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Wrott & Swindlers

If the title looks suspicious try reading it out loud. Yes. The name, and first sight of the gift-shop box arouse suspicions about the game value of the contents, but inside there's an excellent game which deserves serious attention.

The game is a two part auction and bluff card game. The components are simply two packs of cards, a gavel, and the rules. One pack of cards comprises twelve sets of four categories of antique properties. There are four antique clocks, four items of antique furniture, etc. Each set has a points value ranging fairly evenly from Furniture at 1000 to Miscellanea at 50. The points decide the winner but otherwise have no direct relationship to monetary value.

The second pack of cards is money, and it is the oddities of the cashflow that contribute to this game being a little unusual. Each player is given a very limited set of money cards, only seven 'notes' and these range in value between 5 and 100. (Later in the game 200 and 400 value notes become available.) There is no bank, and no concept of giving change. This can be a little distressing if you don't keep a careful eye on your cards while bidding; that bid of 45 might cost you 200 if you're holding four 10's and a 200 in notes!

The aim of the game is to acquire complete sets of cards. In the standard game each player is dealt four cards to start with, the rest are auctioned off, one at a time, in the first phase of the game. The auctioning mechanism is rather clever in that player acting as auctioneer for that turn is paid the final price. In this way there is no money flow out of the game. On the next go, the next player acts as auctioneer. The auctioneer has the additional right to take the auctioned card, paying the final price to the player who succeeded in bidding for it. (Beware of auctioneers trying to keep the price down!).

During this first auction phase it's important to watch what others are collecting. You cannot start new sets in the second phase, so make sure you've established a wide range of categories in the first phase, and beware of spending on cards you don't really need.

When all the cards have been auctioned each player has in front of them an array of partial sets. The second phase is to make sealed bids for other players cards in order to complete your sets. When everyone holds complete sets the game ends and the 'values' are added up.

The sealed tendering mechanism is pure bluff. Both parties, i.e. the player whose turn it is and the player who owns the desired card, place, face down, money cards. These are exchanged, and kept. Whoever bid the most money acquires the card from the other player, so this can be an equally effective way of losing cards from your sets! You cannot bid for a card unless you have a card of the same set, so the game finishes quite swiftly as those with completed sets drop out of the game.

The components are of excellent quality (which they ought to be given the price!) but the - bold italic "bold quote" (parentheses) italic CAPITALS "quote" - style of the rules is a bit of a disappointment.

The game is great fun and we thoroughly enjoyed playing it, however, I have a nagging suspicion that it's going to show some parallels with 6 Nimmt. You feel there ought to be some tactics but it can be a bit of a lottery, especially in the second phase. There's something immensely pleasurable in conning your best friend out of a valuable card with a few low 'notes' (he, assuming an enormous bid, just bid a nominal fiver.) but once you've started on counter-counter-bluffs it does get a bit random and unfulfilling.

The contrast with 6 Nimmt is the price. Mechanically the only difference is the packaging, and I baulk at paying £15 for brass hinges on the box. I know the price shouldn't affect a game's recommendation, so let me say that I highly recommend playing this game; but if a friend had £25 to spend I'd suggest other games first.

Kevin Rolph

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