Money Card: An American Express Travel Game (1972)

20 Nov

This time, I wanted to take a look at a game I found very recently in an antique shop.  Money Card, at one level, is almost exactly what one may expect from a game so closely tied to a company such as American Express.  It’s a simple spin and move game, with a very basic goal.   However, this simple game is wrapped up in a surprising level of detail which stunned me right from the box art.

And let’s take a look at that box (sorry for the glare, not having a pro setup, I take pics where and when I can…even propped up against the keyboard at work).

007So, what is Money Card?  Well, they players all play as Tracy Traveler, a freewheeling explorer that wants to take a whirlwind tour of as much of Europe as $300 worth of American Express Travelers Cheques will take her!  The goal of the game is to collect the 8 keys from the 8 “Key Cities” before running out of money.  Along the way, Tracy will have many adventures, she will get postcards from home, she may go gamble in Monte Carlo, and she might even learn a few foreign words and phrases along the way!

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When you break this game down to its barest essentials, Money Card is a variation on classic Parchessi game play.  There are some changes, such as only having a single airplane mover piece and, instead of being sent back to their start space when a player gets landed on by another player…they are inexplicably sent to Dublin, Ireland.

Money Card also falls prey to my second least favorite mechanic in game history (losing a turn being #1).  You have to land on the “Key Cities” by exact count to gain a key (with one notable exception, which I will mention in a bit).

015As you travel around the board, you will be collecting travel cards.  If you are on a black space somewhere in Europe, you grab a miscellaneous card.  If you are on a white space, you collect the card that relates to that country.  On every card, you immediately do the action listed on the card.  Some of the cards have words written in that countries language.  If you are able to put together a complete phrase (there are matching shapes on the card to help) you can play all the cards in the phrase, and have a “Supermove” where you get to move as many spaces as are in the phrase… Both Languages combined!  For example, if you make the phrase “Quiero comer ahora (I want to eat now)” You get to not only move 8 spaces, but you can collect keys from any key city you fly over – no exact count needed!  This makes moving around in mainland Europe much more important…but also increases your odds of being sent to Dublin.

014Along the way, you may receive postcards.  I guess in 1972, the postal service was really good as finding random people traveling in Europe.  These postcards are usually ways to gain extra travelers cheques.  Which does bring me to the topic of money.

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While getting keys is your #1 goal – if you run out of money, you lose.  There aren’t many ways of gaining money outside of event cards, and postcards.  One way is selling the keys you’ve already gained for $50 a pop.  The other way is gambling in Monte Carlo.  If you wind up in Monte Carlo, you can play a basic version of roulette using the game’s spinner. You can keep betting there until you lose a bet.  If you are really lucky anytime during the game, you can land the spinner on the Money Card space.  At that time, you gain control of…THE MONEY CARD!!!!

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This card is about double the size of a regular credit card

And in true credit card fashion, with the Money Card, you can spend money with impunity!  Spend all you want, with absolutely no consequences at all.  This, my friends, is how we get into trouble in the first place… still, in terms of the game, having the Money Card is almost a necessity to survive til the end.

To this point, you may have noticed I haven’t shown you the board.  Well, in true cliffhanger fashion, I wanted to wait til near the end, because it’s the best part of the game.  Just one look at the board is what sold me on buying this game.

030It may not show up as well in this picture, but I was floored by this board.  First of all, it’s very colorful, but look closer and you’ll discover that everything on the board is handmade.  The whole board has a 3D effect to it.  The ridges in the water have obvious depth. Not only that, but the various paths on the board are actual beads and some sort of plastic string.  I obviously am entirely impressed by this board.  The little figures even have unique outfits relating to the areas they are representing!

032034To be honest, I’m very impressed by the entire package here.  While the game itself may not be incredible, they took a lot of care to try and make a thematic package all the way down.  It’s not a game I’ll bring out all the time, but I do think it will get a few plays before I inevitably hang the board as wall art (did I mention I love the board?).

Next time: I’m going to go outside the realm of pure board games.  I’ve been a life-long video game collector, and one of my favorite systems is the semi-obscure Magnavox Odyssey 2 from 1978.  This early competitor to the Atari 2600 only had about 50 games in its entire life, but three of those games had board game components to them.  We’re going to dive into those games, and maybe (heavy stress on the maybe) take a look at more recent attempts at combining those worlds.

I hope to see you with that one in a couple weeks, but depending on my computer’s health…it may be a bit longer.

Thanks for reading!

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6 Responses to “Money Card: An American Express Travel Game (1972)”

  1. Charles Bennett March 2, 2014 at 3:36 pm #

    Where can I order a Money Card board game in this year of 2014? I know it’s an antique, but I would like to give someone who lived in the 1970’s a birthday present.

    • scooterb23 March 4, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

      You can try ebay. I quick search shows a few copies between $20-35. I found mine in a local antique mall. It’s not a very common game, but it is around if you dig for it.

    • andrew March 15, 2014 at 5:18 pm #

      I’ve got a brand new one, still wrapped, that I came across and am looking for a home. I am planning on listing it shortly on ebay. pleasefire@yahoo.com

    • Jennifer Hanshaw August 12, 2015 at 9:14 pm #

      I have one. In great shape all the pieces are there. Box still in great shape as well.

      • Tracy January 10, 2016 at 5:31 pm #

        Do you want to sell it?

  2. Kirsten August 3, 2017 at 11:51 pm #

    To be successful it is important that you read through and understand every topic regarding a specific game.

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