|From: Ravensberger (now FX Schmid) Cost: $15 Players: 3-5 Playing Time: 20 minutes Type of game: Card Skill level: 7 Complexity: 2 Reviewed by: Peter Sarrett, Issue 5.1 (17), Winter 1997|
"Cute little game" is how I think of For Sale, a microbox card game from Ravensburger which riffs on the Raj/Hols der Geier theme (which seems to be in vogue of late). The game is played in two phases. In the first, players bid to acquire their hand of cards. In the second, those cards are played to earn points.
Each player begins with fifteen chips, which she uses to buy cards at auction. The twenty cards are numbered 1-20. One card is flipped up to the center of the table for each player in the game. Players bid for the right to take the highest of these cards. The bidding goes around the table, with each player required to match or increase the highest bid or drop out. When a player drops, she pays half her bid (rounded down) to the bank, keeps the rest, and takes the lowest card left on the table. The last player gets the highest card, but pays the full amount of her bid. New cards are flipped and the process repeats until the deck is gone.
This bidding system seems to encourage a domino effect. As players drop out, the card you get for dropping gets better and better. Consequently once the first player drops, the others often follow. Preemptive bids can sometimes work, but most often it is wisest to call rather than raise. It's hard to tell when the collapse will begin, and you want to lose as little as possible if you get caught at the tail end.
Now cards from a second deck of twenty "checks" are flipped in the same way. This time, players choose a card from the hand they bought in round one and reveal them simultaneously. The player with the highest card takes the highest check, the second highest card gets the next best check, and so on down the line. This repeats until the players' hands are exhausted. The winner is the player with the highest total value of checks and unused bidding chips.
From start to finish, the game shouldn't take more than twenty minutes (unless people think too much during the auctions). All of the cards you buy don't need to be high— you can get good mileage from cheap low cards. A low card can yield big returns in a round where the lowest check is a 12, while high cards are wasted in a round where no checks hit the double digits. There's a reasonable amount of strategy in the check round, and savvy cardplay can make up for poor bidding earlier.
For Sale is rather like a potato chip— there's not much to it, but when you're done you want to try another. Not in an addictive way like Magic, but more of a "That was fun, but I'm not ready for it to be over yet. Let's play again" kind of thing. File this one on your "openers and closers" shelf.