Dale Yu: Review of For Sale and For Sale: Advisors Expansion

For Sale and Advisors Expansion

For Sale has always been one of my favorite all time games.  It was one of the first German games that I owned, and it got a bunch of plays back in the day.  Since then, it has been a regular filler/opener/closer in my game groups due to the easy rules and short playing time.  Additionally, the game components are quite compact, and it has been one of the games that gets bagged up (usually with High Society also) and thrown in a travel case – and that is another reason why I’ve gotten so many plays out of it.

Surprisingly, all of my previous reviews of the base game have vanished to the sands of time, and not even the Wayback machine can find them.  No matter – the game is quick, and it’s a game I’m intimately familiar with.  Before I can review the expansion, I should talk about the base game first.

BASE GAME (review of the EGG version)

So, let’s start with the base game.  It is a game played in two phases – in brief, players will gain property cards in the first half of the game, and then they will sell those properties to earn money in the second half. The player with the most money at the end wins.

OK, now for the review in more than 50 words.  The first half is played with the deck of property cards, 30 total, numbered 1 to 30. With 4 players, each player starts with 18,000 coins and 2 cards are removed from the deck.  In each round of this first phase, one card per player will be revealed and placed in the center of the table.  Players will then have an auction of sorts to determine which card will be collected by each player.

The start player starts by placing a bid in coins on the table.  The next player must either raise the bid or pass.  If that player passes, he takes the property with the lowest value of those on the table.  If he had made a previous bid, he also takes back half of his bid (rounded down).  This continues until only one player is left, and that player must pay his full bid to obtain the highest valued card in the round.  Purchased property cards are kept face down in front of their owners.  The player who won the most valuable card in the last round deals out a new set and starts the next round of bidding.  When all properties have been sold (7 rounds in a 4p game), the phase ends.  Any unspent coins will be counted in the final scoring.

In the second phase, players will try to sell their gained property cards for money.  The currency deck is used for this phase, with values ranging from $0 to $15000 (but no $1000 cards).  Again, two cards from this deck are removed in a 4p game to keep things even.  Like the previous round, one card per player is placed in the center of the table.  In this case, instead of using coins, each player now selects one of their property cards and places it facedown in front of them. When all have chosen, they are simultaneously revealed and the highest numbered property card takes the highest valued money card and this continues in order until the lowest property card takes the lowest valued card.  The property cards are discarded.  Continue this until all the properties have been sold and converted to currency cards.

At the end of the game – add up the values of all your currency cards along with the value of any unspent coins from the first phase, and the player with the highest total wins the game.  Ties are broken in favor of the player with the most Coins left over.

My thoughts on the base game

I have always loved this game.  It is quick, but yet always filled with tense decision and an occasional brutal resolution in the second phase.  In the first phase, you try to get the best cards you can while trying to save your money.  The only sure thing in the first half is getting the 30 card.  If you have this, you are sure to get a 15K check – assuming you play the card when a 15K is available.   Sure, you can score some points by saving your coins, but in the end, this is more of a tiebreaker as the coins you have left are usually not that much.  With the “must raise” auction, it feels like there is a bit more luck in the bidding phase – sometimes it just works out good for you based on where you sit in turn order.  A particularly aggressive opening bid might cause the next player or players to drop out rather than raise a bid, and the fourth player can sometimes get a peach of a card for free.

In the second half, the game is as much about what cards you have as it is about reading your opponents.  Trying to foresee what cards people will play can help you maybe sneak a high money card for a measly small property.   Being able to remember which cards have been played (and therefore which cards players have left over) can be a super useful skill to have here.  I have found that having a bunch of high properties does not always translate into a corresponding high valued money cards.  Likewise, based on how the money cards come out, it is not inconceivable for a 1 or 2 property card to turn into a 9,000 money card.

The game can be blisteringly fast.  In my old regular group, we all knew the rules (well all the variations – see below), and sometimes it took us longer to decide which version to play than it did to play the game.  Each phase of 7 rounds can go by in a flash, and a total of 10 minutes is not an unreasonable play time in my old group.

For the veterans of the hobby, For Sale is one of those sticky games that has suffered from having multiple rulesets out there, and while the changes seem small – the feel of the game can be quite different.  I love the game in any form, and I tend to just play the rules that are associated with whichever version I have.

There are a number of differences from the original version when compared to this Eagle-Gryphon version (though the changes started with the Uberplay version, to be fair):

  • The main one is in bidding. In the original version you could either call, raise, or drop when it was your turn to bid. In the EGG version you may only raise or drop.
  • Player count is also different. Original only plays to 4. New can play up to 6.
  • There is also a difference in the house value. The original version just had 20 houses, numbered 1-20. The EGG version has 30, numbered 1-30.
  • The check distribution is also different. The original had 20 cards with 2 worth zero and one each worth 3-20. The new version still has two worth zero, but now has two each worth 2-15.
  • Starting cash is also different. Original was 15 per player. New is 18 per player with 3 or 4 players and 14 per player with 5 or 6 players.

So, people always ask me which version I prefer – and to be honest, I like them both. To keep things simple, and because I own at least 5 sets, I have just made a house rule that I play by the rules that come in the box that I bring to the table.  There is definitely a bit more finesse in the bidding when you can match the current bid; but that version also doesn’t seem to cause as many angst-y moments in bidding, as it often results in each person sliding a single chip into the pot to match the current bid, and then the start player ups it by one to do it again, etc.

