HIGHEST BIDDER: ART AUCTION
Design: Johan Dahlberg. Art: Pernilla Lindgren
2-5 Players Aged 10+ 30 Minutes
HIGHEST BIDDER comes with two rules books, one to play the game for the first few times and then the Advanced Rules Book where new cards are added to increase the difficulty. The number of cards in the deck remains the same as you actually replace the same number of cards from the original deck with the new cards.
The box itself isn't awe inspiring with its dark colouring of Black, Midnight Blue and Purple, and although the art on the front of it is admirable it is scaled down and thus loses some of its impact. Minus the title and credit the front of the box is the back of the deck of 67 Bid Cards; it's an icicled Moose. The second deck of cards are the Paintings, the Art that players will be bidding for; the backs of these show a weird family of hat-wearing Flamingoes. There is a lot more of Pernilla's artwork on the Painting's cards, they are bright, colourful and I would love to see the full paintings from which these appear to have been cut. I should have mentioned that of the 67 Bid Cards only 65 are actually used in the game the other two cards are "Did You Know" (an advertising card for www.strackspel.se/english/highest-bidder) and "More Fun Online" (which asks you to submit your highest scores, points you towards some alternative rules and also asks you to suggest ideas for cards and submit your own photos to win a copy of the game). #highestbidder@Strackspel.se. What I haven't mentioned yet is the quality of the cards, they are nicely laminated and shuffle really easily, also the cards to be removed have either a bright yellow border or a bright yellow; there are 22 of these and 14 non-yellow cards. There are always 14 Paintings cards for the five rounds, the first four rounds have 3 cards each and two for the last round. When you play the Advanced game you can choose which cards to replace, you can keep any of the regular cards, replace them all, do whatever you like because every swap out you make to the card sort changes the dynamic of the game. Amongst the yellow cards there are three "An Alien Stole My Teddy Bear" cards and if you decide to use these it is suggested you use all three.
The original 14 Painting cards are numbered; there 3 x 1s, 2s and 3s, 2 x 4s and 5s and 1 x 7. They have super names such as Galaxy Frogs, Disco Fish, Goodbye of the Polar Bears, Flies in Stomach and Snail World, heck they are such good names I really should list them all (apologies for people who don't like lists but I'm sure these will stick in your mind: Heart Beat, Self Portrait, City Larva, Elephant Whale, A Tree in Space, Night Life, The Whales, Water Bear and Adventures in the Icy Mountains. Apart from the "Alien" cards the other yellow cards have basic instructions like Steal, Swap, Shuffle, Draw Two, Double Cash etc.
I agree with the author that you should play the basic game before adding in any of the Advanced game cards. Normally, as seasoned boardgamers (and I include card games that aren't actually CCG's in with boardgames) we would jump straight in and go for the advanced rules, mainly because most games aren't as complicated for getting your head round as the rules to HIGHEST BIDDER make it seem. When you actually get to playing it isn't as complicated as you thought it was going to be. One of the reasons is that the two rules booklets are as small as the original MtG rules booklets, though admittedly with less pages, and two because of the way they are written (or translated) they don't read as fluently as a game written where English is the first language. This isn't a complaint, I think it's excellent that a game originally created, written and designed in Sweden should have an English version to begin with, it's more the way the play is described; different languages say things in a different way. Anyway that's getting off topic, what I am saying is that you definitely should play the Original game before the Advanced game, if for no other reason than you would be missing out on a reasonably good, quite amusing game that can later be augmented and enhanced by the introduction of the Advanced cards. Visit HERE (www.strackspel.se/english/tutorials) for a video tutorial on how to play as it will help with your understanding of the rules and prevent any misinterpretations.
One thing we didn't feel right about was playing it as a 2-player game, for us there wasn't enough interaction or edge. With three players it was better and with 4 players, well we thought this was the optimum number. The Effect cards were as you would expect, nothing that you haven't seen before in a myriad card games, but although they were thus a little non-adventurous they pushed the game along so that the game ran smoothly and quickly, whether playing the Basic or Advanced variation.
So to begin with the Cash and the Effect cards are shuffled to form a draw pile from which each player is dealt a hand of nine cards. The 14 chosen Paintings are shuffled and placed as a face down deck with the top three laid out in a row visible to all players (as previously mentioned there will be 4 rounds with 3 Paintings at auction and one round with only 2 Paintings at auction).
The 2 main rules for bidding are that you must play (bid) at least one card on every available Painting (cards are played simultaneously by all players and face down) and you must use all nine cards that you hold. You may play 3,3,3 you may play 1,1,7 or any combination that fits your strategy. The cards are then revealed one per player at a time, completing the bidding on the first Painting before moving on to the next one. Because players will most likely be playing Effect cards the order in which they are upturned is important as the Effect cards are immediately actioned before the next card is turned. After the first round the player with the current highest score reveals their card first and then play is clockwise but for the very first round of a game it is said that the player left of the Dealer goes first. We decided, in our wisdom, that there could well be an advantage or maybe a disadvantage in going first and so we simply rolled a die to determine the possibly dubious honour; after that we stuck to the rules.
My suggestion would be for Strackspel to demo and sell HIGHEST BIDDER at as many games conventions as they can get to, especially GenCon, Spiel and UKGE where there are thousands and thousands of games players in the same area for 4 days all looking for new games to spend their money on. As I said before, it's a fun game, has great artwork and clear, concise cards and I think word of mouth may be of considerable help and value in promoting it.
To learn more about the game and the artist please visit: www.strackspel.se/english and www.pernillalindgren.com
The price is now only $21.99 USD / £17