It’s not even noon when I look up at the sound of some young and too-eager stranger smearing their face and fingers over my shop window. They will pay for those greasy streaks, let there be no doubt. That holy sword has suckered in more experienced “heroes” than this.

As they step inside I plaster on my expert customer service smile and prepare to shake them down. “Good day to you friend. What brings you to my humble shop on this gobin-ravaged morning?”

“I seek arms that I might wipe the ignoble dark-dwellers from this fair village. Pray tell me good shopkeep, how much for the holy blade displayed inst thine window?” they reply.

Of course they’re a cleric, the pretentious tone always gives it away. Well, that and the overly ornate book of vague bigotry they can’t seem to put down.

“Oh, it’s a beautiful item, laid in my care by Sister Illumination Piety. Alas, it is not for sale.”

“Blast!… I mean, alas. Then have you ought else I might use in my noble quest to defeat the goblin chief and free this village from oppression?”

I look them up and down, using my finely honed eye for the weight of a purse and estimate they’ve got, at most, 15 gold.

“Fear not, noble warrior, let me show you this fine holy symbol, set here by Sister Peitiy’s (less well-funded) forbear, Sibling Luna.” I hand them the necklace I’d picked up as a free gift with my last bulk weapons order.

“Truely, I feel the presence of our divine Mistress emanating most powerfully from this item. I must have it.” They’re almost salivating, it’s kind of weird.

“I’m afraid the price is quite high, due to it’s noble provenance.” I reply, glancing down as I fear that if they catch my eye I’ll just piss myself laughing. Hold it together. “Tis 15 gold. Alas, I could not part with it for less.”

“Be silent then, and takest mine coins, for though it is all my worldly wealth, it is vital in my quest to eradicate evil.”

“Wouldst your holiness care for a bag?” I respond, pocketing the gold, faster than you could blink.

“Nay, I shall wear it now, and always.” they reply, striding out out the door, glowing with pomposity.

Bargain Quest is a 2-6 player card-drafting game of capitalism in a fantasy village by Jonathan Ying. It plays in about 45 minutes and has some delightful artwork. Players take an individual shop board, which comes folded in half and showing what the shop front would look like. Upon opening it up you will find your display area, places to put any upgrades and employees as well as a reference chart showing the round order.

During setup players will lay out a stack of three monster cards (escalating in difficulty) as well as a number of hero cards equal to the number of players. Each hero card shows their class and abilities, but more importantly, how much money they have to spend in your shop.

Starting with the supply round, players reveal the next monster plaguing the village and are dealt 4 item cards face down. They then take one item and pass their hand to the next player until everyone has drawn their 4 items.

Next comes the display phase where players take an item and which they hope will entice a hero in. The item with the most hearts displayed on it will get first dibs on which hero will shop with them. However, this item cannot be sold so you’ll need to make sure you have something you can actually sell these adventurers when they are drawn in. Furthermore, the items will have symbols which denote the class they are appropriate for. Both items and heroes may have multiple symbols and those with more symbols will usually have more money to spend.

Are your items good enough to guarantee that paladin popping in? Or do you hedge your bets and ensure you have enough choice if you end up with the fighter?

Once everyone has selected a display item these are flipped over and the shopping phase begins. Based on who’s display had the most hearts players take in an appropriate hero. If none are left, players may take whoever’s left over (if you’ll excuse me a moment, I need to go and cry out some childhood memories of the picking of sports teams).

With shoppers brought in, it’s time to relieve them of their funds in exchange for any appropriate goods. The thing to consider here is if you can outfit them sufficiently to take on the current monster. Even if they don’t defeat it, they may come back with additional funds for you to help them dispose of.

At last it’s on to adventure. It brings a tear to the eye, seeing a young wannabe hero heading off to fight evil, carrying a sword you’ve covered in your shop’s branding. This wouldn’t be a tabletop fantasy game without a little randomization though, so heroes receive a card from the adventure deck. This could be a bonus to attack or defence, or even some extra gold they found on the way to the dungeon. Alternatively, it could be a spot of bad luck that gives them a debuff for the run.

Each player now takes a turn to strike down the terrors of the dark. The monster cards show special actions such as stealing gold from heroes before the shopping phase, or robbing a players store at the end of the round. They also include their strength and toughness. Hit them hard enough to score a hit and that’s a point for the player that kitted them out. However, if they’re not armoured sufficiently, they’ll be returning to town in a body bag (well, probably a hempen sack, if they’re lucky).

If, after all players’ heroes have taken a swing at the enemy, there are an equal number of hits to players, then that enemy is defeated and surviving adventurers will receive a handsome reward. If the enemy still lives, they get a smaller reward and a bonus point for their player. After which, they return to town, tossing their old equipment in a ditch on the way. Because those items are just “sooooo last encounter”.

Expired heroes are replaced with a new one drawn from the deck and returning heroes will have to make the most of the money they have.

As day draws to an end, it’s time to look at upgrading your store. Purchase extra display space, extra storage or even workers to help out around the place.

Last thing before bed, you may pack away an unsold item into storage. This could be something from your window (keep it aspirational for that paladin, eh?) or something from your hand.

And so it goes, day in day out, until the final monster is defeated and the village is free. Woo! The winner is the player with the most points (with bonuses for extra gold in your till).

There’s 4 different monsters of each of the three levels so there’s plenty of opportunity for replayability there. Additionally there’s a huge item deck to work through as well as a good number of heroes to send on their adventures. The art is charming and the components look lovely. That said, during my first play session, I noticed that all the cards were starting to curl. It’s not particularly humid or damp here so I’m at a loss as to why they were curling like foil valiant Magic: The Gathering cards within an hour or so.

Pros:

  • Beautiful art
  • Fun gameplay
  • Lots of variety in the items

Cons:

  • Cards quickly started curling once opened for the first time
  • Can feel a little too random with small player counts
  • Capitalism

Final Score: 7/10

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