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HIGH SOCIETY

Reviewed by Herb Levy

HIGH SOCIETY (Gryphon Games, 3-5 players, ages 10 and up, 30-45 minutes; $24.99)

 

Think of yourself as someone in 19th century America who has become wealthy from the booming growth and expansion of these, still young, United States. But money itself is not enough. What you really crave is social distinction and that, you perceive, can be yours if you manage to obtain objects ofwealth (artwork, European castles, mansions) which will bestow upon your the prestige you so desire. That is the theme for yet another Reiner Knizia design as players seek to move upward into High Society.

High Society comes with 55 money cards, 10 Luxury Possession cards, 3 Recognition cards and 3 Misfortune cards. The premise of the game is simple: armed with a bankroll, players bid to collect the most valuable possessions (which translate into Status Points) while trying to avoid the damaging effects of scandal, theft and tragedy.

Each player begins with an identical set of 11 money cards. The Luxury, Recognition and Misfortune cards are all shuffled together to create the draw deck. The starting player draws the first card from the draw deck and makes the first bid for it. These cards can earn you – or lose you – those Status Points, depending on which card is available.

Luxury cards represent those status symbols and all are worth a certain Status Point value ranging from 1 to 10. Recognition cards (easily seen since they have a red border) are powerful cards that DOUBLE the value of your Status Points. If either a Luxury or Recognition card is revealed, players bid by placing one or more money cards face up on the table. In clockwise order, players must top the bid or pass. When the dust clears, the high bidder discards the money cards he has bid and claims the card. Should a Misfortune card be up for bid, however, things are a little different.

Misfortune cards are bad news for the unlucky winning bidder. The Scandal card forces you to lose 5 Status Points. The “Mansion Fire Card” (the fourth red-bordered card in the deck) is a bit worse as it cuts in half the value of your Status Points! The Thief card is potentially worse still as it forces you to immediately discard one of the Luxury cards in your possession. (Both Thief and Luxury card are then removed from play.) Bidding for these cards is reversed! You bid so as to NOT get the card. Low bidder is the unlucky player to gain these cards and reap their negative effects.

Play continues until the fourth red-bordered card is drawn. At that point, the game ends immediately. That card and any un-auctioned cards are discarded. Then Status Point totals are calculated. High total wins but with one catch. The player with the least amount of money is eliminated! No matter how many Status Points you have, if you have the lowest value in money cards, you automatically lose! Then, the surviving player with the most Status Points and NOT the least amount of money is victorious.

While the theme of the game is almost an afterthought, that’s of minimal importance. What High Society is is classic Knizia: auctions with simple rules flavored with a scoring twist at the end. The variable ending to the game also adds to the challenge as players need to weigh every bid carefully since they may need money cards for later auctions and cannot win if they end with the least amount of money. The game, originally published in 1995, plays as nicely now as it did when first released. High Society is a light filler that belongs on every gamer’s shelf. – – – – – – – Herb Levy


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