Brandhood (or maybe we should call it “Cloudworker”) is a hypothetical board game I made up (or rather “wished existed”) while thinking through some ideas related to my first book project. I figured it might be worth trying to spark an open-source style experiment to invent the real thing. If this works, any output will released open source, and we’ll have ourselves a board game for the Future of Work. It is inspired by Monopoly, the Game of Life and Snakes and Ladders (Chutes and Ladders in America). Some ideas also came from my Cloudworker post.

Ponder these pictures, review the explanation/meta-rules, and start suggesting game play elements using this Google form. If you’d like to help make this game actually happen, email me. I’ll set up a Google group or something to coordinate if there is enough interest.

The Name

For the purpose of the game, I define Brandhood as having achieved enough financial and social capital to sustain the rest of your life in a happy condition of steady, high demand for your unique talents. If my neologism cloudworker catches on, game players will be known as “cloudworkers” and game pieces will be tiny little coffee cups, blackberries and other cloudworker paraphernalia.


The basic premise of the game is as follows. Each of the three rings — representing traditional paycheck employment, free agency and destitution (“descent into madness”) respectively — has roughly Monopoly style game play, with a single circuit representing about a year of working life. The first person to reach “brandhood” wins. Each circuit contains four types of special squares where positive and negative life events of varying magnitudes can happen. All of the game narrative is contained in the cards corresponding to the squares, so the game can be “programmed” with any set of cards (i.e. it is an “open architecture” board game, where the set of cards is the program!). A set of cards is known as a script.

Unlike Monopoly, you invest in or lose your own intellectual and social capital with money and/or time, rather than the zero-sum resource of real-estate. Your total net worth at any given time consists of assets (example, a blog, or health insurance), money, social network capital and “free” (discretionary) time.

Big opportunities and catastrophes are represented by ladders and snakes, and enable you to shift levels. But unlike the snakes-and-ladders game, you can only climb ladders if you meet certain net worth conditions and want to. You may want to defer a ladder climb if you feel the timing or your asset position isn’t right. Snakes work the other way: you can only avoid being eaten if you meet certain net worth conditions. You can choose to get eaten even if you can escape, and thereby commit career self-sabotage.

The three-ring structure is important: the inner ring sends you down a vicious spiral of self-destruction. The outer circle will send you on a virtuous spiral of increasing net worth, with low chance of crashing. The middle ring, where you start, is a break-even life pattern. [Techie note: if some smartie wants to do Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) simulations…]

Meta Rules

  1. Players start by picking a “script” governed by 4×3=12 card decks. For each of the three rings of game play, there are 4 card decks: reds, purples, ladders and snakes. Currently available stub scripts are Intrapreneur, Employee 2.0, Slash, Entrepreneur. All 12 card decks for the chosen script are shuffled and stacked face-down before game play.
  2. At the start of play (metaphorically, “first job after high-school”), each player is given three forms of start-up capital: $10,000 in cash, 20 social network contacts, and 500 hours of discretionary time (50 weeks/year X 10 hours/week).
  3. Players start in the middle ring, in the top-left white square and proceed clockwise, by rolling dice
  4. When a player lands on a purple, red, ladder-inner-end or snake-head square, he/she must take a corresponding card from the top of the appropriate deck, and follow the instructions. The card is then returned to the deck, which is reshuffled.
  5. Each time you pass Go (white square) on the middle ring, you get some guaranteed cash (“paycheck”). In the “Intrapreneur” and “Employee 2.0” scripts, you get a paycheck in the outer ring as well, as well as access to high-probability “bonus” events. In the inner (destitution) ring, you get a small unemployment benefit/welfare payment each time you fall in, but nothing when you pass Go.
  6. Discretionary time capital accrues every time you pass Go, at the rate of 500 hours/circuit in the middle ring, and at 2500 hours/circuit in the outer and inner rings.
  7. Social capital (number of trusted contacts in your social network) can only be earned/lost through events, not by passing Go.
  8. If a player slides down a snake to destitution, he/she is out of the game
  9. Players can climb to the Cloud of Brandhood (and thereby win) any time they land on the outer-ring Go square with certain net worth conditions (financial and social).
  10. Proposed tenth meta-rule: I’d like to make the banker a marked regular player (named “Alan Greenspan”) if possible (but I can’t figure out the right game play elements.). If nobody can figure that out, the bank will work as in Monopoly.

I think that’s enough meta rules. If that isn’t enough guidance to help you craft gameplay ideas, I’ll elaborate dictatorially of with some sort of voting.

So, start brainstorming and adding game-play ideas to the hopper. The main thing needed is actual card-events and game rules.