Auf Heller und Pfennig
Your Price: $53.95
(Worth 5,395 Funagain Points!)
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It's all hustle and bustle down in the market place of a large mediaeval town. All kinds of marvelous goods are arrayed on stands and stalls--so marvelous, that even the King and Queen have been tempted out of the castle on a shopping trip. But all that glitters isn't gold, and there are other less welcome visitors about, determined to grab part of the profits for themselves.
The players play traders, setting up stalls and selling their valuable wares. Trying to grab the best sites in the market, where the richest customers go. And if at the same time they can direct a few less pleasant types in the direction of their rivals, then that's even more reason for them to rub their hands in glee.
Auf Heller und Pfennig is a Reiner Knizia tile laying game which precedes his later and more renowned titles; Euphrat & Tigris, Samurai and Durch die Wuste. Although Auf Heller und Pfennig has not received the accolades of these other game titles, it is in every way their equal!
The random drawing of the tiles makes every game different; and excitement runs high with each player turn as you never know which tile will be played next or where. Each turn presents an opportunity to advance your own position at the expense of your opponents. The choices of when to play a tile or a market stall can be agonizing! This is a very tactical game. The placement of each tile, whether negative or positive, can have far reaching effects. Often the game lead will change from round to round as players counter one another and try to drag down the game leader. Final scores are often very close.
The game components are of very high quality although some items seem unnecessary. The coins are superfluous and not really needed for play. It would have been better to include a structured score sheet to aid in the slightly complicated scoring procedure. Play time also seems to take longer than advertised; 60-90 minutes as opposed to the 45 minutes stated on the box cover. However, the game does include several play variants which enhance an already excellent game. Auf Heller und Pfennig fully lived up to all my expectations. I can't recommend this game highly enough!
In Auf Heller und Pfennig, players try to maximize their scores by bringing customers to their market stalls. Players do this by playing market stall and customer tile pieces on a 6x6 board. As in most of Knizia's games, the player is faced with many tough decisions about how to play the next move. The game easily plays out in 60 minutes making it a favorite at our gaming group meetings.
Players are given market stalls represented by small, colored wooden disks with roman numerals ranging from I to IIII. Naturally, the players receive more of the lesser-valued pieces and only one IIII piece. The number of lesser-valued stall pieces (I pieces) given to players changes depending on the number of players in the game.
Customer tiles are shuffled and placed face down on the table. There are two of each 'good' customers with values ranging from 1-6 in black and count as positive values (e.g. The 6 represents the King or Queen). There is also one of each 'bad' customer tiles with values ranging from 1-6 in red that count as negative values. In addition, there are several special tiles explained later.
Players start each phase (there are three phases total) by taking a face-down tile, looking at it and placing it face-down in front of them. Each turn players have three options: 1) Play a market stall; 2) Play their face-down tile; or 3) Choose a random face-down tile and play that. The phase ends, and scoring takes place, as soon as the 36 spaces on the board are filled. The game ends after the final scoring of the third phase.
Special tiles like the Evil Eye, scare off all 'good' customers, but keep all the 'bad' (this treats all positive valued tiles as zero). The Fire tiles (two of them) split the row/columns in half, based on where the tiles are placed. The Double tile doubles the values of the summed row/column tile values - whether they are negative or positive.
To score, players sum the values of their stalls in a given row and multiply that by the sum of the customer tile values in the row. The process is repeated for the columns. Interestingly, all I-valued market stalls are returned to the players, and the rest are permanently removed from the game.
The game presents an interesting trade-off between play of market stalls and tiles. Is it more beneficial to play more market stalls and make more money, or will it open you up to more risk with the 'bad' customer or even the Evil Eye tiles? Should you place the 'good' customer tile on a row with your market stall if someone else will benefit more by the placement?
Essentially, Auf Heller und Pfennig is an abstract game set to a market place theme. The game works well and finds most players scratching their heads trying to determine what to do on their turn. For me, it plays a lot like Knizia's Lost Cities - only with more levels of complexity in the strategy. There have also been many great variants mentioned on the Web that add new dimensions of playability to the game.
My greatest concern is game cost. While the pieces are beautiful, the board is thin and the gold coins are also difficult to handle. If the game were half the cost I would give this game a five-star rating.
Auf Heller und Pfennig is something of a typical Reiner Knizia game. You are trying to gain the highest totals in both row and column of a token you place on the board. This is all very well, except for the negative score tiles which can hurt your score, especially if you are multiplying the score by four. Even worse, the Evil Eye tile will erase all the positive scores in its row and column, making for very negative scores indeed if you are stuck with it.
The pieces and board are of the usual high German-game quality, and while the marketplace theme is a little thin, it doesn't matter because the game itself it so much fun. Close results are quite easy to achieve in Auf Heller und Pfennig; in short, this is another winner of a Reiner Knizia design.