I recently played my second game of Bargain Quest, where players take on the role of merchants trying to ply their adventuring wares onto plucky heroes attempting to slay a nearby menace.
The first time I played Bargain Quest there were 6 of us, which I don’t think I would recommend for your first play. For this second play there was four of us, a player count I would recommend to get started.
I love the premise of Bargain Quest. Each player takes on the role of a shopkeeper trying to attract prospective heroes into their shop to sell them weapons and equipment to aid them on their next quest. Players need to place an attractive item in the window to entice the adventurers into their shop, but also keep back appropriate items to actually sell to them.
The heroes then venture out into the wilderness to fight the current threat to the town; be it a Bandit Captain, Wicked Witch or a Huge Dragon! Armed with the goods sold to them by each of players the heroes attempt to slay the threat and survive the encounter. If they wound the enemy or survive battle the player who supplied them with equipment gains victory points. Heroes who survive return back to town with any treasure they accrued, slain heroes are buried in a discard pile and replaced by a new set of blindly optimistic protagonists.
Players can then take the money they earned earlier and employ new staff members or upgrade their shop by increasing storage space or making their window display area better. We played the second play with the Black Market expansion which adds and extra deck of cards into the game. Players can choose to add the Black Market upgrade to their store to access these cards. It is a simple expansion and could easily be run during your first play of the game.
I didn’t hugely enjoy my first play of Bargain Quest. The player count of 6 was a bit too high for a first play—my fault—and the game took a lot longer than I would have hoped. Bargain Quest looks like a light game, with quirky artwork and a delightful sense of humour throughout—the invisibility cloak card has no visible item on it, you can’t have a shop cat and a shop dog, you must choose one. Despite the box putting the play time at 30-60 minutes, I am yet to have a game that takes less than 90 minutes. This is no doubt down to both games, being first plays for each group, so I am holding out hope that I can get the play time down to 60 minutes, otherwise there are meatier games that take the same amount of time I would probably play instead.
I backed the second printing of Bargain Quest on Kickstarter and it was extremely successful—clearing $390,000. There is so much to like about the game; the artwork—by Victoria Ying is fantastic and really sets the tone of the game, the shop boards are thematic and great to look at, the heroes are varied and humorous—the rich, but deluded Nobleman—, and the storytelling that happens each time the heroes go into battle is a lot of fun.
Saying all this there are a few small things that do take the gloss off a little. For a game that is pretty much 100% cards the quality of the cards is not great, which is a shame. They are not terrible, but they are just ever so slightly poorer than you would hope for. Also the colours on the card backs are outrageously similar. Decks that need to be separated from one another are alarmingly similar in colour and if you are playing in reasonably poor light they are effectively indistinguishable. I feel this could very easily have been overcome in the second printing, but again is not a deal breaker by any means.
The other aspect of the game that gets a bit tedious for me personally is when new heroes are added to the table each player has to read their card to see what special abilities that particular hero has. This might not bother some people, but I just find this a bit tedious and can add quite a bit of time to the game—I tried reading out each card as I drew one, but players still wanted to read each card individually. It‘s a small gripe, but I almost feel the hero cards could have been bigger to accommodate reading from a distance.
All that being said I personally like Bargain Quest and intend to get it to the table again soon. I love the setting and the humour. And once you have a group that know the rules well enough I think this game will start to sing. There is something tragically hilarious sending the rich nobleman off to fight the Huge Dragon with a fake potion and pair of sword-chucks, knowing he will most certainly not return.
With a bit of luck I can hit that 60 minute mark!
03 Feb 2020