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Bargain Quest Review


Quick Look: Bargain Quest

DesignerJonathan Ying
Artists: Victoria Ying
Publisher: Renegade Game Studios
Year Published: 2017
No. of Players: 2-6
Ages: 8+
Playing Time: 45-60 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

Review:



There’s something to be said about good shopkeepers—they provide good gossip, they sometimes have rare items, but most importantly, they’re your trusted source for weapons and armor so that when you go to attack the local monster, you’ll make it out alive.

At least, that’s the goal.

Little do the heroes of any RPG town know that the shopkeepers care little about the lives of the heroes. What they want is money, prestige, and more money. And they get those things through you, the noble hero.

Each shop in the town has fine items on display to lure in the heroes, and once inside, they shop owners sell off their wares. So what if it’s a rip off? With any luck, that hero won’t make survive the encounter with the monster. And if he does? Well, he’ll be back for more.

And so it goes, on and on, until either the heroes are successful despite the shopkeepers’ inability to stock anything worthwhile (some of the time, at least), or the heroes all die.

____



Bargain Quest puts players in the shoes of shopkeepers in an RPG town. Heroes come to town looking to equip the latest and greatest gear, and it’s your job to sell them what they need. If you don’t, they may not survive, and that doesn’t make your shop look very good. But, you still want to sell them your most expensive stuff, so it’s worth the risk…sometimes.

Of course, if all the heroes die, then there’s no one to protect the town from the dreaded monsters. Ah, well. Such is the way of things.

I must say that I found the theme and premise of Bargain Quest quite delightful, and was eager to see how it would actually work. I found that it plays very well, and the premise is quite engaging, considering you’re taking the role of a shopkeeper. 

There’s a lot I could say here about the game, but I think I’ll refrain and save my thoughts for each section as they come. Each section from here on out will contain my thoughts, as well as a brief description of setup and gameplay, where appropriate. Ready to see what it takes to run a shop in an RPG town? Let’s dive in to Bargain Quest!

Setup:

Setup for a two-player game.

Setup is fairly straightforward, but there are a number of different decks/cards you have to keep separate. For more in-depth details regarding setup, please refer to the game’s rule book.

Now, essentially everyone gets a shop board, and all decks (hero, item, employee, and adventure) are shuffled and placed on the table. Each shopkeeper starts with five bucks. Randomly select three monsters: one rank-one, one rank-two, and one rank-three. The rank-one monster is on top, and the rank-three monster (the toughest of them all) is on the bottom. Guess where the rank-two monster is! (Hint: It’s in the middle.) Flip over a number of hero cards equal to the number of players and place money on each card equal to the value stated on each card. This is the money the heroes will use to buy your crap goods.



Six heroes for a six-player game, each with their starting monies.

Really, setup isn’t much trouble at all. The biggest thing is keeping all the different types of cards separate; otherwise, you’ll have a doozie of a time sorting them all before playing. The card backs differ only in color (and a bit of design), which can make it difficult to differentiate between certain decks, especially if you’re playing with the Black Market expansion. But I digress…

After the first time playing, I didn’t even need to look at the rule book to get everything set up correctly, so that’s super nice. Not too difficult at all, and the rule book makes it even easier.

Gameplay:


Things started getting a little messy by the last round. But I'm sure you're tidier than we are.

The game is played over a series of rounds until either all monsters are destroyed (and the player with the most points wins), or the hero deck runs out, in which case everyone loses.

No pressure. 

A round starts off with the players getting—and then drafting—four item cards. Once all cards have been drafted, players select one (or more, depending on if you’ve upgraded) item to display in the front window, thus luring wandering heroes into your rustic shop. Of course, there is strategy behind this, as you are unable to sell what is in your display. Certain employee cards will help you sell display items, but generally speaking, that’s a no-no.

The display with the most hearts—or appeal—will choose the first hero, followed by the player whose display has the next most hearts. Should there be a tie, the total cost is the tie breaker. You may only lure in heroes that have icons matching that of the display item(s). So, if there are no more heroes left with the same icon or icons as on the display, you must wait until everyone else has had a turn choosing before you get the leftovers (which isn’t always a bad thing).


You can't sell it this round, but it definitely brings all the heroes to the yard shop.

Once in your store, you sell items from your hand to the heroes. Simply take their money and give them the card they want (i.e. what you want them to have). Just like luring in the heroes, you may only sell them cards that have at least one symbol matching the hero’s. Once equipped, the heroes will venture forth and attack the current monster (so hopefully you’ve equipped your hero well enough to survive…).

At the start of this next phase (the Adventure phase), each player gets a random adventure card which can either hurt or hinder (or do neither to) the heroes. It adds a little luck factor to the game, and also some comedy gold when one player constantly gets adventure cards that remove attack and defense. Classic.

Heroes then attack the monster, dealing one damage if their attack value is equal to or greater than the monster’s defense, and surviving the encounter if their defense value is equal to or greater than the monster’s attack value. If a hero lands a hit, the player who equipped that hero gains a point. If that hero survives, that shopkeeper also gains a point. If the hero doesn’t survive…well, at least they can’t ask for a refund. The monster must take damage equal to (or greater than) the number of players. Generally speaking, this means it will take 2-3 rounds before a monster is defeated, although I have seen a level 1 monster be defeated in one round.



All surviving heroes return to their spot in the middle of the table (most certainly so they can all talk about the epic encounter they just had), all dead heroes are discarded, and a new hero is drawn from the hero deck. All item cards from all heroes are discarded. Players may then purchase an upgrade or an employee. Upgrades can help display more items and store more cards during the storage phase (more on that in a moment). Upgrades are what you’ll need to ensure you win the game (or at least not lose by as much).



