Monday, October 15, 2012

Hidden Gems: Gem Dealer Review

Gem Dealer
  • Designed by Reiner Knizia
  • Published by Gryphon Games in 2008
  • For 3-5 Players
  • Plays in 20-30 minutes

Gem Dealer is a race to collect 4 different types of gems.  Players do so by bidding on one gem with cards in their hand.  Knowing when to bid and when to bide your time is a crucial aspect of the game.  It's fairly quick and keeps moving at a good pace.  

Inside the box, rules are underneath
The gems are very stunning, one of the prettiest game components I own.  They don't look cheap, nor do they feel it.  The cards are good quality, though differentiating between purple and blue in low/bad light is challenging at times.

There are 5 different gems, of which players are attempting to get 4.  Players do so through a series of bidding rounds.  The first player places a gem up for bid, and then plays cards matching that color.  Each time they bid, they draw a card.  Other players can up the bid, or pass, drawing one final card and waiting for the next round.  There are some wild cards which can be used on any gem, though only one "10" can be used.  The 10 comes at a risk though, if you're not successful in your bid, you must return a gem you already own.  In each bid, a player may, one time, place any number of cards face down as a bid of 1 per card they play.  This is a good way to get rid of cards of a color you already have.  Overall, the mechanics are simple, but the wild cards and varying numbers on the gem cards do keep it interesting.

All together now, "OOOOHHH SHINY!"
A lot of Gem Dealer is figuring out who is going to bid on something, and what to put up for bid next.  If everyone else has a blue gem, the odds are good that you'll be able to snag it without wasting too many cards.  The interaction here is about what you'd find in any other auction, though players are limited by their cards, not their own stop sign.

The gems are a nice theme, but I'm playing an auction/bidding game.  The theme could be animals, spaceship parts, etc. and the game would still work fine.  

Learning Curve 
Short.  It can be taught in roughly 1-2 minutes. There are some of those weird exceptions, only one "10" and the facedown anything bid, but the game is still quick to get people in and playing.

The different types of bid cards.
See what I mean about Purple(right) and Blue(left)?
Why I like Gem Dealer
It is a quick game with fun mechanics.  I don't have many bidding games, and the other ones I have are longer games.  The gems hook people instantly, and it opens the door to other games.  

Why I don't like Gem Dealer
There's a bit too much luck with the bidding cards.  Because players draw after each bid, one player could get a card of the color currently up for bid while another does not.  Also, the more bids you can make, the more cards you have, meaning you'll likely have cards for the next gem as well.

My sister is a gem hoarder
I've played Gem Dealer 5 times in the last 2 or so years.  I've played it mostly at long games days as something that doesn't require too much thinking.  I think there's a time for it, but it's never at the top of anyone's want to play list.  I think it can be played more often and still be fun.

I like the game, but it seems like everyone would rather play something else.  Gem Dealer isn't a bad game, it just isn't great.  Maybe that's due to the theme.  If you look at tother games in the Gryphon Bookshelf line, theme plays a bigger part.  I give it 1 thumb up.  

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