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Subject: The Game of 49: Sid Sackson's Lost Lovechild rss

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Demetri Ballas
United States
Durham
North Carolina
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Let's talk about the mass market.

We throw a lot of shade at big box stores for not carrying the kinds of games we tend to enjoy. We get tired of seeing yet another version of Clue or Life on the shelf while we're looking for paper towels. The card games on offer are by and large garbage, with the exception of Monopoly Deal which is actually brilliant and I will fight you if you disagree.

Target seems to have gone out of their way to change this perception as of late, stocking not only the known winners of our gaming niche (Codenames, Pandemic, Sheriff of Nottingham, etc.) but also some new ones as exclusives to their stores. One of said exclusives is a slightly fancier reprint of a tiny 2014 Kickstarter game titled, simply, The Game of 49. What makes this newcomer so special?


(Many thanks to Sean Kelly for the glamour shot!)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS:

The Game of 49 used to look like an prototype made in Excel. It now looks like the physical version of a game show no one watched. Bright colors, signs of various currencies, and bountiful buzzwords beautifully adorn the lid of the box. Note to publishers looking to market to 20-somethings who are obsessed with board games and are also named Vysetron: please use more alliteration. It tickles my brainmeats.

Unfortunately the actual components are about what you would expect from a mass market title. Smallish board, tiddlywink tokens, paper money, and a weird cardboard thing filling up 1/4 of the box just to justify it being square shaped. Bonus points for having removable inserts for the cards and money though.

THE RUNDOWN:

The goal of The Game of 49 is to get 4 of your tokens in a row. You do this by auctioning off the spaces on the board one by one. Everyone starts with $49, but the money all has the same back to keep your totals secret during the game. Each turn you'll flip a card off the top of the deck, then auction off the lot shown by either raising the bid or passing. Once you win a lot it's yours forever with one exception that I'll get to later.

Where things get spicy are the wild cards. They make up about 1/5 of the deck and indicate a region of the board. The winner of a wild auction gets to claim any open lot in that area. Once the wild auction wraps up everybody gets paid $7 for every token they have on the board, up to a max of $49.

Aaaaaaaalso there are 5 wilds that are specifically for the 49 space. Besides being smack dab in the middle and therefore super useful, the 49 is the only space that you can bump other players out of. If the previous resident of space 49 wins another wild 49 auction they get to claim ANY LOT THEY WANT.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

I looked up Mark Corsey's BGG profile after I played this and learned that this is his only published design. I was genuinely disappointed to learn this because this game is brilliant. It captures the tension and bluffs of auctions perfectly and strips away anything extraneous. It's easy to teach but challenging to master, in particular because winning early bids to build up your payouts without kneecapping yourself is a balancing act on a knife's edge.

Incoming unpopular opinion: paper money is not always terrible and this is one of the rare games where it actually works. Besides keeping the production cost down ($20 MSRP is bonkers) it leads to a fantastic feeling of tension as you start eyeing other people's stacks, trying to estimate how much of their pile of bills is just singles. Leafing through your cash as you contemplate raising by just one more dollar feels fantastic.

There are two potential negatives that prospective players may want to be aware of. The deck is entirely randomized so you can go a while without payouts. It creates an interesting dynamic as the valuation of spaces rises and falls dramatically, but I've seen some players get frustrated with it. The game also tends to have a touch of Kill Dr. Lucky syndrome toward the end as blocking your opponents and passing that responsibility off to other players becomes more important. That said, it's not nearly as game-defining as KDL and I don't personally consider it a negative.

I could recommend this to just about anyone and am happy to do so. It directly competes with other light auction games like Mogul, Biblios, and For Sale and is at least as strong as those, if not better. Families and gamer groups alike can get a ton of mileage out of this box. It feels like a lost Sid Sackson design and that's a massive compliment to Corsey. The Game of 49 is a modern classic and I look forward to playing it for years to come.

SCORE THAT I FORGOT TO ADD: Alliteration/49
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Dave Schmidt
Canada
Strasbourg
Saskatchewan
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Vysetron wrote:
It feels like a lost Sid Sackson design and that's a massive compliment to Corsey. The Game of 49 is a modern classic and I look forward to playing it for years to come.


Totally. Agree.

Each time I've played it's been a ton of fun.
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Tony C
United States
Holly Springs
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Great review!
I just picked this up for about 7 bucks net at the Target sale and played it twice, two player. While obviously auctions aren't quite as exciting with 2 players, it worked, at least for the 20-30 minutes we played (two games). The first game did get a little frustrating because a wild card/payoff card never came up and we just bid a ton of money (I might not have shuffled well enough), but the second one was tighter and more exciting - we were letting cards go unbought we had 8 and 10 chips on the board. It came down to a Wild 49 card up for auction, my son had that space already, he won the bid because I ran out of money, and he was able to put a chip on any lot, making four in a row.

I was worried about game balance and rich-get-richer, but for the two player game, it balances that by making each lot worth *less* once you get over 7, which was a subtle nuance that made a big difference.

I look forward to playing it with more players. I'm not normally a huge auction fan, but this one has been enjoyable so far. I'm ok with the paper money but I don't like the translucent chips much. But I guess that helps people see the numbers of the lots.

I also like Monopoly Deal and the other card game (Millions?), though the giant CAH shelf at Target makes me sad.

I currently have a stack of big epic games to play solo in my game room (Legends of Andor, Temple of Elemental Evil, Defenders of the Last Stand), but there's something to be said for a good, interactive, 20 minute game that people can learn in three minutes that's more than a party game.
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Dan King (The Game Boy Geek)
United States
Gilbert
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I am SO glad more people are finding this gem! It made my family game of the year a couple years ago and I've been the one in the media pushing it the hardest!
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Flawed Hero
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Rochester
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how does this game differ from Chinatown? Game of 49 seems like it's a lighter version that sort of strips down some of good stuff?
 
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Dan King (The Game Boy Geek)
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In my opinion they are so different in many ways. They don't even feel similar. There is no trading or negotiation. It's a quick auction for spots. But it's an engine building economic game since every spot you get on the board will pay you out over the game at certain intervals.
In my experience this game has lots of excitement, where Chinatown to be was dull, boring, and the open perfection information killed the main part of that game (negotiation) because everyone knew what each thing is worth to someone.
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