QE is a game of bidding to gain the most value by spending not the most money.
Total Game Play: 30 minutes
Designer(s): Gavin Bimbaum
Artist(s): Anca Gavril
QE is a game all about bidding. The game is based on nations who are bidding to bail out companies that are “too big to fail” akin to the 2008 economic crisis. Which is why the name of the game is QE or Quantitative Easing. This game is about bidding but how much money are you willing to spend? It’s important to get value and cost doesn’t really matter so long as you’re not the country who has spent the most money. After all, that’s a lot of liability to take on. QE very much reminds me of the phrase “where the rules are made up and the points don’t matter” because the only thing limiting your spending is the other players at the table.
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.
QE is a game for 3 to 5 players where each player represents a country with asymmetric economic interests.
I have played QE several times and each game has taken its own different and wild turns depending on the players at the table.
QE is played over multiple rounds. In each round, every player will have the opportunity to be the auctioneer and auction off one Company Tile.
The setup of the game is fairly simple. Each player will gain the bid tile and player score board of one nation as well as a randomized industry token which is hidden from other players. Certain company tiles will be removed based on player count and the remaining company tiles will be shuffled and placed in a face down stack in the center of the table. I like the randomness in the set up because it allows for a unique game every time and gives an element of uncertainness. It becomes more interesting throughout the game to learn why people are bidding on certain companies!
During a turn, the auctioneer will reveal the top company tile of the stack and openly show the bid of what they are willing to pay for the revealed company. All other players will then secretly write down their own bids (with or without a secret message to the auctioneer) and hand them to the active player.
After all bids are submitted, the auctioneer announces which player has the highest bid BUT does not reveal the amount that was bid on the company. The auctioneer will secretly write down the winning bid on the back of the company tile and hand it to the winning player. As a fun side note, if the auctioneer wins the bid, then the bid amount for the company remains revealed as public information. (I have been in an endless debate about trackable hidden information, so I do appreciate this game takes out the concern all together).
In each round, a player has an opportunity to earn points if they submit a bid of zero during one of the auctions. This is tracked on the player score board and only applies once per round.
There are many factors that are taken into account during end game scoring. Since there are six different factors that go into scoring, I’m going to have to break it down in a list.
- The first victory point opportunity to score is the value of the companies you’ve gained over the course of the game.
- The second is any victory points you gained from bidding zero in each round.
- Next is nationalization. Since you are playing as a nation, you want to invest in your locally based companies to stimulate your own countries economies. I think that makes sense? Anyway, you will gain points from the companies you’ve gained that match your nation.
- Gaining an industry monopoly will also gain you victory points. If you’ve acquired two or more companies in an industry, you will gain the corresponding points. This measure is then applied across all of the industries in the game. You’re hidden industry tile will come in handy during this scoring phase as it will act as if you have a company in that industry.
- Just like a monopoly is beneficial, diversification also has its benefits. Each set of company tiles containing three or more different industries will also earn you victory points.
- Last, but not least, is victory points for how much money you’ve spent over the course of the game. The amount countries bided for each company is now revealed! The player who has spent the most money is immediately eliminated from the game. Clearly there was some corruption going on in that nation. The player (or players) who spent the least will earn additional points.
And there you have it! All of the ways to get points. Or the one way to lose all of your points. Really, it’s up to you.
Concept: What is Money anyway?
This game really shows that money is valuable because we give it value. I feel like the game starts with smaller, more conservative numbers until someone ramps it up by a hundred. Or even a thousand. If an auctioneer values a company at 50 and gets back bids of 60, 500, and 4000, what do you think will happen? They’ll feel confident in spending money as long as their total stays under 4000. But it’s like dominoes, once one person starts, everyone else will soon follow.
Who Will Like it?
QE is a fun, party-like game for those who don’t mind doing a small amount of math. This game is easy to understand and has fun underlying mechanics that can be enjoyed by board gamers who enjoy any level of gaming. I am honestly a little sad that this one didn’t make it to the table during the last family get together.
What I Think
QE is an enjoyable game. It’s often a game full of laughter and a slight bit of confusion. As the auctioneer you get to see everything but as one of the other players you may or may not be aware of the jokes that are flying around the table.
What did I like?
I love that QE doesn’t take itself too seriously. The total amount of money can range so wildly that each game can be thrown into total chaos or remain relatively calm. The first time the game was derailed, I grew wide eyed when I saw a bid that was exponentially larger than all the others. I also laughed at the zero with a bad dad joke written underneath.
What didn’t I like?
I am worried that the more I play QE the more predictable it will become. But it’s hard to judge predictability when other people are involved. The game is more about reading the people at the table and their potential wants than it is about reading any board state.
QE is an enjoyable game that players of any experience level can enjoy. Having prior experience in the game doesn’t give you an advantage and, in fact, could be a disadvantage as your mindset will more than likely be different from the other players at the table who are new to the game. QE is a game that will make you laugh and show the absurdity of money. The one issue I do have is totally superficial. Each bid tile shows the currency of that specific country but not all currencies are equivalent! You cannot tell me that 20 dollars is equal to 20 yen. Because it is very much not.
Rulebook/Learning the Game
The rulebook for QE has a straightforward layout that walks you through an example of each part of the game. I really love the clearly labeled sections and bold text of the rule book as it makes everything easy to read or find.
During my first play, only one player was experience with the game. The game started out sane enough with bids only going to the highs of $80 or so. And then the extreme jump happened with the experienced player bidding into the thousands. The whole table was thrown into chaos and all bids after that point became insane.
After that, the bids always started out a little silly. Who knew you could bid pi? (You can’t, they specifically state only real, whole numbers. I guess they didn’t want to get into cents). From the outset, there were notes flying around and laughing filling the room.
I really enjoy QE and I think it’s a fun game for what it is attempting to convey. It really shows the absurdity of money values. However, as a bidding or auction game, I would probably lean towards playing the estates first before pulling QE off of the shelf.
*See my rating scale Here