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It's no secret that Knizia is some kind of wizard when it comes to designing games.
But because the man has published so many games, some of them tend to be less well known. Winning an award usually helps raise the profile of a particular game, and the coveted Spiel des Jahres award is usually a good indication of a solid game suitable for families or light-medium fare for gamers. But it's unfortunate that while the games that win the annual award get elevated to a special status, the runners-up and nominees for the award often go unnoticed. Such is the case with Reiner Knizia's Money!, which was recommended for the Spiel des Jahres award in 1999, but today is largely overshadowed by the eventual winner, Tikal. Money is a solid light card game that will never reach the pinnacles of gaming greatness, but is certainly worth a second look as a good filler, and a satisfying Knizia game. The good news is that gamers are getting the chance to have a second look at this great game, thanks to Gryphon Games, who has published it as the first entry as part of their new bookshelf line of games.
With an average rating of 6.7, Money! is currently ranked as the fourth best of all nine games published to date, and second only to High Society of all the five Knizia games included in the series. It has some interesting ideas about set collecting and trading, and what's more, has some great components. After all, doesn't everyone like playing with money? Let's put our money where our mouth is and find out more!
So what do you get for your money, when you ...errr.... buy Money?
According to the tagline, this is "The Game of International Currency Collection!" One of my family members happens to be a numismatist by trade (numismatics is the study or collection of currency, including coins and paper money), so the fact that the theme relates to trading and collecting bank-notes immediately grabbed my attention. Here's the back of the game box:
The inside of the box has a solid plastic component tray for storing the 74 cards that come with the game:
All the cards have the same artwork on the reverse side: a pile of money!
So what kinds of cards do you get? Here's the complete list:
● 63 banknotes (in 7 currencies)
● 6 Chinese coins
● 5 Gryphon Games Notes
● 1 Rule Book
This is basically just a single sheet of thin card, folded in half:
The rules are easy enough to follow and learn, and the game can be explained to new players quite quickly. You can download the rules from earlier editions of the game here, a Quick Start guide here, and a useful Player Aid here.
Seven different currencies
The love of money is the root of all evil, but money itself isn't evil. On the contrary, money itself can be good! In Knizia's game, there are seven different currencies:
They are all closely modelled on actual currency, as you can see from this example of a Canadian banknote featuring ice hockey (below), compared with one of the cards from the game:
The game features the following currencies:
Australian dollars, Brazilian reals, Canadian dollars
European euros, Japanese yen, English pounds
Note that the previous edition of the game (published by Gold Sieber and Rio Grande Games, and first released in 1999) featured different artwork:
The original edition also had some different currencies, such as the South African Krugerrand, which does not appear in the Gryphon Games reprint.
Nine cards in each currency
There are nine cards in each different currency, with the following values:
3x 20, 3x 30, 1x 40, 1x 50, 1x 60
There are three of the 20s and 30s - this is important, because getting all three will earn a 100 point bonus at the end of the game.
Cards: Chinese coins
Six Chinese coin cards are mixed in the deck along with the currency:
These are worth 10 points each at the end of the game:
Cards: Gryphon Games Notes
There are five Gryphon Games Notes which are not mixed in with the deck.
One is given to each player at the start of the game. These are essentially bluff cards and have the same artwork on the reverse as the other cards - you can use them to make other players think that you are bidding more currency cards than you actually are.
Currency values for scoring
In Money, you start with a hand of six cards, and use bids and trades to try to improve your portfolio (= hand) for the game-end scoring. So before explaining exactly how the bidding and trading work, it's important to know what the aim of the game is, and what you're trying to do. At the end of the game, you'll get points score as follows:
● Face value: points equal to the total currency you own
● Minuses: minus 100 points for each currency with a value of less than 200 (if the score is negative, then you just get zero for that currency)
● Bonuses: 100 bonus points for each triplet, i.e. for three banknotes of the same currency.
● Coins: 10 points for each coin
The scoring for minuses and bonuses are the tricky ones to keep in mind. Usually you want to get at least 200 in each currency, and ideally some triplets of that currency if you can.
Each player gets one Gryphon Games Note (= bluff card), and receives 6 more cards randomly from the deck, for a starting hand of 7 cards. The deck is placed face-down in the middle of the table, with four cards face up in a row on each side - these are the two initial "lots" on the Market.
