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If you see this ignored 1988 game in an op shop/thrift store/garage sale/trash and treasure/car boot sale strongly consider it for purchase if the following sounds of interest to you. Or if you want a Ball-a-matic.
Tough Luck! provides a largely unthemed, readily accessible, auction game with clear simple rules and lots of room for skill based play, producing a high level of interaction, many decision points and enjoyable (at least for me) tension about how to allocate my meager resources, value available trades and evaluate my opponents likely decisions.
The hardware is utilitarian (except the Ball-a-matic which gets its own paragraph at the end here) - just OK quality, just OK size. Think plastic, no bling, no bakelite, no wood. Nothing worthy of a T-shirt. Except, again, the Ball-a-matic. Which might be a problematic T-shirt anyway.
Playing Tough Luck!:
For something different I'll provide flowcharts of the game and flesh out, using text, areas that may still be murky. Larger versions of the flowcharts are/will be available in the "Files" section of this game's page.
Win: get 5 Number Balls in a line - column, row or diagonal - to win. The Red Balls functions as Jokers/Wild Cards and can take the place of Number Balls in the winning line. The winner receives the Pool money. (See possible variation on this below.)
Player Board to each player.
Each player gets $60,000. No further money comes out of the Bank.
Each puts $10,000 into the Pool.
Youngest; first player.
Phases of play:
Phase One is rounds one and two. Rounds one and two are very simple.
Only the numbered balls are valid. Replace any Coloured Ball and redraw, if necessary.
Number Balls are placed in the corresponding pit on the drawing Player's Board.
Use the white counters to mark Numbered Balls that are on other player's Boards.
Phase Two is round three onwards. This is Tough Luck! at full complexity.
Trade, buy and sell Numbered or Red Balls at any time. (Subject to *) The Buyer pays the agreed price to the Seller.
NOTE: The final ball in a line of 5 MUST be purchased by that player in a Blind Auction.
The active Player may call a Blind Auction. A Player with 4 Balls in a line MUST call a Blind Auction. A Blind Auction is held before the Ball is drawn from the Ball-a-matic.
If a Blind Auction is not held then an Open Auction MUST be held. For this a Ball is drawn from the Ball-a-matic and auctioned.
For all auctions:
Bids are $1,000 or multiples thereof.
Winning bidder pays money bid into the Pool.
If no bids are made then the active player receives the Ball for free.
Number Balls won are placed in the corresponding pit of the Player Board. They can be simply sold from their pit.
The winner of any Red Ball must immediately place it into a numbered pit on their Player Board.
* The Red Ball can ONLY be taken from a numbered pit by first placing the correct Number Ball in the pit.
The holder of a Yellow Ball receives $10,000 from the Pool.
A Black Ball holder MUST remove one of their Number Balls from their Player Board.
After their single action all coloured Balls are stored in their holder's unmarked pit.
Win: get 5 Number Balls in a line - column, row or diagonal - to win. The Red Balls functions as Jokers/Wild Cards and can take the
place of Number Balls in the winning line. The winner receives the Pool money. (See possible variation below.)
Experience of Play
Our 2P games lasted about 15 minutes with 2P. I suspect that a smart 7 year old could play. Just. There is a lot of cognitive work to be done in this game. Most commonly the current values, to various players, of a known piece, but also the values of an unknown piece. Then there is trying to win auctions at the lowest price or alternatively trying to boost the final price but not end up "winning" the auction. And trading is also continually available in Phase II which produces more need to value and try for prices advantageous to you.
However the data load is not overwhelming, in part cause the balls played are readily visible as is the amount of money you have left to spend.
"Take that" is a definite possibility in this game with a lot of direct interaction and cross-effect of decisions. Though the game doesn't require or prime emotional responses. :-) None of us sulked and all threats of physical violence were in good spirit.
Variations and Agreements
Variation: The winner receives acclaim only - not the Pool money.
The supplied rules are silent as to whether a player's money balance is private or public. The players need to agree which one it is before play begins. Making money balances public will reduce cognitive load.
Skills emphasized in this game:
Instruction comprehension, process following, tracking all played balls, recognition of possible win paths for self and opponent, estimation of value of known and of unknown balls in self and opponents current situation, valuation of possible trades, valuation of auction items, bidding at auctions, offering trades, responding to offered trades, bargaining around trades.
The Ball-a-matic is a well made, neat, little red mechanical device in the shape of a cylinder, with an internal race that feeds a ball to the top of a post that is brought up flush with the top of the cylinder when the external sleeve is slid down. When operated this mechanism randomly selects and emits a single ball of some 10mm diametre. In this game the balls are coloured or have numbers on them. Its open to you to replace or reduce the number of balls in the Ball-a-matic and use it in other games that require random selections from a single-use pool.
There is something very intriguing about being presented with a ball where a second before there was no ball there. I find the Ball-a-matic is very cool - in the same way that a Slinky going down stairs is cool. Sure exactly the same function could be performed by a deck of cards. But if function was always my priority I wouldn't play that many games. I'd probably work at cleaning the house or getting my financial records up to date instead. Your Inner Thrifting Geek probably needs a Ball-a-matic.
For your geek viewing pleasure: The ball-a-matic
1. The cap, the lid and the hopper and base assembly in retracted position.
2. A ball sitting on top of the post and other balls in the spiral race below. In use the post delivers the ball through the hole in the cap as the hopper is retracted.
3. Internal view of hopper in extended position, post in retracted position. Number ball 22 about to fall into post-top indent. Other balls in spiral race behind #22.
4. An external view of the base with the hopper in the extended position. As the hopper extends out of the base the post retracts. See image 2.