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Bull in a China Shop
English language edition of Der Elefant im Porzellanladen
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Acquire the most china for your shop before the bull comes running through! If you're careful, plan wisely, and take the bull by the horns, you'll be in the money while your opponents are stuck picking up the pieces!
- 89 playing cards
- 1 scorepad
- instructions (English, Spanish, French)
Average Rating: 3.5 in 2 reviews
The literal translation of this Michael Schacht card game would be “The Elephant in a Porcelain shop”. Clearly, in English, the corresponding phrase would be “Bull in a China shop”, which has the meaning of bumbling around and making a mess of things. Indeed, the latest version of the game from Playroom Games has this name. Surprisingly, the theme isn’t a complete stretch, as it is woven into the mechanics, albeit a bit loosely.
The basic idea of the game is to collect china and avoid having elephants destroy your most valuable pieces. The problem is that players cannot completely avoid elephants, so they must accept the fact that some of collection will be destroyed on a regular basis. The idea is to properly time the taking of elephants so as to minimize the damage to your collection. This is FAR easier said than done!
China cards are valued 3 – 8 in three suits, with multiples of each value. Each player receives two pre-designated cards to begin, along with a single money card and one “push” card. Each player places his china cards face-up, sorted by suit. Five china and five elephant cards are revealed, and play begins.
A player’s turn is quite simple: take a china card, take an elephant card, or use his “push” card to pass.
Take a china card. The player takes one of the face-up china cards and adds it to his face-up cards, sorted by suit. He must pay one gold card to take a china card. If a player has two gold cards, he MUST take a china card.
Take an elephant card. The player takes one of the face-up elephant cards. These cards will depict one or more elephants, either colored to match one of the suits or neutral gray. The player must discard china cards matching the number and color of the elephants. As compensation, a player takes one gold card from supply.
Push. Once per game, the player may play his “push” card and pass. This passes the round to the next player. This can be an extremely valuable tactic when there are only extremely harmful elephant cards available to take. However, since the card can only be used once per game, deciding when to use it is a tough decision.
An important aspect of the game is that the line of available china and elephant cards are not replenished each player turn. Rather, they are only replaced once all five have been taken. So, an undesirable elephant card may still be there when your turn comes around again. Sometimes it is better to suffer the pain now, hoping the cards will be replaced by the time your turn comes around again. Further, since each player’s money cards are public knowledge, you can sometimes accurately judge whether opponents will be forced to take elephant or china cards … or even force that issue on your opponents. Indeed, this is a critical aspect of game play.
There are four scoring cards in the china deck, one appearing after every ten china cards have been taken. When they appear, players must make a choice on how to score the china cards they possess. They must score one of the following four categories:
- The smallest card in each suit
- The highest card in each suit
- All cards of one suit
- All cards
A player must score a different category each time a scoring card surfaces. Choosing which one to score can be a difficult choice.
There is no denying that the game has a considerable amount of randomness to it. Further, on many turns, a player’s options are limited, and choices are easy. Still, there are enough turns wherein choices are difficult to keep the game interesting. I also enjoy the scoring choices a player must make, and players can plan their choices accordingly. I’m not really sure just how much control is present, but the game does give one the feeling of making important decisions. I’m just not sure if that feeling is illusory or not! In either case, the game is fun. So, while Elefant likely won’t set the gaming world afire, it makes for a fun filler and is also a good selection when gaming in a family environment.
This is a light card game with a fast, almost non-existant, learning curve. The goal of the game is to build up the best collection of china, while avoiding major damage by the bulls who come into your store to shop.
There are a number of different types of cards: China (with values ranging from three to eight in three different colors), Bulls (who will damage specific values or colors of china), Money, Pass Cards, and "Score Now" Cards. Everyone starts the game with two pieces of china (the game has five pairs of "starting china" cards, each pair contains a value 3 of one color and a value 4 of a different color), two money cards, and one pass card.
Any unused china "start cards" are removed from the game. The rest of the china cards are shuffled. After every tenth china card, a "score now" card is entered. The first five china cards are laid out face up with the rest of the deck sitting off to the side. The bull cards are shuffled and the first five are laid out, with he rest of the deck sitting off to the side. If at any time during the game the bull deck runs out, it is reshuffled.
Players may do one of three things on a turn: buy china, take a bull, or pass. Each player may only pass once during the game.
No matter the color or value of the china it costs one money to buy. The only way you replenish money is to take a bull (allow a bull to shop in your store). For every bull you take, you get one money. No one is allowed to have more than two money at any time.
When all five cards that have been laid out are taken, the next five are laid out. After every tenth china card is bought it is time to do the scoring. There are four options in scoring, each player must use each method once. 1) Add up the highest value card of each color, 2) Add up the lowest value card of each color, 3) Add up all the cards of any one color, 4) Add up the total value of all your cards.
This is a fun, quick game. It is a good balance of luck and stragey. The luck comes in with the cards that are available for claiming. Everyone's hand is laid out in front of them though; so you may be able to guess what another player will want to do/take on their turn.
Bull in a China Shop does well to incorporate mechanics from both Hare & Tortoise (you must "go back" by taking a bull that will destroy some of your china in order to "go forward" get money to buy more china) and Yahtzee (you must decide which element you want to score when the time comes). It is a quick playing game, that gives you good bang for the buck; recommended.