For a four player game, here's what the starting set-up would look like:
Note that when playing with 3 or 4 players instead of the full complement of 5 players, you remove all cards of two currencies or one currency respectively.
Flow of Play
Your starting hand represents a small portfolio, that you will try to improve by successive trades, through an auction process.
The cards on the left and right of the draw pile represent two "lots" of new bank notes and coins available on the Market. Each player secretly makes a bid facedown, for the right to get first choice to trade with the available lots, or to trade with the bids of other players. Bluff cards can be included in your bid to help disguise its true value.
Here's how the process of making (1) and revealing (2) bids in a three player game would look:
All players reveal their bids (immediately take your Bluff cards back to your hand), and the player with the bid of the highest face value gets the option to trade first for the lots on the Market. Note that each banknote/card has a serial number ranging from FRED 001 to FRED 069, and ties between bids of equal values are broken by giving the first exchange privilege to the player with the lowest serial number in his bid.
In turns, starting with the player that has the highest bid, players get the chance to make one of the following trade exchanges, in an effort to improve their personal portfolio:
1. Trade your bid cards for one of the two lots on the Market (i.e. beside the draw pile).
2. Trade your bid cards for another player's bid.
3. No trade (i.e. take your bid back to your hand)
If you do make one of these trades, then your cards become available to the other players (either as one of the two "lots" beside the draw pile, or as one of the other players' "bid")! This creates a delicious tension: by making a high bid in order to get the cards you need, you may be giving away cards with high values that other players need! And if you choose to take the bid offered by another player, it means that you're giving them cards with a higher face value than what you're getting, so you better be certain that the benefits are worthwhile!
After it's your turn and you make or decline your trade, you take your resulting cards back to your hand, and the player with the next highest bid takes a turn. In most cases you'll bid two or three banknotes and get three or four in return, and so each turn you'll usually find the face value of your portfolio slowly increasing. But ideally you'll try to focus on one or two currencies, to get at least 200 for each, and a triple 20 or triple 30!
New Round and Game End
The round ends when everyone has had the chance to make or decline an exchange in an attempt to improve their personal portfolio to get the highest point-scoring sets. At this point the two Market "lots" beside the draw pile are replenished to a size of four cards each, and a new round of bidding and trading begins. The game ends after the round when the draw pile is used up.
The rules give the option of playing three hands when playing with experienced players.
How to calculate scores
After the draw pile is used up a final round has been played with the remaining cards, each player then sorts their cards according to currency, and scores as follows:
1. Add the values of each currency
2. Subtract 100 for each currency with less than 200
3. Add 100 for each triplet
4. Add 10 for each coin
Since a currency cannot earn a negative value in step 2, it can sometimes be best to do all three steps for each currency in turn. For example, if you have 3 euros worth 20 each, the value would be calculated as follows: step 1: 60; step 2: 60 - 100 = 0; step 3: 0 + 100 = 100.
Example of scoring
Imagine you end the game with: Euros: 20, 20, 20; Yen: 20, 30, 30, 30; Dollars: 20, 30, 30, 40, 50, 60; 1 Coin
1. Face value - The currency values are: 60 Euro, 110 Yen, 230 Dollars
2. Minuses - Since both the Euro and Yen are less than 200, 100 is subtracted from each, leaving 0 for the Euros and 10 for the Yen. You would receive full value for the 230 Dollars. The modified value of the currencies is now: 0 Euro, 10 Yen, 230 Dollars.
3. Bonuses - There is a 100 point triplet bonus for the three Euro 20s, and for the three Yen 30s. This gives an additional 100 + 100 = 200 points.
4. Coins - 10 points for the coin.
Final score: 230 + 10 + 100 + 100 + 10 = 450 points.
Scoring for a complete currency
So how many points would you get if you have all 9 banknotes of a particular currency?
The total face value of the currency is 300 points, and you'd get 200 in bonuses for the two triplets (20s and 30s), i.e. 500 points!
By design, the game will usually have players focussing on trying to collect as many banknotes as they can in one or two currencies. Usually a score of around 500 is a decent score. Here's the end result of a high-scoring three player game, where players scored 830, 650, and 530 points respectively.
