Bargain Hunter or Impulse Buyer? --- No, Not When Buying, When Playing
Chuck Uherske
United States
Rockville
Maryland
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Some people know what car they want to buy. They go to the dealer lot, find the car, don't try to hide the fact that they want it, pay a little bit more than would a cagier buyer, and then drive it home, happy that they bought the car they hungered for.

Other people don't start with a particular car in mind. They comparison shop, decide which one offers the best deal relative to value, and then buy that one. On the way home, they congratulate themselves for having gotten the best deal possible, and their pleasure in this subliminally induces them later to find all sorts of imagined virtues in the car that they bought.

I am, without a doubt, the latter type of buyer. And this carries over into my game play.

Many games offer repeated tough choices between: 1) spending more for what you think you need most, and 2) spending less, or delaying a choice, hoping to save in money and in opportunity cost, recouping the proceeds later in the game.

Each game has its inherent break-even points. In a well-designed game, neither aggressive buying nor patience is consistently the right choice. Each of us brings a different set of instincts to the game, but after a few plays, an equilibrium starts to establish itself. Those of us who are first inclined to be auction bottom-feeders might eventually be induced to spend more, and those who incline to buy aggressively might be punished into spending less.

But in our group, the initial tendencies never go away. They seem to reflect enduring personality traits that carry over from game to game.

I'm our group's most committed Bargain Hunter. Actually, there is one fellow in our group who is even more of a Bargain Hunter than I (he almost goes so far as to be a "Hoarder"), but he plays far less regularly. Of the true regulars, I'm the bottom-feeder.

I'll list a few games below to explain what I mean.

Which are you -- an Impulse Buyer or a Bargain Hunter? And which games that you play most illustrate this divide relative to your fellow gamers?
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1. Board Game: The Princes of Florence [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:116]
Chuck Uherske
United States
Rockville
Maryland
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In Princes, my Bargain Hunting manifests itself by my usually picking up a few things for 200 florin in the first couple of rounds, "taking what the game gives me," as it were, and building a strategy around that. Oh, I'll compete for the jesters enough to get the price up, but more often than not, there seems to be someone else around who is just more determined to get them.

For a while in our group, this tendency served me extremely well. I won the vast majority of the games, which I attributed to Princes being a game of inches, wherein spending more than you should is never a safe play. More recently, I've lost a few to aggressive jester-buyers, and am wondering if I need to be willing to spend more in the early rounds to keep them at bay.
 
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2. Board Game: Dream Factory [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:575]
Chuck Uherske
United States
Rockville
Maryland
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When I first learned Traumfabrik, I thought I had the game licked. I won the first few games we played, both before and after I spent some time with a pencil and paper performing a few calculations to determine how high to go in various circumstances.

But it hasn't lasted. In several games in a row, the Impulse Buyers have beat my Bargain Hunting methods. Each recent game, they have had several successful movies to their name, while I sit on a pile of unspent contracts.

After a few such defeats, I concluded I wasn't going aggressively enough after the actors. Last game, I tried to do better, and I think it might have worked, but we played the game under severe time pressure and I screwed up a few evaluations along the way, leading to the same result.

Like Princes, I think this is a game where Bargain Hunting can be helpful, but if you take it too far, you're lost.
 
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3. Board Game: Santiago [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:522]
Chuck Uherske
United States
Rockville
Maryland
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I'm having results in Santiago that are similar to the ones I have in Traumfabrik -- too much cash at the end, too little investment payoff.

Santiago is a game that really separates the Impulse Buyers from the Bargain Hunters. The former bid really high in the most pivotal auctions, higher than timid sorts like myself are willing to go.

I haven't won Santiago yet, though each time I've surprised the aggressive buyers a bit by how close I came at the end though my board position didn't look good. I've been dying to play this again because I've had in mind for a while the specific adjustment I want to make to my evaluations. I'm convinced a Bargain Hunter can prosper in this game -- but I haven't proved it yet.
 
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4. Board Game: Venture [Average Rating:6.50 Overall Rank:2703]
Chuck Uherske
United States
Rockville
Maryland
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I must face up to reality here, and admit that Bargain Hunting just hasn't served me well in Venture.

In Venture, the Impulse Buyer goes after the corporations he wants. The Bargain Hunter is determined to get as many 64M and 32M group purchases as he can, so he hoards multi-denomination card groups in an effort to get bigger payoffs later.

I have a tendency to do too much of the latter, though not as much as our Hoarder (Our Hoarder not only does the above, he also tries to make his buys only with exact change -- heck, even I won't pass up a key purchase over that.)

In Venture, you simply have to strike when the iron is hot. It's a game that is tilted more to the person who recognizes the Right Card at the Right Time, and less to the person who plays for slow returns over the long run. Curse it!
 
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5. Board Game: Tikal [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:217]
Chuck Uherske
United States
Rockville
Maryland
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Tikal definitely rewards the Bargain Hunter as far as I can tell. I used to get crushed at the basic version of Tikal, so I know I don't have a great command of the tactics. But as soon as we switched to the auction version, I started winning, almost entirely because others were paying a lot of points for the hexes. I have never seen Tikal as a game where you an afford to give up a lot of victory points to get the better hexes, and I haven't changed my mind. Only around the volcano rounds do I start to become aggressive at all. It's worked very well for me. The Impulse Buyers, by contrast, have really suffered in this game, even though they have consistently fared better when counting non-auction-deducted points.
 
