“Alex Singh, come on down! You’re the next contestant on The Price is Right!” Words I never heard in my lifetime. Not that I ever tried to get on the show, but whenever I would catch en episode it would cross my mind. Wouldn’t it be so much fun to compete for the showcase? And I’d play along in my head with all the little games, muttering my guesses to myself and judge myself against the actual contestants. It fleet of fancy, gone as quick as it came. But now that feeling is back with Shop ‘N Time.
How it Plays
In order to play Shop ‘N Time you will need to download the companion app on an Android or iOS device. Each player is dealt 7 cards from the deck and the app will display a target dollar amount. Your goal is to collect items that amount to as close to the displayed target as possible without going over.
The start button on the app is hit and all player pick up their cards and will choose one. Each card has an item, a year, and an amount. For example, one card might show a bag of pecans from 1970 that weighs 4 pounds. The first player to select their card hits the button on the app and a countdown begins. The rest of the players have only a few seconds to select a card before the round ends. When the round is over, players pass their cards to their neighbor and the app will automatically announce the beginning of a new round.
Whenever you believe that the items you’ve collected are close enough to the target total, you flip over your player card and grab a coupon if available. Play continues until everyone has flipped their player cards. One by one, players will scan their collected items using the app which will display their grand total. The player who was closest to the target without going over gains points and the whole process is repeated for a set number of plays. Whoever has the most points at that time, is the winner.
Sometimes you just want to have fun. Sometimes you just want to get together with some friends, not think too much, and have some laughs. For those sometimes, there’s Shop ‘N Time. That’s not to say that it’s a brain dead game. It’s actually quite clever and well thought out.
Let’s start with the basic premise. It’s immediately relatable. Everyone has at least a nominal notion of games shows like The Price is Right or Supermarket Sweep and everyone can understand the concept of trying to guess prices. The only hurdle to entry is understanding the timing of when you can look at the next hand of cards and how coupons work. But even those are easily learned after a round or two. And then there’s the item cards. With over 100 unique cards it could have been a problem having items that were too obscure or unrecognizable, but the game does a good job of providing everyday items that are easy to identify. Easily identifiable doesn’t mean it’s easy to guess the price. You might have an idea of what a basketball costs now, but do you have any idea what it cost back in 1951? I surely don’t.
The app is very clever as well. It is required and for good reason. In order to check the prices there needs to be someone who knows the actual values. I suppose there could have been a chart with all the cards and their hidden prices included in the box and someone could act as the host, but keeping that information hidden is key to the replayability. If someone were to start internalizing the values of the individual items, they would have a distinct advantage. The app never divulges the value of a single item, only the grand total of all your cards. This way, you only get a vague idea of what each item is worth. With so many cards and the hidden prices, each game is fresh and the only experience you bring is what you have from real-life shopping.
The best part of Shop ‘N Time is the reveal. Once all players have scanned their cards, the app tells you to place the device so that everyone can see. Once by one, players’ totals are revealed and placed in order from closest to the goal to furthest. Laughs and groans ensue. There’s real excitement to the moment. When someone is five cents from the target, thinking they have victory in hand, and then another player comes in 2 cents closer, it’s sure to elicit cheers all around.
I play a lot of games. I tend to favor more complicated games with sizable game lengths. They are often intricate with a lots going on at once. They aren’t perfect but I can overlook their deficiencies because of their ambition. Shop ‘N Time is a relatively simple game and any blemish would really stand out, but Shop ‘N Time executes on its premise beautifully. It knows what it wants to do and does it well. For fifteen minutes of fun you’d be hard pressed to find a better option.