Schnaeppchen Jagd /
Bargain Hunt

Invented by Uwe Rosenberg
Published by Queen Games
Reviewed by Joe Huber

3-4 Players

Bohnanza came seemingly out of the blue last year to capture the hearts of gamers everywhere; no less than three rules translations appeared in the Game Cabinet in short order.

So I was more than a little surprised when I saw nothing about Rosenberg's follow-up, Schnaeppchen Jagd (Bargain Hunt). Having enjoyed Bohnanza so much, though, I had to give it a try even though the theme didn't grab me. I'm glad I did - Schnaeppchen Jagd is an even better game than Bohnanza.

The game is about collecting, and really captures this theme very well. Each player is trying to collect bargains of various types, from teapots to microwaves to mixers. Each variety of bargain also has a corresponding number, which is used in the trick taking game. After choosing which bargain to collect initially, a round of seven tricks are played. The card play is fairly normal, except that even after choosing which card to play you still have choices: if a card of the same value as one played previously is chosen, it can be either lower or higher, and if the suit led can't be followed the card played may either be trump or not. When a trick is taken, all the cards matching the bargain you're looking for are tossed onto your bargain pile; the rest form the odds-and-ends pile.

After each round, each player gets to throw out cards of one value from their odds-and-ends pile. Normally these cards are simply discarded and go back to the bottom of the deck of remaining cards. However, if there are enough cards of the value chosen, some of them go instead to the bargain pile, thus creating a new bargain to collect. After the final round, two groups may be cleared out of the odds-and-ends pile as normal, and then the game ends. Each player scores one point for each card in his bargain pile, and subtracts one for each card in his odds-and-ends pile.

Much like Bohnanza, the theme of Schnaeppchen Jagd isn't immediately engaging. On top of this, the game play itself doesn't sound exciting. However, the game offers an amazing array of possibilities - there's a decision to be made on most tricks, and a lot of data to keep in mind in making these decisions. Interestingly, the theme works well too - there's far more feel of collecting bargains than there is a feel of playing a trick taking card game.

As with any card game with a random deal, luck plays a part. But as with Mue and few other card games, nearly any hand can be a good hand dealt with properly. Further, there are multiple successful strategies - I've seen players win by hoarding tricks, by avoiding tricks, and by taking a middle ground.

Schnaeppchen Jagd has recently become available via mailorder in the United States. However, it's a little expensive for a card game even at the German retail price, as it has no components save the cards. But for the game play, it's a great value - there is no other game of similar length (30 minutes) I'd rather play at present. I feel that Schnaeppchen Jagd was deserving of the 1998 Spiel des Jahres award, and hope that it will at a minimum be nominated next year - it's that good. I can't wait to see what Rosenberg comes up with next.

The Game Cabinet - - Ken Tidwell