Saturday, November 16, 1996

Priceless Games (11/16/1996)

Players: Joshua, Mike, Scott

You gotta love
Priceless, a game with blank checks that can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars (especially considering that you start with NINE of them). Leaping off point for this game: players start with little cash and a bunch of blank checks (that are also worth little, at first), and they then purchase collectible objects (from Art to Cars to Cards). Buying additional items within one category increases the value of your collection but is also more difficult financially, and putting together "chains" of items (i.e. items that connect to each other on the game board) builds your wealth faster as well. At game's end, the player with the greatest value (comprised of cash on hand and value of remaing blank checks) wins.

I won't describe all three games we played (play time is roughly one hour per game), so I'll just provide some specific rememberances and general principles that we discovered while playing. I remember Scott won all three games -- there, I said it, and I'm glad. The first game started out close, with all three of us trying to put together chains, without spending too many checks. The strategy of the game dictates that you cannot use all your checks if you expect to win, so we all struggled with the balance of saving checks and building income so that we could make future purchases in cash. In the first game, Mike and Scott managed that balance better than Joshua, who eventually overspent checks to start his first chain. No specific turning point stands out, but Mike and Joshua battled over some similar objects d'art, while Scott built a collection along the western side of the board. Joshua and Mike traded property cards a few times, and Mike made it out of the cellar first, followed by Scott.

We encourage trading as it makes the game more interactive and interesting and offsets the luck factor (which can become enormous if players don't trade). In the third game, early trading between Joshua and the two other players put Mike out in front at first, and a late trade between Mike and Scott locked in two entire categories for Scott and a long chain for Mike. However, you should always (and only) trade when it helps you corner a certian category or build a chain for yourself. In fact, this strategy worked for both Mike and Scott in the last game, where Scott collected within a category while Mike traded and auctioned effectively enough to chain seven items together; in the end, both players built their buying power exponentially and raced toward the finish and ended up within 15% of each other. Overall, the first and third games were competitive whereas the second game was a wipeout.

A word from our winner, Scott

"At first, this game feels like a delicate balance between building your wealth while trying to save blank checks for the end, but the more we play it, the more it appears that you simply have to bite the bullet and spend checks aggressively to get over the income hump. That hump is the point at which you can purchase a property each round (up to about $35,000) without spending checks; that way, you can build within a category without suffering much and you can effectively bid on items in an effort to get them or to make others pay more for them."

Scott's words to live by:
1. If an auctioned item is worth $20,000 to you and $100,000 to another player, force that player to PAY for it. Lack of blank checks hurts more than plenty of collectibles helps
2. If given a choice, build within a category rather than in a chain
3. If your hand stinks, don't pass your turn until you've explored all trading opportunities

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