I remember picking up Der Elefant im Porzellanladen, and as I read through the English translation, the game suddenly clicked:
It's not really a game about elephants running through china shops. Or bulls running through china shops. Or monsters voting on their favorite latte (or whatever the latest edition is themed around).
It's a game about insurance fraud.
In Der Elefant im Porzallenladen, each player represents a shopkeeper, displaying fine china. However, times are tough, and fine china just doesn't sell like it once did.
Thus, each shopkeeper must indulge in a bit of insurance fraud in order to make a living.
Each turn, players have three options:
1) Buy china. This is important, because the adjusters are getting suspicious, and come by now and again to see the china you have on offer. If you have 20 rupees, you _must_ choose this option, as it would look far to suspicious if you were to be hit by yet _another_ elephant.
2) Invite an elephant into your shop, and pick up 10 rupees from your insurance. The good news is that, since an elephant really does run through your shop, you get paid whether or not the elephant did any damage. The bad news is that your insurance is limited to 10 rupees, regardless of the amount of damage done.
3) Blow your elephant whistle. As everyone knows, (a) these whistles make a mouse-like sound, sending elephants scurrying, and (b) these whistles are very fragile, and dissolve upon use.
If you have no cash, you must either invite in an elephant or blow your elephant whistle. Why would banks lend you money when the china business is clearly so awful?
Your shop will be inspected four times during the game, with each adjuster having a different preference in what they are looking for. The good news is that you know their schedules, such that you can choose the order. The bad news is that company regulations require that you get a different adjuster each time. One of the adjusters focuses on the cheapest items in the score, giving your store a rating for the cheapest item in each color. One focuses on the most expensive item in each color. One focuses on a single color of china, not valuing the others. And one - and only one - adjuster actually bothers to count the value of every item in your store.
Your score at the end of the game is the sum of your inspection scores. The person who managed the highest value during the game wins. But even the player with the lowest score is making out far better than the hapless insurer...
Best hobby, with the best people in the world. Gaming is the best!
You know, Joe, after reading your description, complete with Shady Shopkeepers and Dissolving Elephant Mouse Whistles, the Godzilla version of the game suddenly makes a lot more sense!
I kid because I love.