For Sale! Review
Des: Stefan Dorra
Pub: Eagle Gryphon Games
I avoided playing For Sale for about 5 yrs. before I caught on. Don't make the same mistake! When I first saw people playing this card game of just two small decks of cards and some tiddlywinks I wrote it off as a forgettable filler. It wasn't until I was ambushed with it after just finishing another game that I discovered how nuanced the gameplay can be. The most remarkable thing, to me, is that I can teach the game just by dealing out a card per player and walking through the first auction. Everyone intuitively understands that they want to pay less for the better houses, the number ranking and illustrations helping determine the value. Of course, everyone has their dream home (so hands off my treehouse). Before they know it the new player is already playing the game and you've nearly reached the second half where you have to reluctantly inform the new owner of 5-10 abodes of various beauty that they must now sell the houses for money again. This phase works much like the first half with a check for everyone laid out. Each player selects a house to sell and they are all revealed simultaneously. The checks are awarded in matching rank to the houses, highest check to the most valuable house, etc. A true gateway game is one which draws the newcomer in right away, doesn't leave them standing at the gate learning the rules. That is why I feel like For Sale is the ultimate gateway game, because you can start teaching right away, it is only 15 minutes so if players want to play again right away to solidify rules that is usually possible, and the travel size is the size of a thick deck of cards so you really can take it anywhere.
But a game can't just be easy to teach and portable to last over 20 yrs in print. For Sale is evergreen because of the elegant tension that comes from figuring out how to get the most out of a weak hand. Fans of trick-taking games will appreciate the opportunity to use finesse to win more than one might expect with the lowest value house by waiting until the spread of checks is tight so it doesn't hurt to get the lowest. Once you get a couple of games under your belt you start realizing how to control the first half of the game by not running out of money. This game is on a very short list of games I could never get sick of.
Fighting entropy since 1982.