Gumbo HQ is in the process of moving, and seeing all these cardboard boxes in the storage unit we have basically lived out of for the past six months reminds me of the mania that enveloped American conscious when ‘Storage Wars’ hit. Somehow, I escaped it, but my mom and dad at one point owned an entire storage facility business in a tiny little rural community in Louisiana. Every once in a while, they would have a tenant abandon the unit, and they would have a little “sale.” I have to admit, I was always curious if an enterprising bidder would find some “hidden gems” in there.
Storage Wars, and the anticipation and discovery behind the thin metal walls, always seemed like an interesting board game theme to me, and lo and behold, the folks at Rigo Games sent us a review copy of Trasteros Locos (or “Crazy Auctions” in English) to play.
Trasteros Locos is a 2020 game designed by Juanrigo (the gaming alter ego of Juan Antonio Perez Riera, a gamer and publisher from Spain.) We’ve been discovering some of the games and publishers from the Iberian Peninsula, and it has been a joy seeing new themes and new ideas worked up from a different cultural perspective.
The problem? We received the copy of Trasteros Locos right in the middle of the winter surge of Coronavirus here in Louisiana, and in December and January, there was literally nothing going on in terms of big group gaming here in Lafayette, at least for us. Trasteros Locos was designed for three to six players, and after a play or two, it really seems to fit the higher play counts. So, we did an unboxing of the contents and waited for the right time to play it.
Thankfully, people are starting to get vaccinated, so I got a group of five gamers together this weekend to try out a couple of games, including Trasteros Locos. With only two plays in, I am not as comfortable giving a full review, especially for reasons I will discuss below. But, we did explore it enough to give our first impressions.
Trasteros Locos has a simple concept — up to six “collectors” will compete to bid for the contents of five storage units. The owner of the storage unit company will open the door ever so slightly before the bidding starts, and let players take a peek at the first of six cards hidden behind the door. Bids will be secret until revealed, and in a twist, players must give up their bid – even if they lose – back to the bank, as a ‘fee’ for participating in the frenzy.
But if you are lucky enough to win the bid, you get to keep all of the stuff inside the unit. Each collector has a goal, like collecting art, or cars, or sports equipment, that players keep hidden from each other during the game. If you can collect stuff that is related to your character, you will score the points listed on each card at the end of the game. But, all of the other stuff you collect — including the ‘junk’ cards — are worth nothing to you in terms of points at the end of the game.
Don’t fret, you can always turn the cards you don’t need into money, represented by glass, bronze, silver and gold cubes. They can also be upgraded during the game on a two-for-one basis. But watch out — there are skeletons hanging out in the storage units. If they come out in certain situations, like when no one in the group makes a bid on a particular unit, that can trigger the end of the game. (Collecting five cards of your collection requirements can also trigger the end.) Even worse, if you buy a storage unit and it has a skeleton in it, you lose all of the cards you have collected in your hand.
The designer has a failsafe for you, though, as you can always assign one of the expensive gold cubes to “protect” a pile of your scoring cards, face down on the table. While they are down, you have no access to the gold cube, and any cards that you protect that are not of your collection are negative points at the end of the game, so choose wisely. Those gold cubes will not only win you a lot of auctions, but they can also be traded in for seven point ‘collector bonus’ cards.
Once the game is over, players will count up the points in their hands and in their protected piles, plus the collector bonus cards they earned, and declare a winner.
Trasteros Locos comes in a typical Carcassonne style euro box, and has a neat insert that stores all of the components. The cards are good quality, the money is represented by colorful wooden cubes, and the art looks like political cartoon style art from any big daily newspaper. It is a serviceable production, but if there is any slip up, the rule book is that area.
The rulebook appears to be translated from Spanish into English and could use some really good editing. This is certainly not a Queen Games level instruction guide, and there is no reason that a relatively simple game like this should have any issues. Do we hold the cards in our hand hidden from other players, or are they laid out in tableau form on the table? (We opted for the latter, but re-reading the rules suggests cards are “shown” to other players as if they were hidden.) Can a player add to the protected pile of cards during the game? Can they protect more than one pile? Good questions without answers that we could find.
The layout was also difficult to quickly find important concepts. For instance, finding the use of the collector cards or what to do when all five units are opened are in sections of the rule book that were not intuitive for looking back to double check the answer, and made it difficult to find the answer quickly.
The game production itself is good and is perfect for the style of game it is — a family friendly, friends-at-your-house-game-night type of game where people want to have quick turns and time for banter. With a better rule book, and a player reference card for each player that reminds you of the seven things you can do on your turn and the function of the skeleton card, this could have been a great production instead of just good.
BUT IS IT ANY FUN?
This is not a full review, just our first impressions after a couple of plays. The largest play count we experienced was at five players, and I think this game will shine with the biggest play groups after comparing three to five. But, with that coronavirus caveat aside, I was honestly shocked by how much our group enjoyed the game.
Family style / casual friends game night games work best when they have what I like to call “micro turns” and Trasteros Locos does it in aces. Sure, there are seven different things you can do, but all of the turn actions are quick and easy. Need money? Sell a card for one cube pictured on the card, or trade in two cards or two cubes for the next highest money. Want more cards? Start an auction of one of the storage units, or dive into the public storage unit — where every player in turn order will get one random card. Protect a group of cards for one cube, or unprotect them to spend the cards and the cube, it is all one easy, quick motion.
This makes the game play geaux around and around the table very, very quickly. I love games like that, where you can see the actions flow around the table. We got into this easy rhythm in short order, players taking turns one after another until the tension of an auction took place. But the auctions are so quick and so tense that they become the focal point of each round, and the break in the action is not only welcome but anticipated.
Honestly, with games like For Sale and No Thanks! in my collection, I was not sure if there was room for a game like Trasteros Locos. At one point a few years ago, I thought Curios could sneak in there, but after a half dozen plays, we lost interest in the bidding mechanic in that game.
Unlike Curios, I think that Trasteros Locos might have the legs to make it into the quick 30 minute card play and auction mechanic game space in our game nights. It is easy to teach, has interesting art (if not really my favorite style), and has a super quick game play that makes it perfect for wine-and-game nights with friends. Everyone at the table agreed that this is a game we would want to play more.
We just need more vaccinations!
If you are curious about picking up the game, you can find it here from the Rigo Games website. Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!
–BJ at Board Game Gumbo