Were you a gaming little girl (or boy) back in the 80s? Remember Bargain Hunter? The shopping lists? The agony of getting stuck with the stupid lizard as your pet? The joy of buying the TV on sale? The cool, cool, COOL credit card machine? Did you see it at the Goodwill lately and now you're wondering if it's worth the $2 to take a trip down Nostalgia Lane?
Well, my friend, I've been there, done that, and now I'm writing the review.
Bargain Hunter is a children's 'roll and move' (it's really a spinner) game that plays 2-4 players. You progress around the board, entering various shops (inner sub-tracks on the board) and buying the different items you need to complete your shopping list. However, the prices change from shop to shop, and from time to time, so a careful shopper can buy what they need for less. Events and bargain finder cards will change your fortune for better or worse. There are also penalty spaces on the board that cost you money without fulfilling any items on your list. The winner is the first player to buy all the items on their list and owe nothing on their credit cards - every consumer's dream!!
Since there is almost no info on this game, I'll be thorough. The components are pretty decent quality for their time. My copy hasn't been handled by unsupervised kids and is still in good shape, despite being probably about 25 years old.
The game contains -
- 1 game board
- 1 plastic credit card machine with spinner
- 1 plastic player token and one matching plastic credit card for each player (red, yellow, green or blue)
- a pad of shopping lists (you need 2 different pets from the pet store, an armchair, a bed, a clock, a dresser, a kitchen set, a lamp and a sofa from the furniture store, and a blender, a clothes dryer, a dishwasher, an electric iron, a radio, a fridge, a stove, a TV, a toaster, and a washing machine from the department store)
- paper currency in $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, and $500 denominations.
- 4 price list cards for each of the 5 stores (2 furniture stores, 2 department stores, 1 pet store)
- 17 Event cards
- 17 Bargain-Finder cards
(There, I'm sure that's more than you cared to know.)
On your turn, you spin the spinner, which ranges from 1-8, then move forward that number of spaces. The various kinds of spaces are -
- bonus spaces - these say things like 'Go to any store space' or 'Lottery! Win $100'. The best one of these is 'Tag Sale! Pick up any item for $10 X spinner' which lets you buy any item you still need, for instance the kitchen set which can go for as high as $700, for $10 to $80 depending on how the spinner falls. Very helpful!
- penalty spaces - most of these are of the 'spin the spinner and pay $10 X spinner' variety. Auto repairs is $50 X spinner. There are also a couple spaces that make you go forward or backward to a different penalty space.
- store spaces, entrances, exits - there are various inner tracks for each of the five stores that connect to the main track at an entrance space, labeled with the store's type (department store, pet store, etc.) and an exit space. When PASSING an entrance space (you need not land directly on it), you get to choose whether to enter the store or not. If you want to enter, simply count out the rest of the spaces for your turn on the inner track; if you don't want to, stay on the outer track. Each space on the inner track names one item for sale at that store. If you land on a space for an item you wish to buy, simply look at the price list and pay the price, then write in that price on your shopping list and check the box that shows you have bought that item. If you land directly on the store EXIT space (simply passing it will not be enough), then you may choose to either go back to the exact item you want in that store, allowing you to buy a needed item immediately, or draw an Events card, which brings us to...
- Events spaces - draw an Events card. Events cards are typically good things like 'Send an opponent back to the RESTAURANT' (a penalty space) or 'Win $300 in a lottery!' One card however makes you lose a turn due to a long check-out line.
- Bargain-Finder spaces - draw a Bargain-Finder card. Most of these cards let you go forward or backward a certain number of spaces in stores only, instead of going the number on the spinner. This is helpful for getting the exact items you need instead of simply having to wait until random chance lands you where you want to be. A few cards give you a Special Sale that allows you to take a set amount off any purchase.
- Sale! - landing on a Sale! space (and these are both on the outer track and inside the two department stores) allows you to change any, all or none of the price lists for the stores. You may not peek before you change the list. The thing is that prices vary greatly from list to list, and changing the list will make some items cheaper and others more expensive. For example, on the purple Department Store lists, the Dishwasher is variously $200, $225, $250, or $275. A very young card-counter could make this game quite strategic by memorizing all the possible prices for each of the 23 items available for sale and then changing the lists to screw their opponents who were facing low prices, and to help themselves when they were facing high prices, but my guess is most of us will approach the decision of whether or not to change a price with a much more 'what the heck' attitude.
- Window Shopping - do nothing.
- Payday! - collect $300. If you owe money to the bank, you MUST pay 10% interest on your loan now. After you have paid the interest, you may then repay part or all of the loan if you like.
(Wait, interest? Loans? Where did she explain that?)
