My inlaws visited over the weekend, and I introduced them to Klunker. They had played Bohnanza before, and several other light euro-flavored card games. Since Klunker and Bohnanza share some qualities (set collection, coverting sets into cash via the cards themselves, diminishing availability) I thought this would be a good choice for a new game.
I was surprised how well it went over, thinking that after the first game it was a complete disaster. But we ended up playing three games in a row! Here are brief summaries of each of the three games.
Klunker - Game 1
Jay (me): 13
A fairly low-scoring and close game. We played methodically and somewhat blind to strategy to get a feel for the rules. We would often find ourselves jumping the gun and trying to buy when it was actually our turn to fill the shop windows or store jewelry in the vaults. After four rounds/turns, things felt much smoother.
Still, we were very tentative. No one put more than 1 item in their shop window at at time, and everyone was reluctant to invest in more than two different types of jewelry. As such, the game was also the longest (about 40 minutes) -- not only for learning the rules, but due to the fact that very few cards were used to place in the window or the vault.
Klunker - Game 2
Jay (me): 13
The second game only took about 20 minutes to play, as we all felt far more comfortable with the rules. People were willing to risk collecting several different types of jewelry, if they thought they could turn one over quickly. We started to see more two- and three-card window displays. Interestingly enough, some were set up deliberately to tempt another person (by offering things they were collecting), while we also saw our fair share of window dressing that player was hoping to keep.
Mary was the most aggressive in terms of collecting the widest variety of different items, and she paid for it with very low sales -- however, her card mix had something to do with that; after the game, Mary told us she rarely, if ever, would draw cards at the end of the round matching items she already had in her safe, and was forced to "eat" her own window display once when there were 2 types of jewelry different from what she was already collecting.
Klunker - Game 3
Jay (me): 19
Our third game also took right about 20 minutes, despite my best efforts to shut the game down quickly. My starting hand held 4 necklaces and 2 diadems. Since I was the first player, I put them all in my window, then skipped the investment phase to purchase them all and invest immediately, selling the necklaces for a quick 4 bucks. My refreshed hand had 2 each of diadems, earrings and tongue bobs... Both tongue bobs went in the display case, since Mary was collecting them.
Since Joe took over the starting player card, and I was in a tough position, I decided to simply move everything into the vault, despite being guaranteed to go last during the purchase phase (and possibly not even be able to purchase anything). Both diadems went into the vault first, for another 4 bucks, followed by the earrings. Purchasing did actually make it all the way back to me, and I was able to buy an earring and shoes from Trish for a buck. And since I ended the buying phase, I got the starting position card back.
That's when I decided to simply go through that same cycle. On my next hand, I dumped everything into my window, purchased it first, and made a few sets (even though they sold off at a lower rate, now having 4 different things). The following round, after refilling my hand, I went dead last, investing everything a card at a time to make the best sets I could, but still getting everything into my vault.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
It was a risky strategy, pretty much tying my fate to the luck of the card draw, but I felt I had developed a significant lead with 3 early and highly profitable trades in the first two turns (necklace for 4, diadem for 4 and earrings for 3). My goal now was to drive the game to the end by depleting the deck as quickly as I could and make a buck or two along the way. I made a few minor sets worth 1 buck toward the end, but didn't care. I just wanted to shove so many cards in my vault, and convert what I could, that the draw deck would be depleted and the game would end.
My gamble paid off, but only barely. Trish made a very good bid at second place. Had she not purchased one of my window sets earlier in the game, it would have been even closer, as that one purchase is effectively a two point swing (she loses one, I gain one).
Klunker - Overall Thoughts
I was pleasantly surprised that my inlaws enjoyed Klunker. It took a while to get the feel for it, and see how the different phases tied together, but it was very fun. I think it's about the same level of difficulty (to teach, learn or play) as Bohnanza, and offers a slightly different gameplay experience while still feeling somewhat familiar. I'll definitely suggest Klunker at our next get together, and I think Joe and Mary would definitely play again.