This weeks challenge was very creative, and thus more difficult than most. Our challenge was to play a game without reading (or knowing) the rules. Oh boy… this should be interesting!
The first step was to find a suitable game. I went to my library and started scanning the shelves. However, with the exception of a few games that I have to review, their just really wasn’t a whole lot of games I hadn’t played or at least didn’t know how to play. Sure, there were some “roll and move” style games I hadn’t bothered to try, but given they were mostly clones it’s not like I didn’t know how they were played. That seemed against the spirit of the rules. So what to do?
And then I was reminded that I have some foreign games that I’ve never been able to translate! You see, a while back we bought a few lots of games off of E-bay. While we knew that some of the games were not in English, we were assured that they all had English instructions and were non-language dependent. In short, the seller fibbed and we were left with about a dozen games out of the lot that were unusable (and yes, this was after searching the Internet for translated rules).
Ok, so a foreign game, but which one? I had about half a dozen to choose from. I started opening the boxes and looking at the components. One of them only had numbered cards, that looked a lot like an Uno deck, certainly not much to extrapolate from. One game had cards that were covered in German text, and no symbols. Another one simply had a bag of Jenga like blocks and a rules sheet. And then I hit upon one that would do: Gebrauchtwagen Handler. This game has colorful cards with symbols and dollar amounts and paper money. These were components that we could work with!
So we sat down together to extrapolate the rules. One gal in my group could read a very small amount of German, and given that German is a romance language we could pick out prefixes here and there. But we only used this insight on the cards themselves, the rules stayed firmly tucked away.
We went round and round with possible mechanic ideas. What we ultimately decided on was a bidding game where you are trying to build the most expensive fleet of cars. Each round you started the bidding on a face down car, not knowing how much it is worth. You could pay 100 Euro to take it to the mechanic and see (aka, peak at the card) what the vehicle was worth. Otherwise you were bidding blind and hope you made a sound investment.
In addition to bidding on the fleet you also had a hand full of cards that were either improvements to your vehicle or damage to someone else’s. For instance you could buy your car new tires, which might add a 500 Euro to it’s worth, or you could play a flat tire card on someone else that might lower that car’s worth by 500 Euro.
So how did our mechanics work out? Meh, I’ve certainly played better, but I’ve played worse as well. Our end game goal (when all the cars were purchased) was far too long, and we went through the other improvement/damage cards way too fast. Our rules were vaguely interesting, but would need a lot of polish to be a real game. However, that being said, it was a very interesting experience and it was neat to see what we came up with.
The next weeks challenge might be difficult for some: Play an old Avalon Hill game. This company made a bunch of games that are commonly referred to as “bookshelf games”, and a search on E-bay for that term will yield you a bunch of options. We have several, it’s just a matter of deciding which one is right for us this week.