148Apps Network Post
Developer: Skotos Tech
Price: $2.99
Version: 1.25
App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★½
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

It never occurred to me until recently that the filthy stinkin’ rich are an under-represented demographic in games. They might show up from time to time, usually as antagonists or some other form of foil to the hero, but not many games really try to capture the dealings of the capitalist elite. Reiner Knizia’s High Society performs one such task, and it turns out that buying extravagant possessions is actually pretty darn fun.

There are three things players must monitor as they play High Society: Money, luxuries, and recognition. Acquiring luxuries leads to recognition, represented by a number on each item’s card, but luxuries cost money. As each extravagant item is drawn from the central deck players will have a chance to bid, as will the AI. Once everyone has had a turn, and assuming there are at least two individuals vying for the same thing, bids can be raised until someone eventually wins. The catch to this is that once a cash card – which is divided into increments of 1, 3, 8, 25, etc. – is gone, it’s gone for good. It makes late-game bidding more of a challenge as there are usually less than ideal increments left. Even rich people are prone to misfortune, however, and the occasional card representing Bad Stuff will appear. Bidding on these cards, which range from thieves to fires, can be just as important to a player’s strategy, as failure to bid will visit the misfortune upon the offending individual.

What makes High Society so compelling is the way it forces players to strategize their spending. If all their money is gone, they lose. If they have less money that everyone else, they also lose. Bidding becomes a fine art of not just winning a desired object, but in maintaining moderation in order to maximize potential recognition while minimizing expenses. This is not always easy and is a large contributor to the desire to play “just one more round,” even after a loss.

The biggest issue with High Society isn’t in what it does wrong, but rather in what it doesn’t do at all. Which is to say multiplayer. A game such as this practically begs for the option to partake in a game with more than one human player. Unfortunately such an option just doesn’t exist. Players will have to settle for adjustable AI opponents and not much else. It’s still very much a fun game, but the inability to play it with other people feels like a huge missed opportunity.

Thinking of High Society as something akin to Solitaire rather than poker certainly helps to ease the pain of solidarity, but it’s a missing feature that’s bound to turn off some App Store shoppers. Everyone else just might want to check it out, however, as it’s every bit as consuming and “easier than it looks” as most other Knizia offerings.

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