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Subject: The Bottom Line: For Sale - 10/10 rss

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Jon Ben
British Columbia
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Of course I've been up all night! Not because of caffeine, it was insomnia. I couldn't stop thinking about coffee.
For Sale is a medium-light bidding game for 3-6 players, and takes about 18-25 minutes to play. This makes it a great filler game, one to bide some time between longer games at game night. In the genre of bidding games I consider it second only to Modern Art, in fact these are the only bidding games anyone needs to own... unless they are particularly fond of the genre.

In For Sale there are 30 real estate cards numbered uniquely from 1 to 30, 1 (a card board box) is more valuable than 2 (an out house) and so on up to 30 (a space station). At the beginning of the game everyone is given some amount of money, around $14000, and a number of real estate cards equal to the number of players are dealt face up. Players place bids in a clockwise order, each bid must be larger than the previous bid. At any point a player can choose to pass instead of bidding, in which case they collect the lowest (i.e. worst) numbered real estate card from the table, they are now done until all players have passed and collected a card, at which point a new set of cards is played face up. Play continues in this manner until all real estate cards have been used. When a player passes they only pay half of their current bid (if they have already bid something), the player who wins that auction round (they get the best card on the table) pays the full amount of their bid.

The second phase of the game involves the cheque cards. There are again 30 such cards, but this time they appear in pairs: two voids, two valued at $2000, two valued at $3000, and so on, up to two valued at $15000. A number of cheque cards equal to the number of players are played face up, players then secretly select a real estate card (from those won in the first phase), and all players reveal their real estate cards simultaneously. The person with the highest numbered real estate card gets the largest cheque and so on down to the least valuable real estate card and the least valuable cheque. The played real estate cards are now spent (discarded from the game) and play continues in this fashion until all cheques have been allocated.

Players sum up the total amount of money they have in chueqes and any left over cash from the first phase of the game, the person with the largest total wins!

Yes, this game is fantastic! The rounds are quick and seem very focused in terms of game play, in the first phase you must out bid your opponents to get good real estate cards, and in the second you must be crafty enough to convert your real estate cards into good cheques. The first phase is open bidding and there are probably obvious strategies to use depending on the spread in the cards and the bid history. You don't want to win many auctions, since paying the full amount of your bid will quickly bankrupt you. Coming in second is often desirable, but easier said than done. In the second phase you have secret bidding which brings much doubt and some psychology into play, and since this is where you actually make the bulk of your final score it is possible to do well despite not having the best real estate cards. It also demotes the game from pure strategy, which in general takes the competitive edge off.

Fast fun play with a little strategy (but not enough to cause analysis paralysis), and a good deal of uncertainty (or luck), make this game a superior filler. It is the only game I always bring to board game night, and it is the only one that gets played every time I bring it.

COMPONENTS: 10/10 - This game only has cards and cardboard money, but they are very well made. The cards are durable and feature very colourful and appealing art work (try to find the animal hiding on every card). The money is easily the best money in any game I own, and is topped only by the coins that come with Conquest of the Empire.

RULES: 9/10 - It's hard to make the rules to this game confusing, and aside from an ambiguity in the edition I own everything is crystal clear.

BGG RANK: 10/10 - I expect to see this game hitting the table at least once a week for many years. It's easy to explain, fun to play, has some general appeal (after all monopoly is a real estate game eh), and fills a particular niche in the gaming world.
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