We can learn many lessons from the card game, Warlords and Scumbags. It is a climbing game known in other parts of the world as President, Landlord, Capitalism, Butthead, Root Beer, Trou du Cul (France), Einer ist immer der Arsch (Germany), and Hűbéres (Hungary).
If these unusual names don’t intrigue you enough to google the history or rules, I don’t know what would. Wardlords and Scumbags can bring out the best and the worst in people. It has the power to bring you to the top of the pecking order and then back down again in an instant.
As I played this game recently while holidaying with family, I was struck with the many analogies that I could draw from. Here are some life lessons about Wardlords and Scumbags that I pondered.
1.You can move up in the world.
Warlords and Scumbags is an unfair game. Get dealt a bad hand or make a poor decision and you can find yourself down in position of Scumbag. Although it can be extremely difficult and seem impossible at times, you can change your destiny and move up the ranks again.
Take time to consider your hand carefully and see where your winners could be. Figure out a strategy. Know that you won’t move up to Warlord straight away but if you keep plugging away, round by round, you’ll move up in status.
Despite where you start in life, you can make changes for the better. You may have been born into a poor family, disadvantaged neighbourhood, raised by a single parent or a foster home. You may have rented lots of houses and moved multiple times. You may have had limited or no family support. Any one of these factors can make life extra hard and it can feel like you can’t get a foot up.
Struggling is always a way of life. Know that it doesn’t have to be like this. You can change your destiny and move up in the world. Reach out for some non-judgemental advice from a free financial counsellor on the National Debt Helpline. They will be able to give you some pointers in the right direction.
2. You can be dealt a bad hand.
In games like Warlords and Scumbags, sometimes you are just dealt a really bad hand. When the cards are passed around and you start flicking through them, it can become very obvious that it’s not a great hand. Terrible even. What on earth are you supposed to do with these? Sometimes the best thing you can do is realise that you won’t be winning this one. Aim to simply make it through without going down to Scumbag. Win what you can, forget about the rest.
In life we can also be dealt a bad hand. It may have been tough from the very start or perhaps circumstances have flipped our world on its head. You lost your job, had a relationship breakdown, had an accident or diagnosed with an illness. You may have a child with a disability that requires much of your time, energy and your ability to earn money. You may be physically isolated from those you love or feel lonely despite being in close proximity to people.
Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Try to make just one change at a time. Know that things might not change straight away for you. Although your problems won’t be immediately solved, focus on making wise decisions and gradually moving ahead. Reach out for help and find a few key people to get around you for support.
3. The rich get richer.
Similar to games like Monopoly, in Warlords and Scumbags the rich tend to get richer, the poor get poorer. It can be so demoralising and cruel when you keep getting knocked down. It feels so unfair when you need to give your best cards to the Warlord. You virtually kiss goodbye your chance at winning the hand. You have to start from behind and watch them enjoy success.
It can feel so unfair in life too when life for us just feels tough. Finances are tight. Every decision affects how we can make the money stretch, and money also affects the choices that we make. When you can only afford to buy the cheap car but then it keeps breaking down, and you don’t have enough money to fix it up.
When you can’t get a home loan so instead you have to apply for rentals, put up with undesirable conditions, things needing fixing, rent going up and never knowing when you’ll have to move next. When you have a home and the hot water system breaks, followed by the washing machine, and salt damp means you need to waterproof the tiles in the shower.
Those who aren’t living week to week don’t have the same anxiety that comes with not being able to afford the basics, let alone the unexpected or unplanned. Those on minimum wage or living on one income are affected by the rising cost of living much more than those on a six figure one.
Know that the poor can get richer too. We can be savvy with the money we have and make some simple changes to make it stretch further. We can start up a side hustle to make more cash. We can start saving up an emergency fund to make sure we’ll be okay. We can set up sinking funds for different categories to save up for big expenses, planned and unplanned.
4. You can stuff up the best hand.
Isn’t this true with Warlords and Scumbags. There have been a few times that I’ve looked at my hand and couldn’t believe my luck. So many winners. I’ve got this in the bag. I begin playing, trying not to let on how smug I feel.
Then all of a sudden, I’ve made a couple stupid decisions and now can’t get in the game. I don’t know how on earth I’m going to get rid of this 3. I ponder how I got to this point. How did I have so many good cards and still manage to stuff it up? I feel embarrassed at my playing skills. I should have done better. I should have won this hand.
It’s not dissimilar to real life. We can be blessed into being born into a wealthy country, to a middle class family. We have been given all the right education and opportunities. We have the world at our feet. Then in the blink of an eye and a handful of choices, we have lost it all, or so it seems.
It has turned our lives upside down. We can’t quite believe what has happened when everything was going so well. A lifetime of working hard and doing the right things can be undone with one wrong decision.
5. There can be pressure at the top.
When you earn the rank of Warlord, it feels good. You are finally at the top. You have the title and the perks that go along with it. However with this comes a responsibility to hold your position and there is pressure to do well.
This can take away some of the fun as you grip on for success. When you lose the hand and you move down, sometimes to Scumbag (depending on the rules you play by), this can hurt. It’s a long way to fall from Warlord. You feel like you should have done better and are hard on yourself for failing. You can also cop a bit of slack from those you’re playing with. They love nothing better than toppling the king from his throne and swapping seats with you. It’s not a nice feeling.
In life, we can also feel pressured to maintain a certain standard. If you are in a prestigious career, there is often pressure to stay in this profession and move up the ranks. This often includes having the flashy house to entertain from, the nice car, the luxury holidays, the esteemed private school to send your children, designer labels and the latest tech gadgets.
There can be pressure from family to do the same career as those gone before you. If your father and grandfather were lawyers, you should follow in their footsteps. If your mother and grandmother were surgeons, you should study medicine and specialise in surgery too. There can be pressure to take over a family business.
It can feel like you have no other choice than to continue in a career because it is expected of you. It is worthwhile considering if this is really what you want to do. If you love it and it makes you happy, by all means, stay! If however, you do not enjoy this pathway, have no interest in it or it causes you stress, it might not be for you.
6. Decision making is hard.
In the midst of playing Warlords and Scumbags, it’s easy to struggle with decision making. There are different ways of playing your hand, and each option has a different outcome. Do you try to win rounds early or hold on to your winners? Do you play risky or keep it safe? Start low or play high? Play your singles, doubles or triples? How do you know who has what in their hand?
We can also become frozen in indecision in life. We can worry that we’ll stuff everything up if we make the wrong choices. We overthink everything. We struggle to move forward.
Do what you can to make wise decisions and then trust your instinct. You can only plan and prepare so much before you need to go with your gut and make a choice. Most of the time, these choices aren’t life or death. We can learn from our mistakes and keep moving forward. Progress over perfection.
7. You can move from Scumbag into second.
You can start off as Scumbag and work your way up to Warlord. You can be intentional, play a good hand, and turn things around. It often takes a few brave moves, sometimes risky, and can pay off. It is difficult but not impossible. It might be out of reach to go from Scumbag to Warlord immediately, but over the course of a few hands or the game, you might just have it in you.
In life, we can feel like we start off behind. It feels like we won’t ever make it through school, getting into university, graduating and getting a job. Trying to work up the ranks and earn a higher wage can feel discouraging. If you play to your strengths, work hard and take some bold steps, you can be rewarded. It might be out of reach to go from Scumbag to Warlord immediately, but over time you can make a change.
8. You can upskill.
In the game of Warlord and Scumbags, you can learn how to play better. You can either do this by having lots of practice or learning from the best, or a combination of both. You can watch how others play their hands. Perhaps even ask to watch them play while standing behind to watch their decision making. You can read up on strategies to try.
In the real world, we can learn how to get better at our jobs. Our weaknesses don’t have to define us. We can actively work on improving some areas. We can strive to be better, do better. We can learn on the job and figure out things as we go or we can do some extra study or training. We can find a mentor in our field and one day return the favour to someone else.
We can read books like Money School, Mindful Money, The Millionaire Next Door and The Barefoot Investor. Listen to podcasts like We Talk Cents, Sugar Mamma Fireplay, She’s on the Money, Captain Fi or The Broke Generation. Watch YouTube videos like Family Finance and Sugar Mamma.
9. Points to ponder.
Some final thoughts about Warlords and Scumbags and how it relates to real life.
Friends can betray you.
Sometimes you just get lucky.
You can have a good hand and lose, but not always have a good hand and win.
Sometimes you can teach someone and they might end up being better than you.
Taking risks can be scary. They can also pay off.
Make the right decisions and make friends.
It feels good moving up the world.
There are many ways to play the game of life.
A family that plays together stays together… unless they are very competitive.
Some people don’t know how to lose.
You are never too old to learn to play a new game.
Believe in yourself, trust your instincts, relax and have fun. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
In closing, Warlords and Scumbags is a brilliantly fun card game to play. I love that it brings out a competitive spirit whilst evoking fits of laughter too. Warlords and Scumbags hold so many analogies for life. If you haven’t got the pack of cards out for a while, do yourself a favour. Organise a games night, grab some snacks and drinks, dust off the pack and have some laughs. You might just be glad that you did.