Monday, August 10, 2009

Game Central Station: Klunker

Here's yet another post taken from my old Game Central Station website. The post was last updated in 2004 & originally written in 1999.

Fun With Language

Why is it named "Klunker"?

OK, let's get the name out of the way first... here in the States, I'd use this word (spelled with a "C") to refer to the bright orange Chevy Nova my roommate drove during college. In Germany, it refers to baubles... jewelry. Go figure.

What in the heck is a "Schaufenster"?

Next, the fact that the cards in the otherwise English edition from Rio Grande say "Schaufenster" on them. (Translated from the German: "shop window.") According to Jay Tummelson, head honcho of Rio Grande Games and an all-around nice guy, this was a printer's error that caused this particular problem.

Don't let either of these language issues (or the weird art choices) chase you away from this wonderful game, though - they're both easy to ignore!

Rules Clarification

Finally, one of the examples in the rule book makes the game slightly more difficult. All jewelry purchased is placed in the safe simultaneously, so that if you had, say, three Tongue Studs and bought three more, you only scored 3 for the set of four because the additional 2 counted as a new set. Ouch. Actually, Kevin Maroney observed that the game plays BETTER this way... I concur. (Thanks to Mik & Kevin for pointing this out.)

Now that we've got all of that out of the way, on with some strategy discussion for this tricky little card game.


Due to it's fluid nature, it's hard to give a "set" strategy for Klunker. What works one game may bomb miserably the next time out. The following points act as weather vanes, giving you direction depending on how the game is going.

What to Put in Your Store Window
  • You have to be cautious about slapping complete junk into your store window, especially if you pick up a late buying turn number. Your only option may be to stuff the junk in your own window into your safe.
  • Try putting two of one item in your store window. This increases the likelihood of someone else buying them AND decreases the pain if you have to buy them from yourself.
  • It's a bad idea to "poison the well" by putting in an extra item of another type to devalue another player's purchase of your store window. If you end up buying late in the round, you could wind up with your own pile of junk. (On the other hand, if you plan to grab an early number, this isn't such a bad idea after all.
  • Even the best laid plans of mice & men can go TOTALLY wrong. Often, a careful play of an enticing card(s) is rendered moot as your oppponent has the necessary cards in his hand. But one of the virtues of Klunker is that you are never completely stuck. As in real life you just have to sweeten the deal a bit. If no one wants your card and you don't want it yourself - give them the cards that they want!
What's So Great About Being Nice To Other People?

Why give other people the cards they need to complete their sets? I mean, this is business, right - eat or be eaten? Maybe not...

Greg Aleknevicus put this so succintly that I'm just going to quote him... sit at the feet of the Master Klunker and learn... :-)

I think Klunker is a very good game but one that is a little subtle to play "properly". As I see it the key to the game is the choice of items you place in your shop window. This also seems to be the part of the game that most people play poorly. More often than not players will fill their windows with crap, or more accurately, have an item or two of interest to someone but then spoil it by throwing in something useless. I think it is a FAR better strategy to fill your window with a collection that another player REALLY wants. This has several benefits:

It makes it far more likely that you'll sell your items. For some reason people seem to "devalue" this $1. Its worth just as much as the dollar you get from selling a $1 set but for some psychological reason my group doesn't seem to see it this way. (Actually its even more valuable as its coming from another player rather than the bank.)

Assuming your window items are purchased before your purchase phase (a likely occurrence if you're offering up some beauties) you won't be forced to buy someone else's crap. Instead you can end the round by purchasing nothing.

Poor placement of items in your windows usually leads to a situation where no one really wants anyone else's items and the game devolves into the situation most describe: Whoever gets luckiest with the card draws wins the game.

What to Buy? What to Buy?

Again, Greg, O High Priest of Klunker, speaks:

Another aspect of the game I think people play incorrectly is the purchase of someone else's window. I don't know if its just my group or not but on several occasions I've seen players purchase someone else's items all so that they could cash in for $1! Why? All you're doing is giving the seller $1 with no profit for yourself! If you're not going to make at least $2 by purchasing items DON'T DO IT (given the choice anyway).

How Fast Are You Moving?

Don't cycle through your cards too quickly. It's worth the same to you if you cash in once for $4 as it is to cash in 4 times for $1 each. On top of that, if you're selling each turn for $1 and either not buying or taking your own window, you making $1 profit per turn.

Another tactic often ignored is holding onto garbage cards in order to protect the value of your sets. Sure, you'll get new cards if you throw stuff down... but the sets you end up making will be seriously devalued.

Idiots Aren't Allowed to Collect Necklaces

Kevin Maroney vents a little steam... and gives a good strategy hint as well.

It also plays better if idiotic players aren't allowed to collect Lion Necklaces. The last time I played, I got badly screwed when someone started collecting Necklaces when it was impossible for him to get four of them. (Four had already been cashed out and I had three of them in play; the other player then dropped two of them into his safe instead of selling either of them to me. Cost me three dollars for the lions directly and possibly as many as four more in depreciated sets over the course of the game. It cost him at least the $1 he'd have made off of selling them plus several dollars in depreciation. We both came in far behind the other players as a result.)

If Kevin ever visits Fresno and joins us for a night of gaming, we'll be happy to institute a "No Idiots" rule for him. Until then, Kevin, I'll guess you'll just have to suffer.


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