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Bazaar Exchange

The title of this game from Puzzol Creative is a near-homophone pun. You're operating in a bazaar (market) but many of the items you are trading are rather bizarre.

In this trading game for 4 to 7 players (more if you take up the option suggested in the rules of playing in teams; tho' for us the game didn't particularly lend itself to team play), you take on the role of a primitive tribe. You start off with a hand of cards representing Objects as diverse as acorns, dead rats, dinosaur fossils and rusty nails. The number of Object cards you have varies from 6 to 11, depending on the number of players. Some Objects are unique while there are multiple copies of others; the frequency is marked on the card. Players all start off with 10 coins.

Meanwhile the board displays a random selection of Products. These are invented combinations of Objects with fanciful names that could well have come out of the Ikea catalogue. So, for example, a Worb is made from an acorn and a papaya, and a Larterdamp can be fashioned from a basilisk tooth and a bonsai tree. The Product cards (15 or 20, depending on player count) are displayed, and players can see what Objects they need to 'construct' each one and how how much the completed product will be worth. Helpfully, the Products are ranked alphabetically, in that those whose names begin with a letter towards the start of the alphabet are generally worth more than those beginning with letters at the end of the alphabet.

So players can see their own hands of Object cards and they can peruse the Products and see what Objects are needed to make them. Be warned tho' that means there's quite a lot to take in: you're scanning 15 or 20 Products for their various constituent parts and assessing them in the context of the cards in your hand. It doesn't help, either, that the Object cards can be awkward to hold in your hand: playing with four, you'll have 11 of them and they aren't designed to be fanned like playing cards. This is a game where you'll probably benefit from using card racks, especially as you'll need to sort and maybe re-sort your Objects into combos that make Products.

Not all of the Object cards get dealt out to all the players. Those that are left are displayed and players can bid on them using the coins with which they started the game. This is a blind auction where players conceal their bids in the sacks supplied for each tribe. The player who bids the most gets first choice of the objects, and so on until all the players have made a choice. In this round it's possible to bid zero and still get an Object. If the number of Objects up for auction exceeds the number of players (always the case unless there are exactly five players) then the higher bidders will get to pick a second time. Players get a rebate on their bid that's equal to the lowest bid made - so if someone bids zero then there'll be no money back. This creates an interesting dynamic because it means the auction works out cheaper the more closely competitive it ends up. A player tho' may find it gives them a strategic advantage to leave the plum choice of Objects to competitors in order to run down opponents' cash so that the initially parsimonious player can hope to rule the bidding in a later round...

With all the Object cards snapped up, there's a round of horse-trading. This is a complete free-for-all where players can ask for Objects they need, offering to swap Objects that other players are after. You can sweeten deals by offering cash instead or on top of Objects. Again, as well as their frequency, the cards helpfully show Objects' relative values. You can expect the trading sessions to be quite frenetic, however, and you may even find you have to set up three-way deals in order to get the specific Object(s) you are seeking. If you've ever played Sidereal Confluence (WizKids), you'll know the sort of thing to expect.

There's a further blind auction for the Ability cards randomly selected to match the number of players. For this auction, you have to bid at least one coin to take part and there are no rebates. You may get a freebie Ability tho' if luck's on your side and the background of the card happens to match the symbol on your tribe's sack. When that happens, the card is replaced for the purpose of the auction but you get that Ability for free. Abilities either improve the value of particular Products or allow you to steal an Object from another player.

Because the Abilities may well alter what Products players will want to go for, there's a second, final round of trading. In our games at Board's Eye View we found tho' that this second round was invariably shorter and more focused than the original trading round.

The denouement of the game are successive blind auction rounds where players are competing to submit the highest bid comprising Products (ie: combinations of Objects that make one of the displayed Products), unused Products and cash. Players secrete their bids in their sack. The highest bid wins a gemstone but their bid is passed on to the second highest bidder (their bid goes to the bank); other bidders just retain their bid. The object here, and the ultimate winning condition for the game, is to be the first player to accumulate three gemstones (referred to as ingots in our copy of the rules). The auction here incorporates a built-in catch-up mechanic and plenty of scope for manoeuvring and clever gamesmanship.

If you enjoy auction games and trading games, then you'll certainly get a kick out of Bazaar Exchange. It's easier and less intense than Sidereal Confluence, but that means you'll probably find it easier to get to the table. But note that, like the WizKids game, Bazaar Exchange demands at least four players and is probably best at higher player counts.

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