Kirsty, fill your house for free!

Just because it’s free, doesn’t mean it can’t be fabulous.

Kirstie’s Fill Your House For Free, Channel 4 (2014)

Recently, I have been playing games about taking stuff which is just lying around. Bin raking games, if you will. Unappealing as this sounds, this oh-so-specific sub-genre theme for games is a remarkable amount of fun!

First up, it’s Arctic Scavangers, which is a deck building game set in post-apocalyptic frozen wastes where tribes of survivors compete for scarce resources by lifting stuff that’s been left lying around, then taking it home and converting it into bookshelves. For the really valuable “scarce resources” like grenades or vintage curtain sets, I’m afraid it’s every man (or woman) for themselves – you’ll have to fight it out.

I’m afraid I’m not really cut out for this sort of game. Very unpleasant business, all this scrapping over material items. The whole game I didn’t win a single conflict and in the end I just stopped trying and, so, the fickle wandering population of the North went to live with my competitors – who promptly ate some of them.

The game is pretty good – in my opinion – and I’d be quite happy to play again. But not brilliant. Unlike the next game …

I picked this up for a song at The Works recently on a whim. And that has paid off big time! What a great little game. Comes in a lovely little, portable box; plays in 15 to 20 mins; simple to teach and learn; my wife and kids love it; and it’s stacked full of strategy.

The idea is simple, everyone is heading off down the local dump (or recycling centre, or somesuch) to pick up some junk to sell. You can keep the stuff you find for face value, or trade it in as sets to make a bigger profit.

Each turn, cards are turned over with sets which can be traded in, then everyone plays a card face down to indicate whether you are going to the dump on foot (1), bike (2), motorcyle with sidecar (3), car (4) or truck (5). The number in brackets is how many items you can carry back with you, but also the order in which you set out.

So, if you decide to go on foot, you will get first pick of the stuff there, but you can only carry 1 thing back with you. On the other hand if you load up the truck, you’ve got space to carry loads, but all the good rubbish might be gone by the time you get there.

Worse still, if two or more players opt to take the same means of transport only one of them gets to go and the other(s) has to stay home! This leads to a constant second guessing of the other players and frequent recriminations when your plans to head down the dump are scuppered when you learn that you friend has borrowed your car to go there and left you stranded. Of course, there’s always the option to stay home and steal the stuff the other players have taken from the dump while they’re off getting more!

Special note of praise for the cards which specify the orders available to trade in which state not only the value you get for trading them in but also (in smaller print, bottom right) how much more that is than simply keeping the goods for their face value. Very helpful in working out which are the best cards to aim for.

As I say, a great game – by Friedemann Friesse (of Power Grid fame) – which I’d highly recommend. Maybe you can pick up a copy for free if someone if throwing theirs out?

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