High Society is a game that can be pulled from the shelf, or pocket, at a moment’s notice and then have players engaged and joyful for play after play.
What’s it all About?
Imagine you are in a world where respect is garnered via the acquisition of lavish, overpriced, and mildly vulgar items of status. Where the only value you have as a person is based upon the purchases that adorn your wealth fuelled lifestyle, but one that equally will see you shunned forevermore should you spend so frivolously that your pockets become bare. Sounds like the world we inhabit eh? But let’s not get too deep here, because this is also the premise behind a little gem of a card game that takes us into the heart of High Society.
Despite its questionable dedication in the pursuit of ever more expensive items with which to furnish your life, High Society, is an absolutely wonderful gaming experience. It harnesses the undoubted powers of simplicity, streamlining, tension, and ‘take that’ gameplay, and wields them in a way that leaves players clamouring for more.
Oh tiny, tiny rulebook, how I love thee so…
Talking simplicity, High Society, is the sort of game that can be enjoyed within five minutes of opening the seal. The rules are beautifully straight-forward, and the leaflet that comes packaged explaining just so, is well written and clear to follow. This is a game with only a few options for players to make during each round of play, it’s basically an auctioning game with a couple of nice twists, yet at the same time there is some genuine tactical thinking required if you are to sit atop the money tree at the end.
The delightful ease at which everyone, of all ages, can be playing High Society is something I truly love. The basic idea is that a card stack in the centre of the table depicts various luxurious items that are up for auction. One at a time these items come under the hammer and players try to outbid each other to acquire the lavish token of their incredible wealth. However, there is magic in the detail here. At game’s end the player with the least amount of money remaining, is instantly out of the action regardless of which items they have splurged on. Goodbye, adios, enjoy life with the peasants, peasant. This means buying requires more than simply throwing your cash at the thing up for grabs, and instead has to be a delicate balance of over-the-top extravagance and thrifty thinking. It’s absolute genius! It works wonderfully in throwing players into quandary after quandary as they panic about overspending, then panic again about not having bought the item! Then, we get to throw in to the mix a few items that bring negative effects at the end of the game, and players have to bid to not take the very bad thing into their collection, or at least weigh up the consequences before doing so. And the negative effects can be devastating, in some cases halving your overall item value! This again sees players torn between a bad place and a potentially worse one and is hilarious in action.
The game plays like a dream. High Society is one of those rare treats that can be played in minutes, can be carried in your pocket, and is such a quick blast that it always demands repeats.
The cards in the box are of the larger variety and are adorned with some stunning artwork throughout. The images hark back to the 1920’s and are illustrated beautifully. The cards themselves are also solid and feel great in the hands, and there are no fiddly things to get in the way here either, the entire game is a perfectly delivered little package of pure fun and heightened tension.
What’s Not So Good?
Honestly, there is little here I don’t love. If I was to nit-pick, I suppose for some the game will lack the depth they seek, and it isn’t a game that will dominate and become the central focus of a game night, but neither of those are elements High Society was ever chasing anyway. It might become a little stale after many repeated plays, but this hasn’t happened at our table yet, and this game has seen some serious game time.
Let us just move on…
Where’s the Appeal?
If it wasn’t already blindingly obvious at this point, I really have a great deal of time for this game. The real pull, in my opinion, lies in its delicate balance of simplicity and strategy. High Society is a game that can be pulled from the shelf, or pocket, at a moment’s notice and then have players engaged and joyful for play after play. The twist in the auction with negative cards coming in to play certainly elevates this game further, and in combination with the poorest player loses at the end of the game rule, makes for some brilliant, fun, and competitive gameplay.
I do talk often about my love for simple games, and although there is always time for something meatier, a real magic lives in a game that can be used by all, including those not used to playing games, within minutes of introducing the idea. This is something to entertain when the non-gamer friends ask about playing something, and Gloomhaven seems a little daunting.
One for the Kids?
A big yes to this question! I played with ages ranging from eight to adult and the younger players where as engaged and confident in their actions during the rounds as the adults. The game is so streamlined that pauses for clarification of rules is never really an issue, and the theme is light and family friendly, allowing it to be enjoyed by children and adults alike.
There is plenty of room for laughter and cheeky comments fuelled by others successes and failures in the bidding, but it is so relaxed and casual that everything remains very much on the right side of friendly.
High Society is also a decent game from a learning perspective in terms of the considerations with money and working out how much you can afford to spend, and how much the negative cards will impact your total, so there’s a thread of simple maths calculations running throughout too.
High Society is just a wonderful little card game, blessed with great mechanics, clever ideas, and magical artwork. It can be taken on travels, it can be the filler on game night, and I imagine it could even be the saviour of a game night or two. Everything works just as it should, there is nothing clunky or intrusive, nothing feels thrown in, everything seems considered and in its right place, and this elevates what at face value is very simple, to some extraordinary heights.
Of course, the game lacks genuine depth. It won’t have you considering deep tactical moves, and it won’t offer an entrancing storytelling experience, but I feel confident in stating none of that was ever the intention. High Society knows what it wants to do, and then it does it magnificently.
Based upon all the above, how can I not give High Society top marks? It delivers exactly what it wanted to and I can play over and over again with the same gleeful smile etched upon my face. Surely that is all we ever really want?
Dig in to the coffers today, and spend some on entering High Society.
Designer – Reiner Knizia
Players – 3 to 5
Playtime – 20 minutes