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6. Board Game: Evo [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:756]
Chuck Uherske
United States
Rockville
Maryland
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OK, this game is just killing my Bargain Hunting ways. I have played a number of games of this and been crushed each time. My opponents who have been willing to spend more for special mutation abilities have stomped my poorly evolved dinosaurs to the brink of extinction time and time again. Unfortunately, it's not just a matter of bidding more aggressively -- my grasp of what is valuable in this game is poor enough that too-aggresive bidding on my part would probably still result in losing, from paying too much for some things and not enough for others. But despite that, it's absolutely clear that this is no game to sit back and wait for points to fall into your lap -- it ain't gonna happen.
 
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7. Board Game: San Marco [Average Rating:7.18 Overall Rank:512]
Chuck Uherske
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Rockville
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In San Marco, "bargain hunting" basically means passing up the "high limit point" card groups, usually with doge/scoring, in favor of slower-return actions, like placing men on the board. As a licensed Bargain Hunter, this usually means that I lag behind on points for most of the game, while racking up men for the end-of-game scoring bonanza. Unfortunately, San Marco is a "gang up on the leader" game. If everyone decides that the leader is the guy with the most points, I'm fine. If they decide the leader is the guy with all the men in scoring position, I'm doomed. On balance, I haven't done all that well; I'm too obvious a target for banishments.
 
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8. Board Game: Modern Art [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:227]
Chuck Uherske
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Rockville
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We've only played one game of this, and it actually didn't hold to form.

It did for a while -- early on, the Impulse Buyers were paying top dollar for the works, while I was picking up only the occasional cheap item.

But by game's end, both of the Impulse Buyers were holding back and raking in cash from sales while I and one other player were doing all the buying -- each of us willing to spend for relatively small profits.

I did OK, finished second, but it's not clear to me what caused the role reversal in this game. Either its dynamics are a bit different, or it was a fluke. My guess is that I'll probably wind up a bargain hunter at this game too.
 
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9. Board Game: Samarkand [Average Rating:6.48 Overall Rank:2553]
Chuck Uherske
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Rockville
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Here the two character types are basically expressed by whether you try to buy cheap at the oases, not knowing what you'll get but hoping you get something you can use(the Bargain Hunter's usual strategy), or trading with the nomads for what you really, really want. I maintain that this is a game that rewards patience and bargain hunting -- but only to a limit. You can't hoard cards to the point that you're stuck with a fistful of them when the drawdeck runs out. Bargain Hunting wins in this game, but it carries risks and requires some tap dancing.
 
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10. Board Game: Daytona 500 [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:1334]
 
Chuck Uherske
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In Daytona 500, do you spend more for the car you want most, or hang back and pay very little, for any of the cars you're willing to take? If you're a Bargain Hunter, you do the latter. So far it's worked pretty well, although on balance, I think it's better to have two cars than one, so a little aggression here and there to make that happen is sometimes good.
 
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11. Board Game: WildLife [Average Rating:6.68 Overall Rank:1603]
Ray
United States
Carpentersville
Illinois
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One reason I love this game so much is you get to play both buying and selling sides in it entirely to the level of your choosing. Kramer's increased the complexity of PoF substantially here (you only get to buy in PoF). With the 10 card hand size there's a lot to work with.

On the selling side you can sell the cards or use the cards. You can do this to control the market value of the cards to work for the strategy your following in the game.

On the buying side you can constantly lower you score to try and win many auctions or you can never buy (unless you create conditions where you are the only one who can) hoarding your food to make vps of it.

Of late I've been the bargain hunter in our group trying to find ways to raise card values and sell them for large amounts of food (and only buying when its in a area I'm attacking or exclusive in). Yet I expect that will change as there are some impulse buying strategies I want to try too.


 
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12. Board Game: Die Macher [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:185]
Ray
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Carpentersville
Illinois
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Again I'm the bargain hunter here (at least early in the game) I like to forgo the contributions and roll the dice for party membership growth. But alas, I usually don't win any opinion polls.
 
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13. Board Game: Age of Steam [Average Rating:7.69 Overall Rank:114]
Ray
United States
Carpentersville
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Despite my bargain hunter tenedencies its just too dangerous not to go early in the turn order for the first couple turns of the game, IMO. Fortunately there is the wonderful TURN ORDER PASS option so you can always try to win and yet be a bargain hunter too. It's the best of both worlds! Anyone care to come up with a like list of games where you're trying to win something in an auction thats sole purpose is to make winning a further auction easier?
 
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14. Board Game: Ra [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:133]
Nate Sandall
United States
Portland
Oregon
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A cheap bast- er I mean bargain hunter in Ra will always try to be the last person with tiles in a round. The thought of racking in 8 great tiles with each lowly bid token has them smelling profits and drooling. I've tried this strategy, but definitely not when I sense someone else at the table really wants to. Then knowing they're not going to bid as much as they should on earlier auctions, I can often get a great deal at their expense! Of course they really get mad at me when I'm sitting there chanting "Ra! Ra! Ra!" once they get the bag and are the last in the round, and then their greed does them in!
 
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15. Board Game: New England [Average Rating:6.50 Overall Rank:1694]
Kevin Fowler
United States
Virginia Beach
Virginia
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I tend to be a Bargin Hunter, but that hurt me in our first game of New England.

First time we played this I went hog wild on the Pilgrims...gathered up a bunch of money...and then didn't spend it on anything!
 
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