A capitalistic card-drafting game where player are competing merchants trying to sell their wares to aspiring adventurers. But do you really care if they make it out alive?
Designer(s): Johnathan Ying
Artist(s): Victoria Ying
Publisher: Origames, Renegade Game Studios
Bargain Quest is a card drafting game that deals with the hand management, auction and bidding, and economic management concepts while still standing in a light to mid weight game.
I will admit that Bargain Quest is a little lighter of a game than I normally enjoy. That being said I still find a good and light enjoyment in this game. This game does a great job of introducing the drafting mechanic to newer players and I would contest that it is a gateway game.
In this review, I will touch on Bargain Quest but not the eight expansions. I will point out that, with one of the expansions, this game does have a solo mode.
This is a general overview to provide context for the review, not an in-depth how to play. Some rules may be glossed over or missing
Bargain Quest, the base game, is a game for 2 to 6 players where you must supply adventurers with weapons and equipment building your shop in fame and reputation. I have mainly played this game at 3 players.
Bargain Quest is played over multiple rounds in which there are 6 phases (or steps): Supply, Display, Shopping, Adventure, Upgrade and Storage. Throughout the game, players draft items cards to display in their store to lure in adventurers and get them to purchase the shops wares.
Setup / Game Layout
The set up for the game is fairly simple as it mainly requires a few stacks of cards. Each player gets to choose their own unique shop board for their area. The different shops do not have a different use for gameplay but they definitely have a fun aesthetic. And I got to say, who doesn’t love being the owner of a friendly local game store?
The decks in the center of the splay consists of the item deck, the monster deck, the adventure deck, the display upgrade deck, the storage upgrade deck, the employee deck, and the hero deck. The only deck that will change from game to game is the monster deck. This deck is only made of 3 cards, one of each rank.
At the beginning of the game, 3 heroes are revealed and the corresponding amount they have to spend is dealt.
The round starts with the Supply phase. This where a new monster is revealed if there is no threat and the players gain their shop ware. Each player will be dealt 4 cards of which they will draft one card in a clockwise fashion. After all cards are drafted, we then move onto the display phase. Here each player chooses item cards to put into their display. These cards are placed face down on the shop and are revealed at the same time. Cards in the display cannot be sold, so it’s important to find cards that are alluring to heroes but maybe don’t have much sale value.
The next phase is shopping!! The player with the highest appeal from their display will pick a hero to come shopping, every player will end up with one hero. Players then sell the heroes items from their remaining supply (hand) before the shop closes up and the display is returned to the players hand.
With nothing else to buy, the heroes go on their adventure to defeat the monster. The success of the heroes will gain their respective stores some good reputation. The failure of a hero will result in their elimination. But don’t worry, more heroes will come into town. And sometimes, it’s preferable for a new hero to come since they will bring a refreshed coin purse.
The last two phases are mainly for clean-up. Phase 5 is gaining upgrades, in which players can gain either an upgrade for their shop or an employee. Phase 6 places all item cards in storage and discards any excess cards.
The core concept in this game is card drafting. For this game mechanic, every player is dealt a specific number of cards. From these cards, each player will choose one and pass the remaining card in a specified direction ( in this card, that would be to the left). This process is then repeated until all cards end up with a player. And yes, towards the end, you will push someone one card that you don’t want and likewise get pushed one card by another player.
The game ends in one of two ways – the heroes win the day and the monsters are defeated or the monsters destroy the town as the heroes run out. What’s interesting about this game is that end game scoring will only occur for one of the two endings. If the heroes win, the game will go to end game scoring but if the monsters overrun the town, they everyone loses as their stores are destroyed.
This adds an interesting semi-cooperative aspect to the game as each player does need to contribute to defeating the monsters.
Who Will Like it?
This is a great mid-weight game, and I believe it would be appealing to a wide audience. I would put this game into the category of gateway games as while it has some complexity in overhead, the theme and feel of the game is perfect for someone being introduced into the hobby with the support of a more experience gamer.
What I Think
The rules and set up for this game is fairly straight forward and doesn’t have too much overhead in terms of housekeeping. This game knows exactly what it wants to accomplish and is takes direct aim at it’s goals. The rulebook itself is also very easy to understand and walks through the game in a very comprehensive way. This game is also perfect for those who want to have a competitive game that is on the less aggressive side of the spectrum. The game also doesn’t reward knowledgeable players as the entire game is about mitigating the luck of the draw.
What did I like?
I am always a big fan of straight forward cards and direct systems. This game does an excellent job of explaining the card anatomy of each type of card in a way that intuitive and simple. I also love how this game has a push and pull in terms of scoring. Points are given from heroes being successful against the monsters, but they are also given for every 10 gold. Just focusing on gaining money probably won’t win you the game, but solely defeating the monsters also might not be the best choice either.
Of course, I also must mention the wonderful art that this game uses. I adore the different characterization of the heroes and the story that is told through the stream of heroes and their wares.
What didn’t I like?
For a game that is so straight forward, it does tend to go a little overlong. While the beginning can go smoothly, the heroes get clearly less powerful if they survive without full killing the monster. This causes a round of stagnancy where heroes are given little to no money but still have to fight and can cause a slow grind against the monsters. This can be especially true of the Stage 3 monster as it has the most health.
I will admit, I am quite the sucker of the games in the adventuring category and I love how this one subverts the narrative. Most never think of themselves as the NPC merchant when they have the opportunity to be a hero.
Rulebook / Learning the Game
The rulebook for this game is well laid out and doesn’t really need any addition resources for learning how to the play the game. For only 15 pages, it is comprehensive and leaves very few questions. I also thoroughly appreciate the round overview on the back of the rulebook that has the main steps laid out in a clear and conscience manner. The game also includes some quick player variants at the end of the main rulebook for a 2 player game and for those who may not like the randomness of the hero deck.
During the first play, there was an excitement of discovery with bringing out new cards and finding more about the monsters that plague the peace of the town. It was also fun watching the heroes come through the town, because there were all types. There were the standard good adventurers and then there was the goofy “I want to be an adventurer” type which has a lot of money but was a little lacking on skill.
The gameplay mechanics are some that I have seen in other games, Bargain Quest still feels fresh with its approach and style. This game is definitely one I would use to introduce others into the hobby but may not be my first choice with more experienced players.
*See my rating scale Here