Monday, May 23, 2011

It's a Rich Man's World

I don't win giveaways often. At least, that's what I think. Then again, family and friends may point out the strokes of luck I've had in my life: I won a Nintendo 64 when I was in ninth grade. I won a backpack (which was later stolen) full of gift cards (which were to stores whose merchandise was too expensive, even with the gift cards). And I won a collection of CDs from artists included on the WOW 2002 album (most of which I gave away). So, I guess I have won my fair share of swag. The most recent item to enter this illustrious lineup of free stuff is Money.

My two bookshelf-series games,
together at last.
When I told Abby that I won Money, she didn't buy for a second that it was actual money (as I'd hoped she would), and she was right to doubt. I won Money the game from Gryphon Games, the first entry in their bookshelf game series. (I already owned another member of the series, Incan Gold.) And now, after playing--and losing--several times, I have to say that Money is good.

In Money, each player receives a starting hand of six cards and a bluff card. The cards depict various currencies in various denominations. There are nine cards in each currency divided into 20-20-20-30-30-30-40-50-60 denominations. There are also special coin cards, which are always worth 10 and always retain their value. The goal of the game is to end the game with the most points.

In each round, two rows of cards are on offer from the bank. The round begins by players choosing cards from their hand and placing them facedown in front of them. These are the player bids. After all players have chosen cards, they reveal their bids. Whoever has the highest bid (totaling the face value of the cards) goes first, and so on down the line. A player may either 1) return his bid to his hand or 2) exchange his bid with one of the face-up offers or other bids on the table. This continues until no players have cards in front of them, either because they've exchanged their bids for other cards or have returned their bids to their hands. The bluff card isn't worth anything when used for bidding, but it's used to make the other players think that you're putting down more cards than you actually are. This can drive other players to bid more than they need to take the cards they want.

What cards would they want? Well, Money is a Reiner Knizia game (the first of his games I've played), and as I've heard about his other games, Money hits both of his trademarks: light theme and clever (crazy?) scoring. Money is a set collection game, so players are awarded more points for collecting multiple cards of the same currency. At the end of the game, if a player does not have 200 points of a currency, he subtracts 100 points from his total. (For example, if a player has 160 points in dollars, he scores 60 points at the end of the game.) A player keeps any total 200 or over. And a player scores 100 bonus points for any triplets he has (three 20s or three 30s of the same currency). So players want to collect cards of the same currency, preferably in triplets, and prevent their fellow players from doing the same.

What I love about Money is its simplicity. The rulebook is four large-font-size pages. Yes, the scoring is a little strange, but after one round, the players I've tried it with have completely understood what to do, and the scoring system is worth the learning curve. It forces players to think in a new way, which makes gameplay more interesting. The simple bid-exchange mechanism for set collection works well, and I assume it would work even better with more players. (So far I've played the game with two and three players [the two-player variant I made up myself, but it seemed to work well].)

Beautiful cards. And is that King
Knizia on the Pound note?
Another thing to love is the production value of the game. The cards in the game are beautiful, and there's something about the linen finish and card size that makes them easier to shuffle. Seriously, the cards in Money are fantastic. And I don't know what it is about bidding games, but I love them. Bidding is a great way to inject mystery and excitement into a game. Granted, I'm not very good at bidding games, but I think they are fun to play nonetheless.

The main drawback to Money is its lack of theme. Yes, the cards depict images of diverse currencies, but aside from this, the game doesn't make you feel like you're playing with money. The set collection is interesting, and I love the bidding, but I could be trading sheep or Baseball cards or wares or any of a number of things and the game would feel exactly the same. This doesn't bother me too much since the game is so much fun to play, but players who are looking for a more immersive experience may want to look elsewhere. I mentioned that the scoring could also be a bit hard for some players to understand at first, but this is easily remedied with a round or two of Money.

And that's one of the great things about this game: it doesn't end with a single round. Each time I've played, even after the learning curve, multiple rounds have followed. A round goes quickly--five to fifteen minutes--and the people I've played with were immediately ready for the next. Money may not be the main event for an evening, but it is a great filler (presumably great for families) and a fun way to unwind.

(By the way, I have a hard time playing or discussing this game without this song running through my head. Don't judge me!)


  1. Ha! I thought the song was gonna be Pink Floyd but when I saw the title from Abba... it started running through my mind too... ack!!

  2. That's what happens with Abba: they get stuck in your brain. At least I didn't share "Dancing Queen" or "Chiquitita." :-)

  3. I was hearing the Beatles song.

  4. Chaka, you have proven once again the superiority of your musical leanings.