Posted by: gschloesser | August 3, 2011

High Society

Design by:  Reiner Knizia
Published by:  Gryphon Games
3 – 5 Players, 20 – 30 minutes
Review by:  Greg J. Schloesser

When I first wrote my review of High Society, Reiner Knizia was just beginning his rapid ascent to the top of the heap in terms of prestigious game designers.  This review was penned shortly after his release of Euphrat & Tigris.  In the intervening years, he has released dozens of new titles and his reputation has continued to soar.  He has continued his trait of designing games that present players with a series of agonizing decisions each turn and always leaves you wishing you could have just one more action in order to complete your master stroke.

High Society is one of his designs which was released several years back, and has just been re-released by Gryphon Games, a division of FRED.  It’s components are simple:  16 commodity cards and five sets of cards representing hard-cold cash.  Yet what Knizia can do with these simple components is nothing short of pure magic.

In spite of my normal aversion (probably due to my consistent horrible play in them) of bidding type games, this one hits the mark.  Players bid on cards one at a time as they are revealed. Card values range from 1 – 10, with several special cards.  There are three ‘X2’ cards, which, if acquired, double the value of a players cards he has acquired. However, there are a few nasty cards, too.  One halves the value of a player’s acquired cards, another subtracts 5 from his total, while a third forces the player to discard one of his acquired cards. 

As a card is revealed, players bid on the card.  Bidding continues until all players have passed.  The high bidder takes the card and discards his money.  All other players retrieve the money they bid. If a ‘bad’ card is revealed, then the LOW bidder gets stuck with the card. In this case, the LOW bidder gets to take his money back while all other players lose their money bid.

There are four specially marked cards.  When the fourth of these is revealed, the game ends immediately.  Thus, no one knows exactly when the game will end and which cards will be revealed during the course of play.

The game has two other unique and neat money-managing features.  First, when the game ends, all players total the amount of CASH left in their hands. The player with the LEAST amount of cash in their hands is OUT OF THE GAME, regardless of the value of his acquired cards.  Thus, one is forced to manage his money carefully to insure that he has enough money left in his hand at the end of the game to keep himself in contention.  Another Knizia design, Quo Vadis, uses a similar feature wherein the player who does not make it to the Senate is out of the game, regardless of the number of laurels he had collected during the game.

The second neat money-managing feature is that change cannot be made during the game.  Each player gets a pre-set amount of cash in set denominations (1,2,3,4,6,8, etc. up to a high of 25).  As the bidding progresses and a player lays a cash bid on the table, he must increase it from there without retrieving the previously laid bill.  For instance, if I had played a 4 and the bidding gets around to me again and is at ’12’, I cannot pick up the 4 and lay down a 15.  I must add to the 4 already on the table.  Without being able to make change, this forces one to carefully keep an eye on what he has remaining in his hand.  Otherwise, you may be forced to drastically overbid if you find yourself having already used all your low value bills. An intriguing concept.

Players must keep an eye not only on their own money, but on the money which has been spent by their opponents.  Remember – the player with the least amount of cash remaining in their hand at game’s end is OUT, regardless of the value of his acquired cards.  In addition, one must also make tough decisions in regards to how much to bid on the cards, keeping in mind to hold enough cash to be able to bid appropriately so as not to get stuck with the ‘nasty’ cards as they are revealed. 

The game is yet another in the long list of intriguing and agonizing games by the prolific inventor Knizia.  He has had a few misses … but not many.   Put High Society on his ‘HIT‘ list.



  1. Quick and easy to understand. Challenging little game. 7/10

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: