- Designer: Max Kirps
- (Based on the game “You’re Bluffing” (Kuhhandel) by Rudiger Koltze
- Publisher: Ravensburger
- Players: 2-4
- Ages: 10+
- Time: 30-45 minutes
- Times played: 2, with review copy provided by Ravensburger USA
Bidder Up! is subtitled as the game of “Bargaining, Bidding and Bluffing”. (The German Version is called KuhHandel: die Brettspiel) In this game, players vie to collect sets of animal chits as they wander around a auctioneer’s farmyard. Well, that’s not really the story – there isn’t one described in the rules – but it makes sense when you see what’s going on in this game. There are two different versions of the game (Easy and Advanced), each with its own rulebook. We started with the Easy game, and that’s what I’ll describe here.
The board reminds me of a Trivial Pursuit board, but with only four wedges. There is a circular track around the outside of the board, with spaces at path intersections as well as at animal pens. These animal pens are seeded with animal tiles. Some pens hold one animal and others hold two. In the game, there are 10 sets of animals, each with two tiles in each set. There are four pairs of pens on the board (i.e. one set in each quadrant), and there is an auction sign in each quadrant which tells you what type of auction happens in that area. There are ten different auction tiles in the game…
Each player starts the game with a basic bank: two $50 bills, four $10 bills, and three $0 bills. That’s right, ZERO dollar bills. Each player chooses a color; takes the matching pawn and places it on the start space on the board and takes the matching player mat and places it in front of him.
On a turn, the active player always has two phases – Movement and then Action. In the movement phase, the player rolls the special die (1,1,2,2,3,3). The number rolled tells you how many spaces you MUST move, though this number can be modified up or down by paying bills to the center of the board. You pay one bill (of any denomination) face down for the first step change; two more bills for the second step change, and three more bills for the 3rd step change. When moving, you always move clockwise around the outer track, though you can go through the middle of the board if you’re at an intersection.
Wherever you stop determines what happens in the Action phase: an Auction, a Trade or collecting money from the Pig in the middle of the board.
Auction – if you land in front of an animal pen, you will be offering up the animal(s) above you to the other players. The type of auction is determined by the auction marker placed in that quadrant at the start of the game. In general, there are two types of auctions here – Value auctions use the actual money amounts on the bill; Quantity auctions only care about the number of bills in a bid, the denominations of the bills do not matter. The opponents follow the rules of the specified auction type until there is a winner. At this point, the auctioneer then decides if he will sell the animal tokens and collect the high bid OR he can choose to snipe the auction, keep the animals for himself, and he must then pay the high bid to the player who made that bid. Whoever wins the bid places the tiles on his player mat. Any completed sets (i.e. pairs of tiles) are moved into the stable area. This is important for scoring. Once the auction is complete, draw tiles to replenish that spot on the board. If there are no tiles left in the supply, you simply do not refill; that animal pen will be empty for the rest of the game. If a player lands here in a later turn, no auction will be held.
Horse Trade – if you land on a corner of the board, you’re in a Horse Trade spot. Choose any opponent who has an animal tile of a type that you also have. Challenge them to a trade. Place any number of bills face down on the table. The opponent then decides if he will accept that offer (at this point, he will not know the value of the bills) or if he will make a counter-offer. If so, the opponent places any number of bills facedown on his side of the board. The bids are traded, and each player looks at the bid of the opponent. The player who made the bid of the highest VALUE (regardless of number of bills) is the winner, and that high bid will take both of the animal tiles. However, each player in the trade keeps the other player’s money. Whoever makes a complete set will move that pair of tiles into their stable area.
Piggy Bank – if you land in the center spot on the board (where all the money is placed from people modifying the dice roll), you can collect the top five facedown bills from that stack.
The game continues in this fashion until all twenty animal tiles have been auctioned off. When the last tile is bought, the game moves into the scoring phase. Players score points for their money left over. To this, they add their animal points – which is a little more complicated. Each pair of animals in your stable is worth the number printed on the tile. Sum the values of all of your pairs and then multiply that sum by the number of completed pairs collected. You can use a calculator or the chart on page 6 of the rules to help you!
The winner is the player with the most points. No tiebreaker is specified.
There is also an advanced version which uses the other side of the board. This version has a few more spaces on the interior paths – though the number of animal pens are the same. However, there are more animals in the game as each species now has three tiles. This version adds in a marketplace board where players can discard bills in order to change the values of the animal species. Once a set is complete and collected by a single player, it’s value token is flipped over and cannot be altered any further. There is also a raffle where players can win tokens that give special abilites, alter the point value of animals or even collect a special animal species.
My thoughts on the game
Bidder Up! is an interesting auction/hand management game. The Easy Game is actually not as easy as it looks, and has proven be provide some interesting challenges for the players. There are a good number of moving parts, and the key here is to figure out when you should be auctioning off tiles to earn money or when you should be trying to offer up tiles that you can get at a good discounted price.
In the base game, there are only two of each animal available, so there is obviously a premium to try to get it when it becomes available on the board. Again, keeping a close mental picture of what people have money-wise will help, as will careful examination of the type of auction being used for that animal. This will help you decide whether you’d rather be the auctioneer (who can then use the buy-out power) or if you’d rather be a buyer in the auction.
Keeping a good idea of your opponent’s money situation can also come in handy when making a timely challenge for an animal token. If you wait for the right moment, you can make an offer that they can’t refuse, and you can make a pair at a good price.
There is a decent amount of hand management in the game – and when I say hand management, I really mean wallet management. While there are times that you may need to spend almost everything you have in order to get a particularly desirable animal – in general, you want to have a good combination of both money value as well as bill quantity to be able to bid on the things you want (and to protect yourself from challenges). There are times when it may make sense to spend a bill or three to move yourself to the center piggy bank spot in order to collect 5 bills… Or if you can get to a space which has animals that other will find valuable, that can be a good way to replenish your stores.
It definitely helps to be the first person to collect an animal type in the base game. Once you have the first one, it’s less likely that the opponents will want to spend large sums of money on the second – without having a guarantee of getting the full set. Sure, it may make sense that they try to bid you up to prevent you from getting a full set at a super cheap price, but there’s only so much that it makes sense to spend to prevent this from happening. In fact, no one may oppose you in an auction for such an animal, but make sure your initial bid is high enough because otherwise the auctioneer will swoop in an get it for cheap and then he might be able to challenge you for the other!
I will say that the advanced game offers more interesting auctions (and challenges) because there are three of each animal. The auctions can get pretty heated between players that each own one of that species… Having three of the species also leads to multiple and recurrent challenges as it is not guaranteed that a species is fully collected after a single challenge. The ability to modify the values of the animals also adds a lot of strategic depth to the game.
The components and graphics are well done, though there seems to be a mild mis-match in depth of the game and the cartoonish artwork. When I look at the animals and other illustrations in the game, I’m thinking that this is a game for smaller children, up to maybe early teens. However, the game play is actually fairly complex, as evidenced by the 10+ age recommendation on the box. The cover and board art scream out “Old MacDonald” to me… not serious auction/set collection game.
The size of the player boards and the marketplace board also seems unusually large for their function. Each could have been a simply 2 inch wide strip rather than a full board… We play on a bid 8 foot cafeteria table in my house, so it’s not a big deal, but, there’s almost no way that you’d fit everything here on a traditional folding card table…
I think that this is a nice take on the auction card game Kuhhandel, and despite my worries that this was a kids game when I first saw the bits, there is a solid meaty game hidden in that kiddie farm. Don’t be deceived by the appearance, and give this one a try! \ The game will be shown to the public at GenCon 2017…
Until your next appointment
The Gaming Doctor