It was a few weeks before Thanksgiving, and I had what turned out to be an awkward conversation with my wife.
“My sister called. She wants to borrow Money.”
My wife was doing the dishes. She paused, gave me a puzzled look, and said, “Why would she want to borrow money—from us?” I’m the youngest in my family, and this would be a severe breach of the rules of family flow.
Thankfully, after this point we both shared a laugh. My sister wasn’t asking to borrow the Benjamins; she was asking to borrow Reiner Knizia’s blind bidding and bluffing game of exchanging currencies. So we know that my sister liked it. What do I think? Find out below!
How It Works
Money is a blind auction set-collection game for three to six players, and a round plays in around fifteen minutes.
Each player receives a starting hand of six cards and a bluff card. The cards depict different currencies in various denominations. There are nine cards in each currency divided into 20-20-20-30-30-30-40-50-60 denominations. There are also special coin cards, which are always worth 10 and always retain their value. The goal of the game is to have the most points.
In each round, two rows of cards are on offer from the bank. The round begins by players choosing cards from their hands and placing them face down in front of them. These are the player bids. After all players have chosen cards, they reveal their bids. Whoever has the highest bid (totaling the face value of the cards bid) goes first, and so on down the line. When it is their turn, players may either 1) return the bid to hand or 2) exchange the bid with one of the piles of cards on the table (either one of the bank offers or another player’s bid). This continues until no players have cards in front of them, either because they’ve exchanged their bids for other cards or have returned their bids to their hands. The next round begins by refilling the bank offers up to four cards, and then players bid again.
I mentioned that all players have a bluff card. The bluff card isn’t worth anything when used for bidding, but it can make the other players think that you’re putting down more cards than you actually are. This can drive other players to bid more than they need to take the cards they want.
Money is a Reiner Knizia game, and it hits both of his trademarks: almost nonexistent theme and clever (crazy?) scoring. Money is a set-collection game, so players are awarded more points for collecting multiple cards of the same currency. At the end of the game, if a player does not have 200 points of a currency, he subtracts 100 points from his total. (For example, if a player has 160 points in US Dollars, he scores 60 points at the end of the game.) A player keeps any total 200 or over. And a player scores 100 bonus points for any triplets he has (three 20s or three 30s of the same currency). So players want to collect cards of the same currency, preferably in triplets, and prevent their fellow players from doing the same.
The player with the most points after the draw deck runs out is the winner.
I think Money is a great short game. I don’t think it is quite as simple or as fun as For Sale (which is the best “filler” game, in my opinion), but I still love this game.
What I love about Money is its simplicity. No, it’s not as easy as For Sale (which is built mostly on binary choices), but the rulebook is only four large-font-size pages. The scoring is a little strange, but after one round, the players I’ve tried it with have completely understood what to do, and the scoring system is worth the learning curve. It forces players to think in a new way, which makes gameplay more interesting. The simple bid-exchange mechanism for set collection works well, and while I enjoy the game with three or four players, the game hits its stride with five or six. The bidding is a little more chaotic, and it’s harder to collect what you really want.
Another thing to love is the production value of the game. The cards in the game are beautiful, and there’s something about the linen finish and card size that makes them easier to shuffle. Seriously, the cards in Money are fantastic. The current iteration of Money is part of Gryphon’s bookshelf series of games, and like other members of that series, Money is fantastic. The components, the rules, and the gameplay are all designed to get it to the table quickly and draw players in through the artwork and the game itself.
And, Money being a bidding game, I love it for that reason. Bidding is a great way to inject mystery and excitement into a game. Granted, I’m not very good at bidding games, but I think they are fun to play nonetheless. Money’s blind bidding is an interesting way to handle things, and there is some strategy in deciding what to bid. Bidding in off suits makes sense, but it can open up scoring possibilities for other players. On the other hand, bidding with suits you’re collecting makes it harder to reach the ever-important 200 point threshold. And while you can see how many cards a player is using to bid, each game is an exercise in reading your fellow players. Are they bluffing? Are they bidding high? Low? What’s everything worth to them? The tension is high because the bidding is blind, and this makes the game great fun to play.
In true Knizia fashion, the main drawback to Money is its lack of theme. Yes, the cards depict images of diverse currencies (more or less accurately: though King Knizia’s face appears on the British Pound), but aside from this, the game doesn’t make you feel like you’re playing with money. The set collection is interesting, and I love the bidding, but I could be trading sheep or Baseball cards or wares or any of a number of things and the game would feel exactly the same. This doesn’t bother me too much since the game is so much fun to play, but players who are looking for a more immersive short game may want to look elsewhere (might I suggest Incan Gold?). I mentioned that the scoring could also be a bit hard for some players to understand at first (also in true Knizia fashion), but this is easily remedied with a round or two of Money.
And that’s one of the great things about this game: it rarely ends after a single round. Each time I’ve played, even after the learning curve, multiple rounds have followed. A round goes quickly—five to fifteen minutes—and the people I’ve played with were immediately ready for the next. Money may not be the main event for a game night, and it might be difficult for very young kids to learn, but it is a great filler. I should also mention that my family loves this game. Just don’t play with my sister—the one who asked to borrow Money. She is a shark, and your spirit will be broken.
(Also, with regard to the title of this review, this song is what plays through my head when I think of this game. Don’t judge!)
A version of this review originally appeared on Tongue Fried Goat. It has been updated and modified significantly.