03 Jul For Sale Review – The Boardgame Classic I Never Played
Since I have been involved in the hobby board game industry, lists of games have been thrown in my direction. Some lists cover extremely broad categories while others air on the side of a very specific genre or scenario. They can range from My Top 10 Games of All Time all the way to My Top 10 Games to Play with 7 Players. These lists are everywhere and they can be extremely helpful when creating a must-have list. In fact, most of my own purchases derive from such lists, so I look for new ones frequently.
What I have found is that some games, no matter how many lists I have seen them on, simply don’t create the spark I am looking for. It might be the theme or my own personal biases against particular mechanics, or maybe something else entirely makes me hesitant to pursue the game. These games generally never enter my purchase queue, and even sometimes never see my “I’d play this if the opportunity presented itself” queue. Perhaps the greatest perpetrator of this is the classic game For Sale.
I feel like every list I read, for years, has told me of the greatness that is For Sale. Reviewers have continued to implore that it doesn’t matter if you hate auction games, you will love For Sale. Articles have commented that you don’t even need to like realty games to enjoy For Sale. It’s never mattered, though. I looked at the theme—eh, I looked at the mechanics—eh, and I looked at the artwork on the box—eh. Nothing about this game interested me. It was a hard pass.
Then, after an exciting day at Origins Game Fair, my game group headed to a board game café within walking distance from the convention center to relax, unwind, and play some games. My buddy Eric found For Sale on the café’s shelf and said, “I’ve heard a lot of good things about this game, we should play it.” The group agreed and we began to set up the game and read the instructions. To be honest, I wasn’t too excited about it until we got into the rulebook. Then the genius that is For Sale was revealed to me.
The basic concept is that players will bid on properties throughout the game, acquiring a real estate portfolio. Every player is guaranteed to get one property—all of different values—each round, and play continues until all 30 properties are purchased. From there, players need to resell the properties hoping to accrue the greatest wealth. The twist is that the number of sales prices each round is equal to the number of players. That means that if all of the sales prices are high for the round, a player can play a low-valued home (my personal favorite is the cardboard box) and still receive a high sale price for it because every player sells one card per round. In the same way, highly valued properties can sell for a very low price. This tension and the thoughtfulness required to make strong decisions makes this small filler feel incredibly deep.
After playing, more than half of the game group, including myself, bought a copy at the convention the next day. It has already hit my table multiple times after coming home from Origins and has been a crowd favorite.
So what is the point? Maybe I am just another person recommending a game you are never going to play, and that is okay, but I hope what you’re hearing is the deeper, grander meaning behind my experience with For Sale. Games lead us to unexpected experiences. They take us on unforeseen journeys and allow us the opportunity to learn about bigger things in life, like not judging a book by its cover. At the heart of all gaming is a desire to be with other people and to experience things in new and different ways—and that, my friends, is a great thing.
Thanks for reading and keep on gaming,