Finding old games
Desert Island Games
Letters to the Editor
Ebay stunned the gaming community when it was released in late 2001. Here was a licensed game (based on a dot.com, no less) from a mass market giant, relying on an electronic gimmick… that was actually fun. Light family fare to be sure, but fun nonetheless. How’d this ever get past the quality control monkeys?
Players try to amass the most valuable collections of… well… crap. Plush dolls, ceramic animals, that kind of thing. Stuff worth little value to sane individuals, but selling for big bucks to collectors. To get the goodies, players have to win them at auction. Welcome to the world of Ebay.
Three auction bays are always available, each showing an item from one of six possible categories. Items within a category are all show the same estimated value (all reds are $100, all greens $500, etc). Every item in the game appears three times, however— once at face value, once as junk worth less than expected, and once as valuable collectors items. The problem is, you never know which is which until you buy them.
Every player begins with an identical set of bid cards of varying denominations. The tricky thing to get your head around is that these cards have no intrinsic value and are merely tools used to acquire stuff. Your $10 and $300 bid cards are worth exactly the same at the end of the game— bupkiss. It’s use them or lose them, baby.
Auctions are controlled by an electronic auctioneer that calls out player colors in random order. When his color is called, a player has a scant couple of seconds to bid by placing a bid card on one of the bays and pressing the corresponding button. If he’s too slow, he must retract his bid. Each bid must be higher than the card it’s played on top of, and no player can ever outbid himself. Everyone has a special “proxy” card which beats anything but another player’s proxy.
After all players have had a chance to bid, items may or may not get sold— it’s all determined randomly by the auctioneer. Sold items are collected by the high bidder and the winning bid card is discarded from the game. Losing bids are then retrieved. If something takes a while to sell, much-needed cards might be out of circulation for a while.
The auctioneer issues a warning at the halfway point and on the last turn. When the game ends players reveal the true value of their collections. Any sets of three or more cards in the same category score double, and the high score wins.
Only a portion of the deck is used each game, so players can never be sure how many cards will appear in each category. As they buy things, players accumulate inside information. Once a player buys the over-valed crossword puzzle, for instance, he’s far less interested in getting another crossword because he knows it’s either face– or under-valued.
There’s a lot of luck here, particularly in when items get sold. But there’s also room for strategic bidding, psychology, and bluff. Ebay clocks in at about fifteen minutes, which is perfect for the amount of depth involved. Some groups have also found a second use for the auctioneer, using it to control the turn order in a game of Carabande. With Ebay being blown out on clearance at many K-Bee stores around the country, this is a no-brainer purchase. A
The Game Report Online - Editor: Peter Sarrett (firstname.lastname@example.org)