Many people are a big fan of the fact the newer versions can handle up to 6, and while I’ve taken advantage of that – I definitely like it at 3-4 players because in each of those cases, some of the property and currency cards are taken out at the start of the game.  Not knowing for sure of the distribution of the cards makes it way more interesting for me.

In any event, this is one of my alltime favorite games, and amongst my most played games.  The EGG version comes in a nice box which matches the other games in their bookshelf line.  It can be taught in about 5 minutes, and as I said earlier, the whole game can be done in under 10.  A classic that deserves to be played more.

For Sale: Advisors Expansion

OK, now that you know about the base game, we can talk about the expansion now…

This expansion adds a deck of 30 advisor cards to the game.  The game now has three Phases, starting with Hiring Advisors and then moving onto the usual Property Acquisition and Selling Property phases that you already know from the base game.  Players will start with more money now as well!

The Advisors give their owners some small advantages at some point in the game. The background color of the card tells you when the advantage can be applied – In phase 1, phase 2, phase 3 or the end of the game.  The effects are varied – a few examples are:

  • Sales Associate (#1): When you take this card, instead of getting back half of your bid, take back all of your bid.
  • Realtor (#13): When you play a Realtor to get property, you may pay $3,000 in coins to increase its value to 31
  • Lawyer (#20): Use the Lawyer to play two facedown property cards. After all cards are revealed, you may take one of your played cards back, using the remaining one to take a currency card
  • Appraiser (#11): At game end, turn your lowest valued currency card is worth $12,000

There are ten different varieties of Advisors, three of each.  Some of them have slightly tiered abilities based on their numbers.

So, the game is mostly played the same with the extra phase and extra abilities added in.  In the first round, players bid with their coins to hire the different Advisors.  This bid works just like the rules for the original Property phase.  Advisors are kept face down as they are earned.

In the second phase, players now bid on the property cards, but instead of using coins, they now use one of the collected Advisor cards.  If the chosen Advisor has a special ability that works in this phase, use that ability as you play the card.   The highest numbered Advisor will still take the highest numbered Property card on the table.  If you use an Advisor that has a green background, it can be discarded after playing it as it no longer has a special ability.  If you play a blue Advisor (Phase 3) or a gray Advisor (End of game), leave it face up in your area to remind you of their later ability.

The rest of the game plays out as normal with the exception that the Advisors left in the game can still take their effect.  The winner is still the player with the most money.

My thoughts on the expansion

Well, this expansion adds a nice little twist to the game.  Sure, some of the appeal to the regular game is the simple elegance of the two rounds, but the added third round gives you one more chance to try to take advantage of the cards and your opponents.   The extra actions on the Advisors are generally interesting, and they seem to be fairly balanced.  But, balance doesn’t necessarily matter to me here, as all players have a chance to see the Advisors as they come out and bid on them – so it’s fair game – the cards which are perceived to be more powerful should garner higher bids.

Interestingly, the game comes with higher denomination coins, and players are given more money to start the game.  This is a distinct improvement in my eyes as it makes the bidding a bit more dynamic.  In the original game, only having 18,000 coins to make 7 bids didn’t really give you a lot of room to wiggle, especially when every bid has to exceed the previous.  Here, the 28,000 coin starting kitty allows for more movement.

It also introduces the opportunity to successfully employ a miser strategy. Though I’ve yet to see it work, I suppose keeping 15k-20k in coins might be enough to let you compete, so long as you were able to parlay your low numbered advisors into decent properties which might then again be improved into high paying checks.  The addition of the third round of auctions makes this at least a theoretical possibility.

As you might expect, the game now takes longer, in our group sometimes nearly doubling the time (gasp!).  Though the expansion only adds on 50% more game, it takes a little bit more time to think about how you might want to use the special abilities – and the bidding in the first phase tends to be a bit more deliberated as you now have two things to account for with your bid. Sometimes you want an Advisor for its number, but sometimes you want a specific action, and you have to figure out how to get to that spot to drop out at the right moment.

So is more game a good thing?  Well, it’s certainly not a bad thing. I like the expansion and what it has to offer. For me, it’s really going to be more about the amount of time we have and the mood we’re in.  There is still something about the simple and lightning fast original that will always have a place in my heart. But, when we are looking for something a bit more involved, and we have 15 minutes instead of 10, adding in the third round of Advisors is a great way to breathe some new life into this classic game!  The cards for the expansion have already been incorporated into my EGG For Sale box, and I’ll always have it available for the times I want to play it.

The Kickstarter runs through October 29,2020 – https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/eaglegryphon/for-sale-autorama-and-for-sale-advisors-expansion

It is possible to get just the extra advisor cards if you already have the original game.

Until your next appointment

The Gaming Doctor

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
This entry was posted in Essen 2020, Kickstarter, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Dale Yu: Review of For Sale and For Sale: Advisors Expansion

  1. Helmer Aslaksen says:

    Great review, but you didn’t mention the round up/down rules differences. I believe that Ravensburger (1997) rounded up what you take back. Dorra told Uberplay that he wanted round down rule, but that Uberplay (2005) stated the rule incorrectly with up, but gave an example with down. Gryphon Games (2008) used Dorra’s preferred round down rule. Iello (2015) has gone back to round up rule, somehow thinking that it was Dorra’s preference.

  2. huzonfirst says:

    Dale, I’m almost certain that the 1997 Ravensburger game (the original version) was for 3-5 players. In fact, I’m pretty sure 5 was the number we tended to play this with. This is good, as I’ve always considered that version considerably superior to the Uberplay/EGG version.

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