Inspired by real banknotes
Because one of my close family members has professional expertise in buying and selling banknotes and coins for investors, I have some personal interest in numismatics. So when I noticed that the artwork on cards was closely based on real banknotes, I was determined to try to track down the source of each. It took some research, but eventually I was able to discover the original banknotes that were used by artist Paul Niemeyer as the starting point for his artwork in the game. I'm full of admiration for the excellent work he has done in this regard! Here are some comparative pictures, showing the actual banknote from each country, and the artwork used on the game cards.
Australian dollars, Brazilian reals, and Canadian dollars:
Japanese yen, English pounds, and American dollars:
This is a nice touch, and is something that gamers with an interest in numismatics will appreciate.
Inside jokes and easter eggs
But the fun doesn't stop there, because if you look closely, you'll see that artist Paul Niemeyer has included all kinds of inside jokes and easter eggs in the artwork. Did you catch some of them already? Perhaps the most blatant one is designer Reiner Knizia himself, featured as royalty on the British pound:
More subtle is the water-mark featuring the young son of the publisher's director of marketing:
For a more complete list of the inside jokes in this game's artwork, see my article:
Easter eggs in the artwork of the new edition of Money
I think this is clever, amusing, and entertaining, and full credit to the artist and publisher for this kind of creativity! If you'd like to explore more games that do this, see my comprehensive list on Games with Inside Jokes for Gamers.
RPG.net's Shannon Appelcline has implemented an electronic version of Money for the iPhone. I haven't tried it personally, but the artwork of the Gryphon Games edition in this application looks great!
For more information about the iPhone application for Money (it costs US$2.99), see here and here.
What do I think?
Money! is a superb little card game, and Gryphon Games has done well to reprint it. Some of my general observations about the game:
● Mechanics and theme: The main mechanics are simultaneous blind bidding, trading, and set-collecting. For a game about currency, these mechanics work very well, and fit very well with the theme. The real world of numismatics is all about set collecting, and it is a well-documented fact that bank-notes with consecutive serial numbers will be of more value to collectors than three non-consecutive banknotes - this corresponds to the game's mechanic of collecting triples. The world of investing is all about bidding and trading, and that is the heart of this game. Knizia isn't usually renowned for thematic games, but the theme of this one is very solid. Take the word of my numismatic family member - this person is a non-gamer, and a reluctant one at the best of times, but was absolutely enamored with this game!
● Components: The cards are of good quality, and the artwork is superb - the fact that there's a number of inside jokes only adds to the appeal.
● Length: Game-play is surprisingly quick. You can polish off a round in little more than 15 minutes.
● Scalability: The game scales quite well. You use 7 currencies for 5 players, 6 currencies for 4 players, and 5 currencies for 3 players, so a three player game players quicker and has a slightly different feel, but the game works well regardless of the number of players. A five player game is slightly longer and slower, and it can be harder to increase the face value of your portfolio if you bid low - there's less control and more competition with the full complement of players, but some will also find this more rewarding, although personally I enjoy the game most with 3 or 4 players.
● Game-play: Some have criticized the game for finding it hard to decide what to bid, because you may be helping other players more than yourself. In reality, you nearly always will improve the face value of your portfolio each round, and the aspect of giving other players a particularly useful card is the beauty of the game - a card that is worth only 20 to you, might be worth big points to another player who needs it to complete his triple: just like it is for the real-life banknote collector!
● Strategy: Despite its simple game-play, there are some tough decisions, and sometimes it is hard to measure the true value of a bid. There's definitely possibilities for strategic and careful play. Should you hold back 20s and 30s to prevent others from getting triplets? Should you bid high to get a "lot" that contains a critical 20 or 30 you need for a triple? Should you bid low to try to increase the face value of your portfolio and give you more buying power in future rounds? Which currencies should you focus on, to get to the magic value of 200 points? There are lots of interesting decisions to be made and considerations to think about, and the bidding and trading aspect of the game makes for very interactive game-play.
This game has been a huge hit in my family, much to my surprise. When I first read over the rules, the game seemed more complex and less interesting than it turned out to be - in actual fact the game-play is easy to learn, and both quick and fun. And who doesn't like playing with money! As an added bonus, if you don't end up liking the game, you can always put some of the game cards in your wallet, and maybe the guy in your favourite local game store will get confused and let you buy something with them!
Failing that, there's always a credit card - for game purchases, I recommend American Excess
What do others think?
