Don’t Judge a Game by it’s Cover – A Review of ‘Klunker’

    Klunker is a bidding game, similar to Bohnanza. Actually, I would be so bold as to suggest the tactics involved in Klunker are more complex than Bohnanza. Maybe.

    The mechanics are pretty straightforward; immediately a good sign.

———-

    1) Players have three sections in front of them. The ‘Window’, the ‘Safe’ and the ‘Bank’. The ‘Bank’ begins with one Bank Note, which is one of the regular cards turned upside down (a la Bohnanza). Hand size begins with 6.

    2) Step 1 – place cards from hand into the ‘Window’. There must be at least 1 card in the ‘Window’.

    3) Step 2 – place cards, one at a time AND alternating between players, into the ‘Safe’. Thus, in a three-player game, Player A puts 1 card down, then Player B puts 1 card down, then Player C puts 1 card down, then Player A puts another card down, then Player B, etc.) This ceases once all players have Passed. The first player to Pass receives a “1” card, the second to Pass receives a “2” card, and so forth.

    4) Step 3, purchase items in the ‘Windows’. Turn-order is decided by the aforesaid numbered cards acquired through Passing. Players can purchase their own ‘Window’ for free. Purchase of another player’s ‘Window’ costs 1 Bank Note. When buying a ‘Window’, be it their own or another player’s, the entire window is purchased.

    5) Purchased items go into the ‘Safe’ of the player who purchased them. The goal is to make groups of 4 of the same type of jewelry. For every other type of jewelry in the ‘Safe’, the value of the group of 4 is reduced by 1! Meaning, if a set of 3 Earrings is still building towards 4, then a set of 4 necklaces just acquired is worth 3 Bank Notes, instead of the full 4.

    6) Players refill hands back to 6, and start again. The game ends once the deck is no longer able to fill all players’ hands back to 6. The player with the most money wins.

———-

    Okay, that’s the raw basics of it. Pretty simple, right? Well, in truth, it is. However, designer Uwe Rosenberg added some very subtle mechanics to create more strategic options than originally implied.

    For example, if a player has no items in the ‘Window’ during Step 3, the player can choose to purchase nothing. Purchasing nothing ends the purchase phase for all players, even if other players have not had a chance to buy anything.

    Having nothing in the ‘Window’ is no easy feat. Another player has to have purchased what was there beforehand. Thus, players have to make desirable jewelry available in the ‘Window’, potentially making sacrifices and most certainly assisting other players, in the process.

    All players’ ‘Safes’ are visible. This means players can put in their ‘Window’ exactly what a certain other player needs. Of course, players can also put what they need for themselves in their own ‘Windows’, with hopes of taking the jewelry for free.

    The trick seems to be in the purchase turn-order cards (the cards numbered “1-5”, which dictate the order in which players will make purchases). A players who wishes to cancel a certain other player’s purchase phase does not want to go first; but it would still have to be before the targeted player’s turn, in order to successfully cancel.

    This is crucial, and becomes quite intense, since players can pretty much see what everybody else is up to. The gamble is when they’re going to do it.

    I’m getting bogged down in mechanics and strategy here. Sorry about that. Those aspects of the game had to be explained in order for readers to truly understand what separates Klunker from other, similar bidding games.

    I’ve only played with three players, and I worry perhaps more than three would be too much for the mechanic to handle, since three works so seamlessly. I could be totally wrong, of course.

    There is a downside to Klunker, though it is purely aesthetic. The artwork is simply unforgivable. I’m not sure what went wrong here. The cards are bland, pencil sketches of people wearing jewelry. There is an even blander splash of pale color spread across each one, which doesn’t even cover the whole picture. It’s horrible, honestly, and gives people a bad impression of the game from the get-go. I actually had to talk my friends into playing, because they thought it looked like something they could print and play off the internet.

    Some of the models wearing the jewelry are borderline racist, as well. A man with a turban bends his legs behind his neck, wearing pointy gold sandals. A big-toothed black man grins to reveal a gleaming gold tooth for sale. You get the idea.

    I suppose I should mention I got Klunker in a trade (for Killer Bunnies REMIX; a terrible game). The person who traded it to me included printed-off Player Mats he made himself. Maybe they’re on the Board Game Geek; I haven’t looked. Anyway, I assume playing without a Player Mat could make the cards difficult to manage, but I’m not sure how big of a deal this really is.

    My friends and I had a great time with Klunker, far more than any of us anticipated. For the time being, it has become our staple filler. I highly recommend it to everyone out there, be they hardcore gamer or casual or something in-between. The rules are simple, and the little tricks involved really help pack-in more strategic depth than meets the eye. Sure, the artwork is hideous; but we don’t play board games for pretty pictures.

    For more information on Klunker, click here.
    For more information on Bohnanza, click here.
    For more information on Killer Bunnies REMIX, click here.

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Published in: on April 18, 2011 at 7:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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