Thursday, 19 September 2019

Have I Got A Bargain For You

This week we have Bargain Quest, a kickstarter ( in all proper senses of the word ) game based on being a fantasy shopkeeper.

Not of course to be confused with afternoon British TV stalwart Bargain Hunt presided over by the will never not be creepy Lord Spraytan First of His Name, David Dickinson. But if Double Dee floats your boat you can imagine yourself in game slinking around dressed like a spiv to suddenly pop up out of nowhere, leer over an unsuspecting member of the public before disappearing the way you came with only the faintest smell of fake tan on the air. You do you fam.

A self published kickstarter from an unknown designer the theme of Bargain Quest flips the familiar trope of fantasy stuffs that sees you take on the mantle of derring hero thwarting all before you, to instead imagine you as the NPC the GM scrambles to plausibly flesh out when you turned left instead of right, and have you as a shopkeeper selling your crap fine wares to unsuspecting discerning shortly to be dead legendary heroes.

Gaining victory points from just amassing more wealth than everyone else being a no brainer, you also however gain victory points if the hero you just kitted out manages to successfully assault the villain threatening the village and, even more shockingly, survive the encounter. Glory by reflected association whilst doing little yourself. The best kind of Glory. The Glory of Management if you will. You can also imagine this a bit like sponsoring the hero with your gear. Like a football strip. If say Paddy Power existed in D&D. Or perhaps this Wizard sponsored by Johnny's Kebab Emporium. Come try our Rat on a Stick !

So with the premise firmly set, therein follows a modest card drafting and even more modest hand management game. Draft a whole bunch of interesting adventuring type items into your hand - each of which can appeal to different heroes, and each of which are more or less useful to their incumbent and priced somewhat accordingly.

Three heroes are set available to all, but crucially, each of which is only interested in and can only be equipped with items in their particular expertise and only has a limited amount of money to spend.
The hapless Heroes of Bargain Quest. David Dickinson not to be seen.

Players get to place one ( or two, or three ) items from their hand into their shop window, where, bizarrely, window display items cannot be bought, but will entice adventurers in to buy from your store." We're out of stock mate. Only got the one on display. No you can't have it. " . Players get to select which hero not already chosen comes to their shop to buy stuff, the turn order decided by whoever has the most exciting items in their window.

And thus we get to the crux of the game - there is some consideration going on when drafting - what are the current heroes looking for ? Melee things, magic, holy items ? What cards am I seeing in the round robin draft ? What should I place in my window to set my turn order, and what should I leave free to sell ? Placing great items in your window is all very well, but if that then leaves you with little to sell the chump coming through the door, that's not going to get you - or them - anywhere. Conversely, stick some crap in the window and keep the "good stuff" behind the counter is fine and dandy but ensures you'll have last pick of heroes and possibly be stuck with someone you can't cater to. Someone having more enticing items in their window than you and sniping the hero you had your eyes on is very real.
Heroes with money to spend and a villain to face down.

After everyone has sold crap to their sponsored customer the heroes go off to battle the visible villain and match their offence and defence against that of the bad guy. Heroes earn money for surviving ( Which is then used to buy stuff from your shoppe in future rounds ), and earn points for their sponsors by landing a hit and also surviving. After a round of adventure the heroes carelessly lose all their equipment and are once again available to all shopkeepers to squabble over. Or more likely most if not all of them die and a new set of heroes rock up to try their luck.

The game is short and not super taxing with a lovely theme and nice art that works really well and pitched from a viewpoint that is unusual in that it sets you to be the supplier rather than the hero. There is plenty of rich theme and fun to be had with the various items that you can grab from the deck, hitting all the familiar tropes of magic helmets, cat familiars, beserker axes, potions, scrolls and all sorts. It's nice, if you dig that kinda thing. Which I'd guess most RPGers will.
My Shoppe of Wondrous Delights. Nothing at all at the moment.
Might be getting a delivery later guv. Come back then. I Can order it in for you ?
A world before Amazon.
The game also has a somewhat cheeky undercurrent going on, with some items downright crap for heroes - the wineskin, appeals to all heroes, reduces defence by 1, and costs them 10 money. A poor way to prepare a hero. But does make you money. Or perhaps the swindler you can hire as a shop help, who simply fleeces the hero that walks through the door of 15 money with nothing to show for it. Harsh.

All of this can set up a bit of light narrative tacked on top of the game, which with the right crowd will make the game memorably funny. Like Honest Tim the Honest Shopkeeper - enticing heroes into his shop with a wineskin. No use to anyone. Just booze. The lowest of the low. Or at least we thought so until the next turn he simply had a "fake potion" on display. A bottle. Of water. In the window. Or at least you hope that yellow liquid is water. After selling a hapless Cleric some goods, Tim then proceeded in the following round to send out a thug to beat the hero up, leaving him senseless in some dark alley. See that holy cleric over there ? Go duff him up ! Shocking. The very worst kind of shopkeeper. Chaotic Evil. I suggested Tim was actually a criminal with an adventuring equipment fake front and a sideline in protection rackets. Honest Tim. A nice chap. Moral. Avoids social deduction games because it helps you practice lying. Not averse to beating up holy men in dark alleys however. Just beware if he ever opens a shop eh ?

An impressive Magic Lamp on display entices the young
hero into my shop. Who was doing astonishingly well until
the deck of random halved their surivability. BS ! TABLE FLIP !
 If there's one minor fly in the ointment to this easy going Beer and Pretzels kind of game then its the random card that gets dealt on top of a hero before they go fight the villain. These can range from - no effect, to effectively cutting your offence or defence in half ( or both if youre really unlucky ), to boosting both by 50%. There is no way to mitigate this. None. Nada. Pick a card, any card. Oh bad luck, you lose. WHAT ?! Needless to say this is monstrously swingy and can and often does make the difference between success and failure and who gets points regardless of your careful curation of equipment.

It does mean there's always a chance for you, and always a chance a smug player will get smacked down. But it works both ways. And is arguably too much. But also somewhat needed to make things a little uncertain. In any event should you really hate them you can just do away with them, or trim the deck to take the worst swingy offenders out. And in the end the game is not supposed to be an AP perfect information paradise, but more of a fun romp watching ill equipped heroes die at the hands of a Goblin King.

And for those that intensely dislike mean spirited take that kick your neighbour kind of games, Bargain Quest is light on the doing the dirty to everyone else kind of actions. They are in there, but none of them are terribly impactful. Think more an occasional light hearted interference rather than a devastating razing of your neighbour.

Bargain Quest - a great bargain ! *leers at you with a David Dickinson creepy ass smile*

PS. Do you think David Dickinson walks around everywhere like that ? A fanned fistful of 20's in his hand. Here he comes. To the supermarket checkout. Fanned 20's. David points at his fanned 20's and leers. Yes. Very nice David. Well done. No I don't have any bargains for you. Why are all these 20's smeared in orange ?

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