OK, you caught me. I haven't explained that yet because it's overly complicated and to my mind, detracts from the game. In a nutshell - if you want to buy an item and you don't have the money, you can borrow money from the bank, in amounts of $100, IF your credit card is approved. Now, you HAVE to do this at least once in the game, or else you won't get to play with the credit card machine and where's the fun in that? But it's bad strategy to borrow TOO much money, so as fun as it is to pull the sliding handle on the credit card machine and see if your credit is randomly approved or disapproved, try to restrain yourself. Just like in life, credit cards may be fun, but they're a Bad Idea if you want to win. There are two Events cards that read 'Rich uncle pays off all your credit debts now!' if you feel like playing a lottery for the big bargain. But unless you get very lucky and hit those 2/17 odds, if your opponent avoids debt and you embrace it, you're going to lose.
Anyway. If your credit is approved, take the money you need and write down the amount you borrowed on your shopping list. You may borrow up to $1000. If an unavoidable expense (penalty, interest due on a loan) forces you to borrow more than $1000, then you are in Financial Disaster and you are not allowed to buy ANYTHING until you pay off your debt to down below $1000 again. The only upside is that you don't have to pay any penalties while you are in Financial Disaster. But since the only way to get more money is to pass Payday, going into Financial Disaster means a MINIMUM of one full round around the board where you can't do anything while your opponents blithely spend away. Definite ouch, and makes for a boring round to boot. In all my plays of this game, I think we only ever had a player go into Financial Disaster once.
*****LIKES AND DISLIKES*****
As I only had one sister who played games back in the 80s, and only have one little daughter now, I don't think I've ever played this with more than two players. But I'd imagine the only difference would be that it would take even longer to finish - which brings me to the game's biggest flaw - it's WAY too long for what it is. A two player game takes about an hour, it should really be about half that time. Max. In fact, I just asked my 7 year old if she wanted to play it with me before I wrote the review and she said 'No, but I'll play something short.' There you have it - target audience says this is tooooooooooo long.
But really, it's bad form to talk about a game's flaws behind its back like this, so let me tell you what I DO like about it. YES, even though most of the game is randomly determined by the spinner, there is enough decision making that a player who shops smart and budgets carefully will usually beat someone who just buys whatever is available all the time. And while you probably can't memorize the price lists, you can make some educated guesses as to what will come up next sometimes and change the price list to favor yourself. So woohoo, decision making in an old-style children's game, yay!
Second point in favor - I actually like this game better for teaching money management to kids than games like The Allowance Game because of said decision making. It irritates the heck out me when games that are supposed to TEACH kids who to handle money end up being COMPLETELY random. That totally sends the wrong message. Planning with your money trumps random spending every time. And while credit cards ARE a focus of this game, it only takes a couple plays to realize that it's harder to WIN if you use your credit cards, despite the advertising that makes you feel like using the credit card machine is the big fun of the game. So, a game that actually, if used right, can actually teach kids to resist credit cards, despite the fact that credit cards are presented as 'fun'.
Third point in favor - optimal strategy changes through the course of the game. A winning strategy is to budget carefully and avoid debt, however it's difficult to land on the spaces you need when you need them. A player who passes up too many opportunities to buy, even a higher priced item, may find themselves being passed by a more spendthrift player who rolls well. This is avoidable by a combination of hoarding money in the early game, keeping an eye on your opponent, and if they start to pull ahead of you in number of items bought, use your financial reserves to buy whatever you need as soon as you land on it to catch up while your opponent waits to get more money (which takes longer, especially if they are paying interest).
(What, I'm not supposed to work out complicated strategies for kiddie games? Really? Darn.)
In short, I like it. Can't say I LOVE it, but it's got a place on my shelf. It's too long, but house rules like 'first person to get half their items wins' make it more bearable. It's a trip down Memory Lane for me, though, so that makes it more fun. If you've never played it before, probably not so much fun. Unless you've got a kid who needs a lesson in why credit cards are dumb even when they look really cool, then it's probably worth the $2 at the Goodwill. And if you played this as a child yourself, spend the $2 - you may be surprised at how well it holds up. It's not Gulo Gulo, but it's probably better than you think.
Thanks for the review, I was working one up myself but you seem to have hit most of what I was going to say
I had this game as a kid, and when I got back into the hobby as an adult, this game was the first one I sought out in thrift stores (and got a complete copy for only $2 in short order!)
I admit the game has its flaws, but I always enjoyed it. Even my long time gaming group liked it, and it was just requested for an upcoming meeting!
My wife just found this at Goodwill and I remember the commercials for the game, but never played it. We shall see soon enough... Thanks for the early tip on the half items, Sounds like a good plan.
Wow! You have a lot of patience. We tried to play this as a family and found it a tedious slog. I think I remember loving it as a kid but when my nephew (8) didn't even enjoy it I knew it was bad. At least the box is huge - fits BOTH of our cats!