Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Going? Crazy!

Many German-style board games make use of an auction mechanic. Sometimes it's "once around" the group of players, other times bidding goes until only one player remains. But invariably, the auctions in these games are always orderly affairs where players are able to ponder just what they want and how much they want it.

And yet, ask a non-gamer what comes to mind when they think of an auction, and you'd likely get a response that bore no resemblance to that. Auctions, in the more conventional sense, are a frenetically paced event with an incoherently babbling auctioneer goading bidders into impulsively spending more money than they'd planned. Now comes a game that tries to capture that crazy feeling: Going, Going, GONE!

Five cups are placed in the center of the play area. Over the course of seven rounds, collectibles are placed next to the cups -- one or two to each. Players have wooden cubes representing their money, and bid it by dropping the cubes into the cups marking the items they want. But they have very little time to do this. Each round, one player becomes the auctioneer (in addition to a participant), counting down from 10 to 0 as slowly or quickly as they like (but always at an even pace). When they reach 0, the bidding is closed.

Until then, anything goes. Players drop their cubes wherever they want, as fast as they want. They try to count cubes in the cups before other players bury them. They try to sneak in at the last moment with their bids. They try to attract interest in things they don't want to distract from the things they really do. Sometimes, they miss the cups in their haste. Simply put, the auctions are pure chaos.

After each round, only the player with the most cubes in a cup gets the collectables associated with it. Losers get their money back. Players then try to group their winnings into categories. The 49 cards of the deck represent 7 nationalities and 7 different kinds of items. Larger sets yield larger profits, and the player who has the most money at the end wins.

While I admire the attempt to capture a different feeling, this game is probably a little too chaotic. It's not really very strategic in any significant way... unless maybe your eye is quick enough to count cubes as they fall into the cups you want, and your hand is quick enough to add that one cube more than any opponent has put there. Still, the game takes a mere 10 to 15 minutes to play. That pace and speed does make it well suited to lead off a game night -- you won't be stuck in the middle of something long when latecomers arrive, and those who were playing will certainly be fired up and awake for something else.

And yet, though it is kind of fun for what it is, I'm not sure how enthusiastically I can really recommend a game whose strongest praise might be "it's great to play before you play something else." I suppose it comes down to what your regular gaming group is like. If it's not too serious (or at least, too serious all the time), this game could find a place in the rotation. I think I'd probably call it a B- or so.

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