Let’s get this out of the way – I round DOWN, because I enjoy agonizing over how little money I have let. If you’re currently going…
Wait what? Let me explain.
WHAT IS IT?
For Sale is an auction and bidding game designed by Stefan Dorra. It was first published in 1997 and since then it’s gone through several publishers and rule tweaks over the years.
A game of For Sale is split into two distinct parts. In part one, players are “buying” property cards valued from one to thirty; property one being a cardboard box to property thirty being a space station. The number of cards available to purchase each round is based on the number of players. To buy these properties, the first player begins an auction using money tokens distributed at the start of the game – this is the only time players will receive money, meaning everyone has to use their ingenuity to make a small number of tokens last throughout the game.
Bidding continues clockwise where a player can choose to increase the bid or pass. If a player passes, they select the lowest value property card currently available. It becomes a game of chicken – no one wants to be the first person to get the lowest valuable property, especially when there’s a significant jump between the lowest value card and the second lowest value card. Play continues until all the property cards have been purchased.
Touching back to rules changes over the years, the most significant change has been how much money a player gets back after a failed auction. I’ve always played it that a person receives half their money back rounded down. For example, if their bid is for $700, they would only get $300 back. This might seem inconsequential, but I have seen games won and lost based on a single coin. To be clear, the designer himself has stated that this is how he always meant the game to be played, but I’ve seen game groups round up based on old rules.
In part two, players then “sell” their properties to receive check cards (money) ranging from 0-15 (meaning $15,000). Like the actual real estate market! Again, the number of checks available each round is based on the number of players. Players then secretly select a single property card and lay it out in front of them face down. Simultaneously, players reveal their property card and the highest property receives the highest valued check.
During this part of the game, a lot of meta-gaming can develop between players. For example, if I know AnnaMaria won the 30 value property card, is she going to use it now to get one of the two $15 check cards or is she going to save it for another time? While everyone is secretly choosing their check cards, my friends and I often find ourselves looking for any tells or clues about what cards are going to be played!
To win the game, the player with the most cash (including any leftover tokens) wins the game!
IS IT FOR ME?
If you’re looking for a game to start your game night or to wind it down, you can’t go wrong with For Sale. Will it be the main course of your game night? No. Yet, For Sale plays quickly with people making interesting choices along the way. A game can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.
It’s also A LOT of fun! The intense bidding wars, the simultaneous revealing of cards where a player receives a $0 check due to a one value difference, and everything else makes for a very enjoyable game to play with friends and family.
For Sale accommodates 3-6 players. I’m usually a little skeptical of any game’s listed player count, but For Sale is an exception. This game shines at 5-6 players. While it can be played at 3-4 players, cards are removed and the bidding experience isn’t quite as enjoyable.
I own a copy of the Eagle-Gryphon version. The components are nothing exceptional, they’re fine. The cards are fine. The cardboard tokens are fine. I do appreciate the card art for the property cards, they’re great and visually appealing in a cartoon-y way. However, the check cards leave much to be desired.
One last note, why is my box so big?! There’s so much wasted space and it’s a bother to pack on trips. For Sale is my go-to travel game, so when I take it with me, I dump all the contents in a Ziploc bag.
I rate this game a 9 out of 10. For Sale has quickly become my go-to party game and one I introduce to new and old gamers alike. The simple rule set, speed of play, and the sheer joy of outbidding your brother because he previously snatched the space station away from you, makes for a very enjoyable game.