cards they hand it in to the game host. They record the number of points for the player and hand them 4 new cards from the top of the deck.

3.3 Donating to the common good

During the game, but not during the pauses, players can freely donate to the common good by putting money in the collection cup. Money that has been donated can not be taken back.

3.4 Pauses

Every 3 minutes the game is paused to handle monetary actions, depending on the monetary system that has been chosen. No trade is allowed during this pause.

3.5 Money types

The game can be played with different types of money. The notes in themselves do not change, only the way money is brought into circulation and how it is taken out again.

Debt based money

This is a simplified version of the money we use today.

All the money players received is borrowed from the bank. The loan needs to be paid back at the end of the game with a 10% interest. Failure to do so results in the bank taking possession of businesses the player owns. For every 1,000 or fraction thereof, that can not be paid back, the bank takes possession of the equivalent of 1 point in businesses, thereby reducing the score earned by the player and thus the pension they end up with.

During the pauzes players have the option to either pay back part of their loan or to take out an extra loan. Fractions of 1,000 can not be paid back during the game and are settled at the end of the game.

Interest at intervals (optional)

Instead of paying all of the interest at the end of the game, you can also opt for paying interest in intervals, as happens with bank loans. The following happens:

  • With each pause, players pay 10% interest on their current debt. Payment only needs to take place if the interest due is at least 1,000.
  • Fractions of 1,000 are carried over to the next pause.
  • Failure to pay interest adds the interest due to the debt. The amount which has not been paid is added to the debt and interest will be calculated on the whole sum when it is due again. This is known as compound interest.
  • At the end of the game the full amount of debt plus 10% of that debt in interest plus the remaining interest from previous rounds needs to be paid. 

Example: Jack has borrowed 11,000 at the beginning of the game. In the first pause his interest is 1,100 of which he needs to pay 1,000. Jack pays the 1,000 and the remaining 100 is carried over to the next pause.

In the second pause the interest is again 1,100 and it is added to the 100 that was left from the previous pause, resulting in 1,200 interest total of which Jack has to pay 1,000. However, Jack does not have 1,000 available. The 1,000 is transferred from his interest due to his debt. His debt now sits at 12,000 and his interest due, which will be carried over to the next pause, is now 200.

In the third pause Jack’s interest is now 1,200 (10% of 12,000) and it’s added to the unpaid interest from the previous pause, bringing the total to 1,400 of which he has to pay 1,000. Jack now has the money and pays 1,000. At the end of the game another 1,200 interest is added to the 400 remaining from the third pause, resulting in a total of 1,600 in interest. Jack now owes a total of 13,600 to the bank.

Playing with a closed economy (optional)

When playing with the ‘interest at interval’ option, the paid interest leaves the economy. It ends up on the books of the bank as profit. If you want that money to remain in the economy, you can opt for one player to be the bank. That player receives all interest paid as income. To keep play balanced, the bank player van not borrow money from the bank. That’s because it would allow them to effectively borrow with 0% interest because the interest they pay on the loan would also be an income to them.

Playing the game this way is the equivalent of banks spending all of their profits.

Realistic debt distribution (optional)

In our real economy the amount of money people have is seldom equal to the amount of money they have. Some people have more debt than money and some people have more money than debt. You can simulate this in the game.The easiest way to do this is as follows:

  • Write a piece of paper for each player that has the amount of money in their possession on it.
  • Put all the pieces of paper in a cup.
  • Let every player randomly draw a piece of paper. This is the debt they have outstanding with the bank. It is this debt they will have to settle by the end of the game and it’s this amount they will be charged interest on.

You can play around with this. The numbers on the pieces of paper do not have to exactly match the amounts of money players have individually. The total sum of debt does need to be equal to the total sum of money however.

If the game is played with a closed economy, the ‘banker’ never has debt, no matter how much money they have. Their debt is carried by one or more other players.

Sustainable Money System

The money which is handed to players is simply that, money in their hands. There is no debt due. During the pauses, and at the end of the game, the following happens:

  • Everyone who has less than 4,000 in their hands receives 2,000.
  • Everyone who has more than 6,000 in their hands pays half of what they have over 6,000, rounded up. 7,000 and 8,000 results in paying 1,000, 9,000 and 10,000 results in paying 2,000 and so on.


4. Ending the game

Calculating pension

At the end of the game the closing monetary action is executed and then the pension is determined according to the points the players collected. Based on the number of points players’ pensions fall in one of the following categories:

  • < 0: Suffering: You’re totally out of luck. Not only do you have nothing, you owe people!
  • 0 – 1: Bankrupt. You just don’t have the resources to sustain yourself. You live out on the street.
  • 2 – 4: Surviving. It’s not a life of luxury but you get by.
  • 5 – 9: Comfortable. Retirement is a happy time and you don’t have to worry about anything.
  • 10+: Luxurious. You have everything you want and then some!

Buying extra pension points

Players can buy extra points after having dealt with debt or demurrage, depending on the chosen monetary system. For every 2000 players pay, 1 point can be bought.

Donating points (optional)

Players can, if they want to, donate points to other players, thereby subtracting them from their own score and adding them to the other player’s score.

Common good

Count the amount that was collected for the common good cause.

Minimum economy (optional)

At the end of the game there has to be a minimum number of businesses that need to have been started in order to keep society running. This number equals #players + 50% (rounded up). It does not matter which businesses these are. Failure to do so results in the random elimination of players until the requirement is met.