Once everyone has purchased their upgrade/employee, each player chooses one card from their hand to store face down on their shop board. The rest of their unused cards are discarded. 

Rinse. Repeat.

The game ends when the final monster has been defeated, and the player with the most points wins! The game also ends if the hero deck is depleted, in which case all players lose. So while you’re not technically working together, you also don’t want to start sacrificing heroes, either.

Players can do most of the phases simultaneously (display, shopping, storage, etc.), which helps cut back on down time and speeds things up considerably. Of course, not everyone will be as quick as you when it comes to choosing a display item (guilty), but these things happen. It’s actually a nice touch to have a bunch of simultaneous phases; otherwise, I feel like the game would drag on ad nauseam. 

The draft mechanic is good, too, because it means you’re not stuck with a dumpster fire of a hand, and your neighbor with a phenomenal hand has to share the wealth. All the heroes have different abilities as well, which adds for some fun and excitement (and disappointment) to the monster-slaying phase. Everything feels well balanced, and games end with the scores being very close.

Theme and Mechanics:



The theme is a fun one (never thought I’d say that about being a shopkeeper) in that you play the role of a shopkeeper outfitting heroes so they can protect your town. It’s all about the money, as you only care about the sale, and seldom do you worry about a hero’s death. You’ve played the role of the hero countless times, and now it’s time to take a break and make some money off the goons.

One member of my game group made the comment that Bargain Quest feels a bit like Boss Monster, only instead of building a deadly dungeon, you’re simply equipping the heroes running through said dungeon. He’s not entirely wrong in that analysis.

There are a number of mechanics that play very well together. Card drafting, variable player powers, and resource management all mix wonderfully to create a tight game with solid gameplay. The down time is mitigated nicely, and there are plenty of meaningful decisions flying around.

Artwork and Components:



The art is lighthearted, but not the whimsical stuff for kids, either. I think it’s really well done, and with great detail, too. It certainly helps add to the overall feel and theme of the game.

The components are mostly cards, which are all good quality (hey, it’s Renegade!). I would have liked the backs of the separate cards to be more distinct in what they represent, rather than green for heroes, blue for employees, and brown for items. The item deck is easy to differentiate mostly because it’s massive, but I’ll sometimes get confused when flipping over heroes or employees (or black market cards, with the expansion). It’s not a big deal, and if it happens, just shuffle it back into the deck and move on to the next one. Really though, that’s my only complaint with components, so all is well.

The Good:
  • Plays up to 6 (up to 8 with the Black Market expansion)
  • Fun and unique theme
  • Solid mechanics
  • Tight gameplay
  • Close games
  • Lots of variety
The Other:
The first thing I will say is what I already mentioned about the card backs. They can get a bit confusing, but once you figure things out, you’ll be just fine.

Secondly, I found there was a lot of shuffling going on (which isn’t inherently a bad thing). Un-purchased (un-hired?) employees are shuffled back into their deck, all adventure cards are shuffled back into their deck, and the items go fast, so you’ll need another shuffle there, too (and it’s a big deck). I mention this because you could see the cards wear out faster than normal thanks to this. If sleeving is your thing, then more power to you.

The game tends to get longer with higher player counts. If everyone is into it, that’s totally fine. But even one slowpoke can prolong the game more than anyone might prefer. I have yet to play with eight players (via the Black Market expansion), but six players is noticeably longer than three. Still, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and in fact, I’m a fan of the high player count, because even with a lot of people showing up to game night, it can still be played and enjoyed. Just prepare to be sitting for a bit longer.

Final Thoughts:



The theme was the first thing that caught my attention about Bargain Quest (as is usually the case about most games). I felt like the game mechanics supported the theme well, and if you’ve ever wanted to know what it’s like supplying heroes with gear, then you’ve found the right game.

I really like the game. That said, I think it’s one of those games that will be a consistent occasionally-type game. It’s fun, don’t get me wrong, but there’s just something about it that feels like it’s missing something, and I don’t know what. I will say, though, that the Black Market expansion does improve the gameplay, as you have more choices. I will also say that I don’t expect to ever turn down an opportunity to play Bargain Quest. Thankfully, all our tastes are different, and I know a lot of people will absolutely love it and play non-stop. It definitely scratches an itch and fills a void, and I’m more than happy to call it mine.

Players Who Like:
If you like playing shop, equipping heroes, and not risking your own life to slay beasts and monsters, then wow, Bargain Quest was made for you! It’s got a unique theme with solid mechanics, and if you like a good game, there is no denying that this is that. Also, one of the monsters is a dragon, and dragons are awesome, so that’s a reason, too. In all, it’s a fun game that accommodates high player counts, so if you have a larger than normal game group, Bargain Quest is definitely recommended.




Check out Bargain Quest on:

                  


About the Author:



Benjamin Kocher hails from Canada but now lives in Kentucky with his wife and kids. He's a certified copyeditor through UC San Diego's Copyediting Extension program. He's a freelance writer and editor, and covers everything from board game rule books to novels. An avid writer of science fiction and fantasy, it comes as no surprise that his favorite board games are those with rich, engaging themes. When he’s not writing or playing games, Benjamin loves to play ultimate Frisbee, watch and play rugby, and read the most epic fantasy books available. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminKocher and Instagram @Benjamin_Kocher, and read his board game-inspired fiction at BenjaminKocher.com.

Check out Benjamin's reviews here.

Bargain Quest Review Bargain Quest Review Reviewed by Benjamin Kocher on August 30, 2019 Rating: 5

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