Games Software Review

Business Games (Stokmark/Telemark)

Make a profit with your micro

THE Business Games cassette from Acornsoft contains two business games, Stokmark and Telemark.

Stokmark allows one to eight players to deal in the shares of four different companies on the Stock Exchange. The aim is to make as much money as possible.

As in real life, a player's wealth is increased through the receipt of dividends a share of a company's profits - or through making a capital gain if the share price rises.

Of course the share price could fall, so that a player could make a loss.

The guide accompanying the tape explains some of the terms used in investment analysis.

Using these the program produces regular reports on each player's wealth and on each share's performance so that they can plan their next moves.

The main influence on the value of the shares is whether they are being bought or sold. If there is heavy selling then this depresses the share price. If a share is sought after, however, then the price will be forced up.

As in real life, there are also random economic factors, such as strikes, which affect a share's performance and make planning difficult.

The game is a well-presented and useful introduction to some investment terms, but I thought that it became rather repetitive after only a short time.

Telemark is a game for four players or teams involving the manufacturing and marketing of TV sets.

Players start with the same amount of cash and are then asked to make capital investment decisions, such as the size of the factory, which will determine the production and storage capacity of the businesses.

The larger the factory the more can be made, stored and potentially sold but the factory overheads or expenses will also rise.

The players are then asked to make production, marketing and pricing decisions, all of which can influence the profits which will be made.

For example, if your prices are set too high then other suppliers may win part of your market share.

If your prices are pitched too low then, although you may gain a large share of the market, you may not be charging enough to make a profit.

Certain random effects are also built in to make decision making a little more difficult - and realistic.

At each stage the program checks to see if a player's decisions are feasible. There may not be enough production capacity, market share or cash to enable the plans to be fulfilled.

To help, each player is given frequent opportunities to have information vital to decision-making displayed on screen.

At the end of each round financial and market share reports are produced so that the players can see how they are getting on.

This is a good game and to be properly appreciated must be played seriously.

Rather than making decisions by blind guesswork, which will teach little and quickly becomes dull, players should carefully plan the development of their businesses.

They must ensure, for example, that they will have enough cash for future operations and that they will charge a price that will return them a profit. A pencil and paper are indispensable.

Acornsoft have obviously realised that this is an important aspect of the game and they have provided some blank charts in the program guide to help players work out their cash flows and to estimate suitable selling prices.

As a small point, I think that many people would appreciate a worked example in the program guide showing how the profits and, in particular, the balance sheets are calculated. This would help make a good game even better.

Ken Garrett