High Society was the second Knizia game I played, after LotR:The Confrontation, and it was enough to cement my respect for his ability to design games with a very limited set of rules and components and yet to still imbue them with a remarkable depth.
I would like to see a boardgame equivalent of the TV show 'Junkyard Wars', in which random components from hundreds of boardgames were littered around, and the players had to design a new boardgame from whatever they could scavenge. Knizia would be reigning champion, hands-down.
High Society is a quick, simple auction game, in which players begin with a sum of money and attempt to use as little of it as possible to win as many items as they can. Items either have some points value or some multiplier attached.
There are a few things that spice High Society up. One is that the game ends immediately upon revealing the fourth multiplier card. That card, and any further down the deck, are never auctioned and play no part in the game. This means that the number 6 card (not usually very sought after) might actually turn out to be the highest value card that will go to auction. You might be able to pick it up cheap if you're lucky.
Another is that the player with the least money remaining automatically loses. What this tends to mean is that you can ignore one player, and just compete against the others. What I mean by this is that if you're in second place, but you're, say, 15 points behind another player, but she spent lots of money to get there, then you're actually in first place, and you just need to make sure that you stop the guy in third from overtaking you. What can really mess this up is if two or more people really overspend to get lots of points. Then you know that only one of them will be knocked out for having the least money, and so you're forced to spend big to catch up again.
Lastly, the sum of money that each player receives is not a continuous amount, but rather a series of discrete amounts. Furthermore, when increasing a bid, players can't take back cards already played to 'make change'. This means that if you bid $8 and you have $2, $15, $20 in your hand you can only raise to one of the following amounts: $10,$23,$25,$28,$30,$43,$45. Furthermore, if the bid comes back to you at $11, you're forced to drop out, or jump to $23, which might be a lot higher than you want to go. This can lead to you being really restricted in bidding during the final auctions, especially if you banked on the game ending earlier on.
In closing, High Society is quick to learn, although against experienced opponents a new player might feel that their only choice is to copy their neighbours for a few games, or else risk overspending and losing themselves the game. It is also surprisingly tense, especially if you think you've figured out exactly who your primary opponents are, and you're struggling to stay ahead of them. It's not too expensive (around $25-30CAN), and makes a great game to warm up to, or as a way to cool down after a long game session. The new Uberplay set has great components. The money cards are ok, but the auction cards are made of really thick cardboard that feels great and will last well. The art on the cards has a nice colourful, cartoony theme, each depicting a different item that an up-and-coming socialite would just have to own from a big screen TV (worth 1 point), all the way up to a private island (worht 10). The 9 card is the castle, which earned it the nickname "Chateau Neuf" in our playgroup
Some strategy notes:
I don't have too much to say about High Society strategy. One good point to keep in mind is that it is a bad idea to spend all of your cards from a particular range of values. You're much better off with a hand like 1,2,4,8,10,15,20 than you are with 1,2,12,20,25. They both represent the same amount of money, but the former has a lot more flexibility. Secondly, picking up a small valued card can be a good idea, because it gives you some added insurance against the thief (a negative card, which players bid to *avoid* picking up). If you have the 1, 4, and 5 cards, you'll be tied with a player who just has the 10, but the thief card will hurt him a lot more than it will hurt you.
Also, when bidding on the 0.5 multiplier card (which cuts your score in half) bear in mind that if you're going to pick it up, you'd like the other players to be paying roughly what they would pay to get a 2x multiplier card. This is because after picking up the 0.5x card, you're ahead of the others by the amount of money bid. If you can get a 2x card cheaper than this, then the scores haven't changed, and you're ahead in money.