Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Thursday 12 April 2018

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- High Society

Game: High Society

Publisher: Osprey Games

Designer: Reiner Knizia

Year: 2018

High Society is a reprint of Reiner Knizia's classic auction game, coming from Osprey games. Players must bid against each other for luxuries, while avoiding going bankrupt in the process. This reprint is a great upgrade to the games artwork with Art Nouveau-inspired illustrations by Medusa Dollmaker. Is a new coat of paint enough to elevate High Society to compete in a market that is now crowded with many more games than when it was first published back in 1995?

In High Society, each player has an identical hand of money cards in different denominations. On each round, one luxury card will be drawn from the deck and players will bid for this card. The bid must increase with each player and at least one card should be added during your bid. The bid continues around the table, but you can drop out of the bid at any time and reclaim all of your cards. the last player in the bid winds the luxury card but has spent all of the money cards they used and will not get this money back. Luxury cards range in value up to a value of 10, but there are also cards with negative effects.

In addition to standard luxuries, there are four green cards in the deck which act as multipliers. Three are x2 multipliers, but one is a card that will halve your total score. When the 4th of these cards is revealed the game will end. This means that not all crds will be seen in most games, so this adds some judgment to when you should bid heavily on a high value card.

High Society is a very cleverly designed auction game, with great elements of push your luck, as well as trying to read your opponents. You need to strike a careful balance of how much you can afford to bid to win each card, based on whether you guess there will be an opportunity to win better cards in the future. The negative cards, with their alternate bidding method also add a really interesting element where you can really hurt your opponents by forcing them to lose some vital cards. In this moment and other moments of the game, the limited card denominations are also crucial, with low value cards being far more useful than you might realise in your first play.

Some cards are positive, and others are negative which affects the way the bids function and can be the most difficult concept to get across to new players.
I really appreciate the clever design of this small card game, but there are a few challenges when bringing it to the table that probably mean it won't become a staple of our collection. My first is theme - there is no doubt the artwork is lovely, but bidding for luxury goods just isn't something I can get a group of people excited about. The next drawback is the learning curve. A steep learning curve for a clever game is OK, and in fact can be a big plus, for a game we will play at home, but this game takes a minimum of three players. This means we're always taking it to other family members or a game group and teaching it to new people who will be at a disadvantage in their early games, before they get a feel for pacing, and we've found that this can lead to an underwhelming experience for the new player.

Unfortunately, this combination means that High Society doesn't shine for me. Perhaps if we played more consistently with the same group of people this would make an interesting filler. Maybe it's more suited for families with older children who don't need a silly or exciting theme to get a game to the table? But, for the Yellow Meeple, High Society is a 5.5/10.

High Society was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It will soon be available for an RRP of £14.99 at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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