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FLEA MARKETEERS
For 2-6 Players Aged 10+  
Published by Gut Bustin' Games  Washington State   Developed and Produced by Lisa Steenson

  

The production of this family game is almost perfect. I say "almost" because the design, both graphic and theme are excellent, the player boards (all 6) are amusing, as is the money (gobs of Flea Bucks), Price Menus and the illustrations by Judsey.com (Jud & Lindsey) are beyond brilliant. Only the production of the cards lets the game down at all - the cards) 2 decks, Marketeer and Table) aren't laminated or in any way shiny or even silken and thus they are extremely difficult to shuffle, deal and even separate from each other, which is a shame as the game is totally card based.

The players are all traders at a Flea Market, held in the parking area of the local Drive-In Cinema. Each player has eight separate tables allotted to them which are line-marked and numbered 1-6 with 2 side tables as Concessions on their personal boards. 

The game concerns selling all manner of (quite weird) bric-a-brac from the 6 main tables and refreshments from the concession stands. The game is also about making money - the most money in actual cash or monetary value - the winner being the player with the most moolah when the market closes its doors for the day.

  

The rules are explained on just four sides of a single folded glossy, colourful, sheet. The rules have been kept as brief as possible to allow play to begin within a short period of opening the box.  To set the game up both decks of cards are shuffled independently and then Players are dealt 2 or 3 Table cards (Concession or Flea) depending on the number of players, and these cards are placed face-up on the board in the correct spaces - Flea in numbered boxes and concessions in, well, concession spaces, and 2 Marketeer cards which form their starting hand.  In fact the rules are written so that after setting up (pages 1 & 2) you can start to play as you read on. 

Play is in turns, clockwise round the table. The first player takes one card from the top of each deck and adds the Marketeer card to their hand (there is no hand-size limit) and the Table card to their Board. If they cannot place it on their board because all spaces of that type are occupied then it stays face up in front of them for the duration of their turn. At the end of their turn it will either be added to their board (if a space has appeared) or it will be discarded - cards cannot be discarded from their board. Two simple rules to remember are that Concessions can never be placed on Table spaces and Tables may never be placed in Concession spaces and that at the end of your turn you may never have more than 2 Concession cards and 6 Table cards.

  

Each player has also been randomly given a Fleabook. This is a menu style folded card that contains information on every one of the 60 Table cards; for ease they are listed alphabetically and numerically. Now is the time to look at your Fleabook, always ensuring that at no time during the game does any other player have access or visibility to your Fleabook - every Fleabook (there are 12) is different. If you have any Concessions on your stand then you can see how much they are worth because their value (in $dollars) is clearly printed on them for all to see. The Table cards are also face up, but these have just an ID number (which equates to the number in the Fleabook) and the items description. Despite being a family game the author has injected a little adult (and a little toilet) humour through the names given to the sales items. "Stool Samples" (a selection of material covers for stools) being one that caused more than a few of our experienced players, in different games and at different times, to crack up into fits of idiotic, silly schoolkid laughter. Once you have red through the values of your items you look at your Marketeer cards and see if there are any you want to play (you can play 1 or 2 each turn). What each Marketeer card does is clearly written on them, there are no unnecessary explanations in the rules booklet.

Having checked, and mentally remembered the value of each Table card on your stand and played any cards you wished to, you now decide whether to open for "Bid'ness". This is when you take offers from the other players on your Table cards - not the Concession cards. The other players will check on their Fleabook what the Table cards are valued at for them - for each player there will be a different value - and will bid accordingly. Thus if you have an item on your stand that your Fleabook says has $0.00 value and someone offers you $40.00 for it then you know that it is worth a lot more to them than $40.00. However as it is of no value to you it is probably best to let the other player have the item, especially as it a) gives you $40.00 more than it is worth, and b) selling it frees up a table on your stand into which you may be able to immediately place another table card or at least you can place the one you pick up next turn. You cannot sell a Table card that you picked up this turn unless you can free a place on the stand.

  

The artwork is excellent and amusing, the names of the products for sale are also generally humourous, and between them the game creates its own fun. The players can add to this by making up tales to go with each piece on sale, sort of role-playing the shopkeepers and customers as it were. It's much more fun to say something like "My great-grandmother used to have a set of Nice Knockers like those, but they got all bent out of shape with age. So I would like to buy the ones you are displaying there for her as a Birthday present and will offer you $30.00 for them," than to just say "$30.00 for number 36"? The result will be the same, the seller will either sell or haggle, but the atmosphere is only achieved by playing the parts and not just playing the mechanic.

The Marketeer cards do all manner of things. For example they may allow you to sell a Table card above its value, force the sale of anothers players Concession or Table card or maybe just discard a table card that you don't want cluttering up your stand. There are too many variations and no actual need to list them all here. You can use them as you get them or hold onto them to use when (or if) necessary. Also, as you would expect, there are Marketeer cards that prevent the action of another Marketeer card, thus saving you from a single attack - Flea Markets are a cut-throat business you know.

Overall this is a fine, fun game, but that perhaps at 90 minutes playing time (which it can stretch to) it can be a little too long. There is a means by which the game can be shortened (or lengthened) if you want as the game timer is the deck of Marketeer cards. With 4 players you use 40 cards which is 10 rounds of play as each player takes one at the start of their turn. We reduced this to 32 cards when we were a bit short on time and the game never suffered any ill effects and all players had equal turns and equal enjoyment. I would happily recommend FLEA MARKETEERS to anyone looking for a fun-filled family game that can be played by any age (not just the 10+ as noted on the box) as long as they can read, know their numbers and can reason. It is better played by families who like to play tricks on each other, who laugh a lot together and don't mind a little back-stabbing as long as no-one actually gets hurt. This really is one time where you can say playing the game is as good as winning the game.

Flea Marketeers is a remake of an old (designer uncredited) game called "Dealer's Choice" which was published by the Miro Company and by Parker Brothers back in the early 1970's. In Dealer's Choice the players are Car Dealership owners and the FleaBook is called the Blue Book, as in those days car salesmen used to refer to the Blue Book Price of an automobile. Instead of being a folded menu style card the players had a Blue Sleeve into which they slid a price list and read the car value through a cut-away window in the sleeve. Apart from the theme the main difference between the two games is the pricing of the items. In FLEA MARKETEERS the prices range between $0.00 - $100.00 which means there isn't a lot of haggle room. I mean, is it really worth haggling over $10.00 or $20.00 whereas in Dealer's Choice the difference is in $1000s and that makes haggling much more fun. The production of FLEA MARKETEERS is much better than that of Dealer's Choice, with the exception of the cards (as previously noted). The Concessions are a new idea, the Table cards are similar to the Cars on sale and the Marketeer cards take the place of the Insurance Policy and Dealer's Choice cards. Using the Flea Market theme attracts a wider audience than the car theme as it is more popular for the whole family whereas car sales are generally (but certainly not always) thought of as men only employment. 

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015