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The theme of High Society (Uberplay, 2003 – Reiner Knizia) is one of flaunting your wealth in everyone’s faces. Apparently players managed to jump off the rising wave of internet companies before most of them crashed and have so much money they don’t know what to do with it. Therefore, they should spend it wisely so that everyone respects them. Good theme to teach kids, huh?
But as illogical (although accurate picture of many wealthy people) as the theme may be, the game works very well, being yet another excellent “light” auction game by Herr Knizia. There are only four to sixteen items being bid on each game, yet the game feels very tense (albeit still light) and has a unique twist at the end that makes it an excellent filler. High Society is not as good of a filler as its cousin, For Sale, but does accomplish giving people an enjoyable experience in a short amount of time. The game feels a little “unpolished” to me; but over all, I enjoyed the experience and would play it again.
Each player is given eleven money cards in their color, in million dollar denominations (1,2,3,4,6,8,10,12,15,20,25). A stack of cards is shuffled and placed face-down in the middle of the table. A player is chosen to start, and one card is turned up to begin the first round.
In each round, players bid on the card in the middle of the table. Starting with the first player, each player places any number of money cards from their hand on the table, or pass. Each bid must be higher than the previous bid, and players cannot change any cards they’ve laid out on the table. When a player passes, they take all their money cards back into their hands. The last player in the bidding discards the money cards permanently and places the card being auctioned in front of them. They are now the first player for the next auction. The cards being auctioned are these:
- Luxury Possession Cards: Numbered from 1 – 10, these cards are worth the points on them at the end of the game.
- Recognition Cards: These cards double the amount of points a player has at the end of the game (effects are cumulative).
- Tax Evasion: This card is auctioned off a little differently. The first player to pass in an auction receives this card, which halves the amount of points a player has at the end of the game. All money cards used in this auction are discarded, except by the winner (well, loser – or whatever you want to call ‘em).
- Gambling Debts: Auctioned off just like the Tax Evasion card, this one is worth “-5” points.
- Thief: Auctioned off just like the Tax Evasion card, this card cancels out one luxury possession card. (If a player has none, they must discard the next one they win.)
Four of the cards (the three recognition cards and the tax evasion card) have red borders. When the last red bordered card is turned face-up, the game ends immediately. Each player sums the money cards left in their hand. The player with the lowest amount of money automatically LOSES and is out of the game. The rest of the players total their points from Luxury Possession, etc. cards, and the player with the most points is the winner!
Some comments on the game…
1.) Components: The few components in High Society are of extremely high quality. The Luxury cards, etc., are actually large cardboard tiles rather than paper stock. This gives them a thick, chunky feel that makes them more “luxurious”, adding to the feel of the game. The money cards are ordinary, smaller cards and come in five different colors, making sorting them out easy. Everything fits very well in a nice plastic insert inside a small, thin box.
2.) Rules: The rules are in a fully-colored, illustrated eight-page booklet. They’re extremely well written with examples of bidding and scoring. No one had any problems with the rules; they were fairly simple to understand. I had an easy time teaching the game but found that some people took a little while to grasp the concept of “the first person to pass wins the auction” concept. And no matter how much I stressed it, at least one person would get so caught up in the bidding that they would forget that the person with the least money at the end always loses.
3.) Losers: The fact that the person with the least money at the end of the game loses is a simple, yet incredibly effective rule. Most people will constantly be thinking of this, and it makes their bids that much more agonizing. The only problem this introduces to some groups is that a few people, so stressed out about the chance that they might lose the game, take a L-O-N-G time to make their bids, stretching what should have been a light filler game out to a lengthier game. And High Society! works best when it’s over quickly. The good thing about this rule means that everyone has a chance, even until the end. If two or more players tie for the least amount of money, they ALL lose. So even if you have horrible cards in front of you, there is a slim chance that you’ll win!
4.) Bidding: The bidding mechanics are simple but fun. And the neat thing about the game is deciding what cards to bid on. It might be worth it to take the Tax Evasion card if you already have a recognition card, since they cancel each other out. And maybe the thief won’t hurt you too bad, since you’ve already won the “1”. The order the cards come up in is important; and while I haven’t seen a game end before ten items have been auctioned off, the possibility is always there, keeping all the players on their toes.
5.) Fun Factor and Time: As long as the players don’t overanalyze what is essentially a simplistic game, it moves along at a good clip and can easily be finished in less than half an hour. And since it’s simply a series of auctions that everyone’s involved with, the game goes pretty quickly.
I would easily say that High Society is the best auction filler I have, except that I also have For Sale, which seems to do pretty close to the same thing, and a little bit better. Now, I’m glad that I have both, and High Society does have nicer components, but most people will probably be content with one – and For Sale is the better choice. HOWEVER, if the fact that the person with the least amount of money intrigues you, and you want your filler to be nail-biting; then High Society with its few, important auctions is the game for you. I enjoy it greatly, and with a group who likes tension and moves quickly it will see a lot of play.
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Nice review - thanks. I'm not a Knizia fan, but I might have a crack at this one.