Even though it's just a light little game, Money has a great deal of very positive comments. It's not the kind of game with pages of 10s, but it has a great deal of respect and love as a clever filler that is quick, tense, and satisfying. I share this assessment. Here are just a few representative comments to give you an idea what others are saying about the game:
"An addictive and enjoyable card game of cornering the market in a certain currency that plays rather quickly. The card illustrations and overall quality are top notch." - Jody Ludwick
"In my experience, everyone I've shown it to requests a second game. " - Andy Warta
"Simultaneous action = little down-time. Luck heavy, but short & sweet, and can mitigate luck by watching which sets other players are collecting. Good for families & non-gamers." - Brian Eggert
"Gameplay is quick, so it's a good game to introduce non-gamers to something besides regular playing cards, or before the rest of your gaming group arrives. It has more strategy than is first apparent, also some tough decisions to make." - Al Johnson
"Indispensable Knizia Game." - D0NK1J0T3
"This game is in my "Must Have Fillers" list." - Kris Wolff
"I really like auction games and this one is just great! It's a very easy to learn set collecting/bidding game and it's just a lot of fun." - Jim Carvin
"A typically 'Kniziesque' little game, and maybe one of the finest." - Marco Ferrandi
"Knizia's most underrated design. The fact that the money is both what you use as currency and are trying to collect makes for some very interesting decisions." - Jason Gische
"This is a wonderful set collection/card game with a beautiful deck." - Missy Jones
"Another little gem from Dr. Knizia with his trademark simple rules, quick playing time, and many tantalizing decisions every round." - Tim Thomas
"Medium light strategy, with light and fast paced gameplay. Quite the unique scoring system with a pleathora of paths to victory. The more I play it the more I like it." - locusshifter
"Really cool little Knizia game. Some bidding and trading throughout, and what you're looking for often changes based on what vanishes before your eyes. I like it a lot." - Rich S.
"Terrific Set-collection game. Lots of strategy, tough choices. Quick playing filler." - David Fair
"My favourite small card game. I like the bidding, collecting, and the theme too." - Marc Guenette
"My first choice for 3-5 players and 15 minutes to fill." - Stven Carlberg
"A great game. Original, innovative, fast." - Shannon Appelcline
With Knizia on a roll, surely it's only a matter of time before they'll be minting coins in his honour?
Is Money! for you? It has to be admitted that Knizia has designed a few dud card games over the years, but this is not one of them! Money is a game that has stood the test of time, and this reprinting should be regarded as well-deserved and welcomed. It's clever, fast, deep, tense, satisfying, quick, and has got great components - as far as auction fillers go, this is a good one! Maybe it's time to hop in your Kniziamobile and go for a ride?
And my non-gamer family member that is professionally involved with numismatics? He loved the game that much after playing it just twice, he immediately wanted to buy it. That, my friends, is the power of Money!
The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596
- Last edited Wed Feb 3, 2010 5:27 am (Total Number of Edits: 3)
- Posted Tue Feb 2, 2010 4:09 pm
2010 Releases ........................................ The Resistance, Haggis & Triumvirate ..................................... Now accepting submissions for 2011 releases ........................................ www.IndieBoardsandCards.com
Another excellent review, now I have to try this lovely looking game.
You do a magnificent job capturing the essence of the game in your review.
An excellent review, as always.
- Last edited Tue Feb 2, 2010 5:19 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Tue Feb 2, 2010 5:19 pm
Great review, but I have to say I find the art on the back of the cards in this reprint to be rather hideous.
But...but, if I get this new edition, I'll have to get the other 8 in the series too! (I only have the old For Sale now.)
Great review as usual, E.W. Here goes another one on my Want to Play list...which is
too long already.
The Galaxy is Just Packed!
It's no secret that Knizia is some kind of wizard when it comes to designing games.
His secret...VOLUME! It works for Spielberg, too. Mostly great, but he has his share of stinkers as well.
Couldn't ask for a better review!
Love the pictures and the humour!
Way to go!
Great review. I picked up the iPhone app. At first the AI on the app was weak, but they've had two updates since and it plays pretty well now if anyone is interested.
Great review, but I have to say I find the art on the back of the cards in this reprint to be rather hideous.
Agreed. I was tempted to get it until I saw those card backs...ugh.
wasn't sure about it, but this reviewed convinced me to get it for my class...thanks dude!