is a quick and simple auction game by Stefan Dorra, published by Uberplay.
Time: 15 minutes
Difficulty: 2 (of 10)
For Sale has previously been published in German editions by FX Schmid and Ravensburger. This new version is the first American distribution; it's also revised and expanded by the designer.
For Sale comes in a small box with:
- 60 cards
- 72 chips
- 1 rulebook
Cards: The cards are all medium-sturdy cards printed full-color on linen-textured card stock.
30 of the cards are Properties. Each one features a value from 1-30 and a picture of a real estate property. The artwork by Alvin Madden is entirely delightful and evocative. We have, for example, a smelly box as the "1" property, a tent as the "7" property, a nice house as the "22" property, and a space station as the "30" property. This art adds a lot to the game and also make the cards easier to remember.
The other 30 cards are checks. Each one is a fairly boring, mauve check with a value from 2-15 or 0. (There are two of each.)
The usability of each card is also improved by the value appearing at each of the four corners.
Chips: These are coins: 60 $1000 silver coins and 14 larger $2000 golden coins. They're printed on nice, linen-textured cardboard and are different in size so it's really easy to tell the denominations apart.
Rulebook: An 8-page full-color rulebook with simple rules explanations and illustrations; it was perfectly easy to follow.
Overall, the quality of all the components is high; they're easy to use, and the Alvin Madden artwork found on the property cards is entirely delightful. Thus For Sale earns a full "5" out of "5" for Style.
In For Sale the object of the game is earn the most money through the clever purchase and sale of real estate.
Setup: Each of the two decks of cards is shuffled, and a couple of cards are taken out for 3-4 player games, so that they'll divide evenly. Each player is given $14-16 in chips (depending on the number of players).
Auctioning the Properties: The game starts off with auctioning all of the properties (from 24-30 cards, depending on the number of players).
For each auction a number of properties are laid out equal to the number of players. Starting with the first player (initially someone random, later whomever won the previous auction), each player either bids more on the properties than the previous bidder or passes. The bids continue going clockwise around the table until everyone but one player has passed.
If someone passes they take the lowest valued property still out, turn in half of their bid (rounded down), and then are out for the rest of the current round of bidding. If a person is the last bidder he must pay his whole bid, but gets the last property, which is clearly the best.
Thus, each player gets one property each round of play until all the properties have been auctioned off.
Auctioning the Checks: Now players sell the properties they purchased through a second set of auctions.
For each auction a number of checks are laid out, again equal to the number of players. Each player then takes one of their properties and places it face down. They're all revealed simultaneously, and the player with the most valuable property gets the top check, the second gets the second, etc.
Again, each player gets one check for each round of play (and expends one of their properties).
Ending the Game: The game ends after all the properties have been purchased then sold. Each player adds up the value of all their checks, then adds in any chips they had remaining from the first set of auctions. The player with the highest total wins.
Relationships to Other Games
For Sale has previously been released in Germany in a slightly different form. The original game only supported 5 players max, and had fewer properties and checks as a result. The valuations on the checks was also slightly different. More improtantly, it had a different method for first-round (property) bidding, where you could bid up, pass, or "check"--which means matching the bid of the previous player. Many folks liked the original system, but I decided not to even try it because it seemed tedious and to drag out what should be a fast, filler game. Apparently the system used in this new Uberplay edition was the original intent of the designer.
For Sale is at core a simple auction game. It has two auction types, turn-based continuous open bidding (the real estate auction), and simultaneous one-time blind bidding (the check auction). Both systems are sufficiently interesting to keep the game hopping, and I particularly like the blind bidding round, mostly because it's one of the few blind-bidding auctions that really works well, primarily because of the discrete resources that players can bid with (1 of X cards).
For Sale is also a member of Uberplay's set of small-box filler games, the other two of which are High Society and Relationship Tightrope. I think these have consistently been Uberplay's best games, combining low price and small size with great gameplay. When I put together a bag for gaming, one of those three games almost always goes in. And, I think For Sale is the best of the bunch.
The Game Design
For Sale is a short filler game, and by this criteria is succeeds very well. It is short (with the 15 minutes to play quoted above being very accurate) and simple to play (with explanations just taking 5 minutes). However, the auctions are also very solid, allowing real tactical thought, bluffing, and careful assessment of your opponents.
Balancing that is the fact that the game isn't too complex; instead the level of tactical thought lines up perfectly with the length of play. I don't want a really complex game when I'm only going to be playing for 15 minutes, and For Sale doesn't overchallenge (though counting cards would help a little).
I've had the good luck to get to try For Sale with every possible number of players, from 3-6, before writing this review. I'm happy to say that it works well with all of them. I think I'd be the happiest playing this with exactly four players, but I'd have no compunctions playing it with any of the valid player numbers. It's a little less exciting with 3, and when you get up to 6 it can get a little bit chaotic (because prices can get too high for you to bid in the open auction if an auction starts to your left), but the differences aren't that huge.
Overall, besides the fact that I've really enjoyed every game of For Sale that I've played (6 to date), my best measure of success is that no fewer than three players said that they wanted to buy copies after playing it, of which two already have.
For Sale is a great filler game. It's quick, it's fun, and it's even a little addictive. It's earns a full "5" out of "5" for Substance.
I'm extremely pleased that Uberplay has made this German gem available to the American gaming public. After half-a-dozen plays, For Sale has quickly become one of my favorite fillers because of its deft combination of short, simple play with significant tactical decisions. I highly recommend it.