Warehouse 51 is a bluffing game by designers Bruno Faidutti, Sergio Halaban, and André Zatz with art by Rafael Zanchetin. It works with three to five players ages 8 and up.
Published by Funforge Studio and Passport Game Studios, Warehouse 51 plays in about 45 minutes. It has a suggested price of $25 but can be found online for nearly $10 less.
In Warehouse 51, you play a rich collector bidding on relics that the United States, which is going bankrupt, is selling to the highest bidder. Some of the relics are blessed, some cursed, and some counterfeit. Your goal is acquire the best collection.
How it works:
Relic cards are separated by their four categories and stacked face down in the center of the table.
Each player gets 10 ingots of gold worth $1 billion each.
All but three of the 26 relic cards have a corresponding counterfeit card. The counterfeit cards are shuffled, and one or two are placed between each pair of players, depending on the number of players.
Players look at the counterfeit cards on either side of them.
The starting player chooses a category and draws the card from the top of the corresponding deck.
In an open auction, the player to the left passes or bids, and bidding goes around the table until the player who drew the card bids. In a closed-fist auction, which is shown on the card, all players place the number of ingots they bid in their fist. The highest wins, and there are a couple of methods to break ties.
The winner gives the ingots bid to the player to the left and draws a new card.
The game ends when all the relics have been auctioned.
Players with certain relics are allowed to “save” their relics with a certificate of authenticity.
Then the counterfeit cards are revealed, and the counterfeits are removed from players’ collections.
Players get points for having the most or second most in each category, as well as five points for each set of four different categories. They also get one point for every five ingots.
Why you might buy Warehouse 51:
It’s fun. You get to bid on Aladdin’s Lamp and the Hammer of Thor, among other things.
Though not thematic, passing money around the table keeps the game interesting.
There’s plenty of room to bluff, bidding on a relic you know is a counterfeit in hopes another player will outbid you.
You pawn your relics to get some extra cash, but you have to pay extra to get them back at the end of the game.
It’s easy to learn, and new or young players will be able to pick it up quickly.
It lasts just the right amount of time.
The two kinds of auctions make for interesting dynamics around the table, as do the blessings and curses on the cards that affect the rest of the game.
Why you might not buy Warehouse 51:
The way the money moves around the table doesn’t make sense with the theme. If the U.S. is auctioning the goods, it should be getting the money. I prefer to think of the game as a rich person’s swap meet with a pool like a poker tournament.
It only plays with three to five people, so you have to have the right size group to play.
During the game, you do the same thing over and over again. It’s all about the people you’re playing with.
This is a simple game, but it works really well. I like the tension of watching who has money, who has which cards, and hoping the relic I’m buying will help me in the end.
One of the more interesting things about the game is the way the money moves around the table, but if you bid too much too early, you can hamstring yourself until the person next to you wins a bid. That’s a little odd, but I like it. They’ll have to bid eventually because you can’t win without buying relics.
This is my kind of bluffing game. It doesn’t involve any outright lying, which gives it a certain subtlety.
It definitely requires a group of people who’s going to have fun playing ridiculously rich people who have nothing better to do than throw around their money, though.
Full disclosure: I got a review copy of Warehouse 51 from Passport Game Studios. I wasn’t required to write a positive review. These are my honest opinions.