Don’t know what to do with that plainly looking One Ring to Rule Them All laying about? How about that tarnished Aladdin’s Lamp that just doesn’t shine up anymore? Or that Ark of the Covenant in the back of the garage just full of dust? Well, you know what they say? That’s right! Dump your trash on some unsuspecting dupe that thinks it’s his treasure! Have a yard sale – the epitome of capitalism gone small!
How it Plays
In Flea Market players bid for various items in a rummage sale. However, both the item up for bid and the amount of money you can spend on it are determined by dice.
Leo Colovini and Mayfair Games team up for this very simple, light and quickly-paced auction game aimed at younger gamers and families. Starting with $24, players can bid for interesting movie items like Excalibur, the Maltese Falcon, and the bike from either E.T. or Wizard of Oz. Eh, just call it for both. The actual items have no relevance on game play and most kids will probably miss the references, anyway, but oh, well.
All of the memorabilia is placed along a track running down the Flea Market, one object per space. Each space on the track is numbered. Place everything completely randomly as it doesn’t matter where anything is located. Items also have unique numbers from 3-18, which have nothing to do with the values along the market track.
On a player’s turn he/she will roll three white dice. The result indicates which item will be auctioned next. Find that and place it on stage. If you remove it from the market track, then take the first available object from the beginning of the line and replace the empty space, if necessary. If another player owns it, then they place it on the auctioning stand. Also, they collect an amount of bonus cash equal to the highest visible number uncovered on the market track.
Now everyone rolls their personal two dice, unless a player owns the item up for bid in which case he/she waits. You’re allowed to re-roll one die, if you wish. During this process, players attempt to hide their rolls with cupped hands as if they’re preventing a classmate at the next desk from cheating on their test. When everyone is finished, you reveal results. The one with the highest value gets first crack at buying the item. However, the bid is the result of his/her roll. If he/she passes, then bidding continues to the next highest and so on. If no one decides to pick it up, then it’s returned to its owner or, if un-owned, the active player receives it for free.
If you do buy an item, you’ll pay your bid either to the bank or its previous owner and then take your new purchase. The first one to earn $54 wins.
Everything Must Go…To Goodwill?
So, yeah, I don’t get the “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” jingo. My wife and her family are big into garage sales – both having our own and sifting through others. So I’m quite familiar with other people’s junk. I despise them. Garage sales, that is, not my wife and her family. The whole rummage sale mindset is a foreign and unfathomable concept to me. It’s its own culture and lifestyle, really, with a set of unwritten rules that would make Fight Club envious. But why someone wants to spend a nickel on used socks, collectable Burger King glasses from the 1990s and snow globes from some family’s Hilton Head vacation is beyond me. Thankfully, this game about yard sales is on a level that I can understand!
Flea Market is not for serious gamers, except maybe as a filler. Simply put, there’s just no depth to it. It’s certainly an interesting tweak on the auction mechanic. However, most serious players will probably find the bid-by-dice element restrictive, rather than intriguingly innovative.
Instead, Flea Market is all about approachability. It’s super light, easy to jump right into and ideal for a broad range of ages. The main benefit with the dice is they help alleviate the biggest problem with bidding games: what to pay for a given thing. Here the dice tell you what to pay – no more, no less. Rather the decision is whether or not you want to part with the cash that the dice dictate. That does provide some fun little tension, though it’s admittedly still very casual.
Ideally, you’re looking to own those items who’s numbers will likely recur on the auction roll. The more a memento comes up for bid, the more bonus cash and sales you can potentially earn. So it’s the old probability gamble. That tends to reduce the game’s strategy to grabbing items 9 through 12 every chance you can. Not that you necessarily want to pay out the nose for even those objects, if possible, because you still need a profitable return on your investment. On the other hand, if your roll is too low, you may not even get the opportunity to place a bid. Hence the interesting bit of tension.
In some ways then, items 7, 8 and 13-15 (or round about there) can prove beneficial ancillary acquisitions if the opportunity arises for a fair price. Often a smart grab for these next most probable numbers can be the deciding factor in netting those final few dollars to claim the win. Again, the difficulty is determining what a fair bid is. You don’t want to pay too high, but you don’t want a roll so low you never get a crack at it.
A couple of other factors influence your purchasing decisions. One, there’ll be times you might bid for an item with less prospect of showing up later just to keep an opponent from getting it for free. Mainly if you can do so cheaply. If you own an object with a really low or high number, you could still get lucky with the auction dice and collect that bonus cash even if no one else is buying. Two, you’re more likely to take a chance on items in the late game. In the early going, profits are pretty slim. However, as more and more objects move off the auction track and uncover those bonus values, you want to increase you’re inventory for a better chance to grab that extra reward money.
That’s not to make too much of Flea Market as a strategy game. It’s not. But it packs an amusing little punch. It may not have a long replay stretch, but it will travel well and it uses up a small footprint. The components are nothing spectacular, but definitely serviceable. If you’ve come across other opinions regarding the money, heed them no mind. Way too much has been made of the dollar tokens – we had no trouble distinguishing the denominations. The artwork is similarly workmanlike, but cute and light enough for the game’s mood. One of the design’s more favorable attributes is that it scales fine with all player counts, so whether you have 3, 4 or 5, the store is wide open.
In a sense, Flea Market is an apt title and theme for this little romp – some will find it a little treasure while others will just want to trash it. There’s not a lot to rummage through here. It’s easy to learn, easy to play, and pretty quick. And that’s the point. If you’re looking for an accessible game the whole family can enjoy, or maybe an interesting twist on the auction mechanic, then Flea Market will be worth its small price tag. If not, well then look elsewhere. There are always more yard sales in the neighborhood. That’s what makes tabletop gaming such a great hobby.
iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Mayfair Games for providing a review copy of Flea Market.