20 November 2019
An easy sell
Every aspiring hero knows that in order to succeed at monster slaying they need to be true of heart, strong, skilful and able to hold a sharp sword at their side – or a springy bow, if they prefer to shoot from high ground. Durable armour is good to have too, just in case a monster decides to hurl some fireballs back. Supple boots wouldn’t hurt either, if you find yourself needing to run away.
Therefore, every hero knows that before any fighting, shopping needs to be done. The shopkeepers of Bargain Quest are here to fill that need. What the wannabe heroes don’t realise, however, is that the shopkeepers are business people first – and that often means the adventurers’ wellbeing comes second…
This priority of profits over people is on the players’ conscience in Bargain Quest as they take on the role of these traders, trying to entice various heroes to come into their establishment and buy their wares. In order to do so, they’ll engage in some cheeky (to put it mildly) practices. Every seller chooses an item from their hand to put in their shop’s display – this is how they attract potential customers to pop in. The player with the most attractive display is the first to choose a hero to visit their shop. Once they’ve been hooked, they can sell them whatever they wish – as long as it matches their class requirements, of course; you can’t sell a knight a magic staff! A hero may walk in enticed by a holy sword but leave with a torch and healing potion instead.
Once the questing customer has left the shop and headed on to meet their adversary, there is nothing more for the player to do. If heroes are equipped well, they will defeat the monster, earn glory (star tokens that provide victory points) and money. They may even return to the shop again if the next item in the display looks interesting enough. If the hero doesn’t defeat the monster but survives, they may still return to the market. However, if they are killed in the fight, they perish with all their supplies and a new hero rises to the challenge.
Bargain Quest can really test the altruism and good intentions of players. They will want to help and cheer their hero on, as defeating monsters earns them victory points. But the shopkeepers also need money to hire staff with bonus powers or upgrade their storage in order to keep more items or to make their shop display fancier. If a hero’s funds dry up, it becomes more profitable to send them to certain death to be replaced with a new adventurer with a full purse on the next round – a legitimate way of securing victory.
Not unlike the heroes, the players can become easily endeared with the adorable shops. They are represented by folded boards with shop fronts on the cover and detailed interiors inside, full of character and warmth. The heroes, shop assistants and item cards are full of references and in-jokes to Dungeons & Dragons, roleplaying and fantasy, making every new card reveal exciting.
Playing in a bigger group allows Bargain Quest to really showcase its variety and sense of humour as more heroes and items reveal themselves throughout the course of the game. It also makes the player interation more prominent, as rival traders are more likely to try and entice the same hero to come to their store. The game doesn’t scale as well for two players, falling a bit flat.
Whether you plan to be a wellmeaning shopkeeper outfitting your heroes with your best wares, or are in it just to make money, it is impossible not to be charmed by Bargain Quest. It is a light hand management game that doesn’t take itself too seriously but knows how to sell you a good time.
PLAY IT? YES
Designer: Jonathan Ying
Artist: Victoria Ying
This review originally appeared in the November 2019 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.