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Subject: [review] Hab & Gut - a gem of the stock market rss

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Carlos Robledo
United States
Atlanta
Georgia
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Overview

Hab & Gut, by Carlo A. Rossi and from Winning Moves, is a new stock market/buy and sell game. I had the chance to play this game at Atlanta Game Fest this past weekend and I thought it had a great mix of mechanics and elegance. It was released at Essen 08 and one of the attendees had a copy.

In Hab & Gut you are basically a stock broker. You buy and sell stock not only for yourself, but also for your clients. At the end of the game, whoever made the LEAST amount of money for the clients automatically loses. From the remaining players, whoever ammassed the biggest fortune wins.

What you get in the box



a board with a track of the stock's values
6 wooden pawns to track the values of the 6 goods
6 decks of goods cards
1 deck of market influence cards
5 player boards for all players to keep track of cards given to
stacks of paper money
5 card stands to keep your cards visible (more on this below)

In general all the components were standard euro fare. Good quality components, but it does contain the dreaded paper money (which doesn't bother me as much) which I know a lot of gamers hate. I liked the art on the cards, though it is pretty simple.

Setup and Gameplay

Place all pawns in the starting spots in the track. Give each player 300 bucks and 8 market influence cards. Players prop up their cards in the stands and its the first player's turn. Here is the interesting part. During the course of the game, you are allowed to look and play cards from your stand AND the stand to your left. So you will be playing with your cards, plus your left neighbor's cards. Woah.

There are 2 phases of the game, with 4 rounds each. There are scoring scoring rounds after both phases, and the game is over after the second scoring.

Each round, the first player chooses to either buy or sell goods. He then buys OR sells up to three goods. All players repeat this process, until its the first player's turn again. Keep purchased goods cards in your hand (not the stands). Whenever you sell or buy, you always receive or pay the amount listed on the space where the wooden marker of the good you are trading is sitting. So if the red pawn is on 75 and you are selling 3 red cards, you would receive 225 dollars.

During your buy/sell part of the round, you are also allowed to place up to one goods card face down on your player board. This card is a stock you have purchased for your customers, and will only come back up during the next scoring round. More on this later.



After all players have the opportunity to buy and sell, the first player picks ONE market influence card from each stand he has access to, one from his own stand and one from the player on his left. Market influence cards range from +6 to -6 (even numbers only, no zero), and there are twice as many positive cards as there are negative. These two cards are played differently. The player has to choose one to be played for full value, and the other only gets played for half value. So if the first player chooses a "+6 red" card for full value and a "-2 yellow" card for half value (remember they must be one from your stand and one from the left player's stand) then the red stocks would go up 6 points and the yellow stocks down one point. All players now will go in order choosing their 2 cards.

After all players have played their 2 market influence cards, first player marker is passed left and next round starts. The phase is over after all market influence cards have been played at the end of round 4, and scoring begins.

Scoring

Scoring happens after the first and second phases of the game. All players turn the 0-4 cards they placed on their player boards during the game and cash them out at current market value, just as if you were selling them. This cash is NOT owned by the player, but goes in the box on the far end of your player board. This represents the money you have made for your customers. It is important to have enough cash there to NOT be the player with the LEAST amount. Cash, not cards, on the player boards are public knowledge and can be reviewed at any time by another player.

After the first scoring, all players draw 8 new market influence cards and the second phase begins. Pawns and goods cards in hand remain.

In the final scoring round, players add their customer's cash piles and whover has THE LEAST TOTAL CASH is immediately out of the game! Afterwards, remaining players cash out any goods cards in hand for current market value and whoever has the most cash in hand wins the game. (Remember not to count customer's cash in your final cash total!)

Impressions

This was a very exciting game all the way. The fact that one player will ALWAYS be out keeps you tense at all times. Cleopatra has this exact mechanic as well, and it's one of the reasons I love the game. Another very interesting mechanic is the fact that there is semi-hidden information throughout the game. You always know HALF of what your left and right players can do. We played a 5 player game and it was great fun, as you also don't know anything about the other 2 players at all. It always made the market change somewhat differently than what you were planning on.

What didn't I like about it? Well, two things. First, I thought the amount of goods cards were fairly limited. There are only about 12 of each good, so if people can figure out which are going to be the very profitable ones early they can go fast and you might not see them again. Second, I am not sure that the fact there are twice as many positive cards as there are negative ones is that good. The game I played in and the game I observed both ended the game with either all or almost all goods at max value. Maybe we were being too nice.

Even then, I had a blast playing it and another one of the players, a big Ra fan, said it was his favorite stock/trading game of all time. I haven't had THAT much exposure to the genere, so I reserve my comment on that. I would give this game a try if you like stock market games, without a doubt.
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