I often think about the games I used to play when I was growing up and one of the games I really enjoyed was Pay Day, which was then published by Parker Brothers. The game was designed by Paul J. Gruen from Massachusetts and the year Pay Day released, which was 1975, it outsold Monopoly. Quite an accomplishment I would say! I was born in 1971 so, the game was still pretty new when I got my first copy when I was maybe 8 or 9 years old.
I remember the game….rolling the die and moving through the days of the month and either getting money or having to spend money. Bills piling up, opportunities to make deals, and then if you got lucky, hitting the jackpot!
Unfortunately, as I grew up and moved on with my life, some of my games and such did not make the move with me. I think they were victims of my parents cleaning out their house many years ago.
Fast forward to about 5 years ago. I happened to be in Target and was in their toy and game section and they happened to have the game Pay Day on the shelf. It said Classic Edition on it and a number of memories about this game filled my head.
I decided to purchase the game so I could share some experiences with my kids, seeing it is a family game. I wasn’t sure what to expect either from myself revisiting this classic game, or what my kids thought of “old” games.
So…. let’s take a look at this new version of Pay Day and get my thoughts along the way. If you are not familiar with this game, here is a brief summary of how it is played:
The game simulates money management, with the game board resembling a calendar month. Pay Day is played on a one-month calendar with 31 days. During the game, players will have to deal with various bills and expenses, but will also have the opportunity to make deals on property and earn money. At the end of each month, players are paid their salary (the same for each player) and must then pay off all outstanding bills, taking out a loan if necessary. Most money (or least debt) wins after a certain number of months decided by the players (3 months usually takes 30 minutes to finish).
One of the things that I vividly remember is the paper money used in the game. And yes… it is still here.
Looking at the board, the month has quite a bit of activity going on.
Each day there is something that is happening that has the players doing something. There is only 1 space on the board where players get to take a breath and that is on the 7th day…..It is a day of rest. Interesting… a subtle Biblical reference in the game taken from the Ten Commandments.
As I was playing the game, I realized that I was pretty much along for the ride. 95% of the game is based upon the luck of the die rolling. Movement is based on the die roll, so players have no control over what spaces they move to and have to endure whatever bonus or penalty is associated with that space. And based upon the roll of the die, my opponents can have a better or worse opportunity on the very same space that I occupy.
The game leaves players with only a few decisions to make: buy a deal, take a loan out, and making payments on a loan. As I have been playing more of the modern board games that put players more in control of their destiny during the game, I felt a bit restricted in what I could do to make optimal moves. The main decision to make was how I was managing my money.
In making deals, I really need to think about how I am managing my money. Do I need to take a loan out to pay for this deal? Will I get lucky and land on a space that allows me to sell that deal? If I take out loans, they are tabulated on a loan pad and on Pay Day, I have to pay interest on those loans, much like in real life. But, I do get an opportunity to pay down these loans so that is a good thing. Other aspects of the game that remind me of real life is the mail call.
Bills piling up, junk mail, etc. fill our mailboxes every day and during the game, every piece of mail we receive is a mystery. The bills that arrive are completely unplanned and so we are again at the mercy of the luck of the draw.
One last thing that has to do with luck: Rolling a 6. If I roll a 6 when I am rolling for movement, I hit the jackpot! and take all the money on the jackpot! space in the lower right corner of the board. Sometimes it can be a lot of cash, other times not one red cent.
Well… There are certain things that Pay Day does that is a good thing and that is challenges players to manage their money. Nothing is guaranteed in this game except the monthly salary. So you need to be prepared for anything. This is a good life lesson for today because it is always important to have a handle on finances.
Being able to adjust the length of the game is a good thing as well. It makes the game adaptable to different situations in which players a playing. Do I want something quick or do I want to play for 6 to 12 months? Length of play is a very big issue when it comes to being able to bring a game to the table to play it, and bringing a game to the table to play it is just a tool for being able to spend time with others in their physical presence.
I had fond memories of Pay Day when I was a kid, and in a way I am glad the game has gotten back into my collection. Looking at the game in today’s gaming standards… is Pay Day a good game? Well, it is still for sale and I just saw a retro edition of the game at Target recently. So the game is still being played 40+ years after it’s release. I would say overall, yeah the game is good. It has survived this long in a market where games come and go all the time. For me, do I think Pay Day is a good game? The short answer is no. It is more of an activity where I am rolling a die each turn and moving to a space and doing what it says. In fact the rules state, your turn ends when you are finished doing what you are told to do. For most of the game I am not involved in making a decision. I land on a space and roll the die. The die result determines the outcome of what happens, or the amount of money that will be affected. Since the game is played in 1 month increments, the same board is used repetitively and so it gets boring rather quickly. Maybe now our brains are constantly looking for more and this game doesn’t have that “more” to offer.
Will Pay Day stay in my collection? The answer is yes. There are only a few of the classic games that I have that have a permanent place in my collection because they are part of who I am, because they were a part of my past, and still part of my present. More than anything there is a sentimental value attached to the game. Plus, some of these classic board games have laid some initial foundation work for the games we enjoy today. We need to see where we have been before we can see where we are now. Mostly, this game doesn’t take up much space so it can easily be stashed somewhere. Unless the kids want to play it, I don’t see the game returning to the table any time soon. However, I would not refuse to play it despite it being a game that I would not seek out today.
Some things seemed better in the past, and for me Pay Day is one of those things. Decades later what I once thought was a fun game to play, translated into an activity that sort of felt flat. I still have those memories of Pay Day being fun as a kid, so I will hold on to those.