The Sad Story of a Struggling Solo Shop in Bargain Quest
Manage a shop with all sorts of equipment to sell to heroes as they battle monsters outside of town in Bargain Quest.
The idea behind Bargain Quest was very appealing the few times I’ve seen it pop up on my radar over the years. Rather than playing as the heroes buying equipment, I could be the shopkeeper selling all of the supplies! An official solo expansion sold me… If you’ll pardon the pun. Ha ha! Set with all the item cards I could ever want, I went into business!
Put attractive items on display for certain types of heroes and sell useful equipment to them for their monster battles. It’s a simple idea just brimming with every sort of item you might imagine. With multiple expansions to add even more variety, I was excited to see what I could sell!
June 23, 2021
June 23, 2021
1 Hour & 10 Minutes
28" x 24"
Card Back Conundrum
My first impression wasn’t all that good because I had trouble figuring out which cards were which. Decks were all separate and never shuffled. Yet… This?
The solo deck on the far left worked but the others were all different hues. As I found out, expansion card backs were noticeably lighter or darker, too, adding to the confusion.
Both cards on the top are item cards. Maybe they’re close enough, yet I had to keep flipping cards to remember.
Some of the purple cards were darker and close to the black market deck on the bottom left. Not a good choice.
Opening Up a Shop
This game might have the best experience when choosing a player board! There is a good deal of high-quality folded boards depicting the exterior of random shops.
Notice above how I went for the one labeled “Magicks…” Do I need to explain my reasoning? Ha ha!
Opening each board reveals a unique shop interior that can be a bit of a surprise the first time. So many details!
I had spaces for upgrades and employees and a reminder of the round sequence at the very bottom. Such a great way to get into the theme and build the pre-game excitement!
Don’t expect the standard sorts of customers to be the main focus. Not at all! Monsters threaten the town, so all the heroes flock to the shops to gear up for success.
Each has 1-4 type icons, starting coins, base statistics, and some sort of special ability. Pretty awesome!
The coins may be earned in the only way a shopkeeper knows how to earn: Sell, sell, sell! More on that step in just a little bit, yet coins are a vital part of gameplay.
I had to gauge my starting items, yet I quickly worked out how to utilize each of these, 2 of which would be shopping.
Too Simple Solo?
The solo mode simply uses a deck. Depending on the current monster, 1-3 cards are drawn. Each adds its hearts for the display step and affects gameplay in some way.
Easy, but I realized I wasn’t actually going up against any kind of opponent. And some of these cards helped me?
It was also pretty clear that I would likely just lose the display comparison every round later on. So why upgrade?
But the worst was in the rulebook. It’s missing the supply step solo rules, which were included in the beta version. So I had to open that up online to have all the rules. Yikes.
To the Display Case
The display step actually seemed really interesting! From my hand of cards, I could place 1 item to attract heroes.
In this case, the ancient mask was very attractive with 4 hearts but would only bring in heroes with the red icon. That was my plan, though! It was all in order.
But there was a caveat: Anything on display couldn’t be sold! I liked this mechanic a lot and the choices it created.
With the solo mode, I would end up selling to 2 heroes and some of them might be taken before I could choose them. So there were definitely plenty of risks involved!
Combining Young & Old
As it happened, I brought the young hero to my shop. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any suitable weapons… Yet I could ensure that her defense would keep her from dying!
During combat, a hero can inflict a single wound but must also check defense. Too many heroes who die can result in an early defeat and the immediate closing of the shop.
I still earned a victory point for selling the ancient armor! It would have been nice for a future display. Oh, well.
She held onto some of her coins for the time being, yet they would stick around so long as she survived.
My other customer was the demon slayer. I collected all of his coins like a greedy salesperson! Technically, I had to be. There were some upgrades I needed to purchase!
This combination made it very likely he would survive and deal damage. Exactly what I wanted to happen!
Additionally, his special ability meant I earned another victory point simply by bolstering his strength. It was all working out rather nicely for my tiny shop.
Note that the ancient mask would have been perfect, yet it had to remain on display. No touching that, thank you!
For better or worse, the step just before the battle is to draw a random adventure card for each hero. These typically raise or lower strength or defense values.
Luckily, the worst I pulled this time was a +0. Everyone would survive this time around! I was pleased.
At the same time, I wasn’t sure if I liked this aspect. It was hard enough outfitting 2 heroes with about 5 cards, so why take away that early planning in the solo mode?
Maybe it made sense and kept things balanced, yet I might have lost both of these heroes with bad card draws.
The young hero did 1 damage, as did the default damage for the solo mode. Every monster required 5+ damage to be defeated, so I was still on track to win the next round.
At this point, the game turned into an extremely repetitive pattern from the steps mentioned above. I upgraded and hired employees, yet they weren’t captivating.
Gameplay sequences that loop provide structure, yet the rest of the components should ideally introduce variety.
I just went through the motions, slowly moving forward without feeling like I was doing all that much to win.
Over in Not-a-Flash
Victory was mine as the vampire queen fell! I made it through all of the monsters and had a few heroes still left.
My final score wasn’t in the highest scoring tier, but it looked pretty good. So I checked the timer to see how long that took. Maybe half an hour since I didn’t do much?
It took me about 1.5 hours for a rather light game that felt repetitive without any compelling choices. What?!
This fell completely flat for me. It had some lovely elements, yet this was a very unsatisfying experience. I made it to the end and didn’t have much to show for it.
Clearing Out Hero Items Each Round
Another element that didn’t make logical sense was the way every hero lost their items every round. Maybe there were rare exceptions with abilities or employees, yet I discarded everything. Typically, a hero had fewer coins to spend the next round. So where was the strategy? Even some of the excellent items crumbled to pieces and were tossed out!
Play Number: 1 and 2
Expansions: Many Included (7 Total)
Solo Mode: Included in Bargain Quest: Solo Mode
Outcome: 38 and 39 (2 Wins)
Not content with that bad first impression, I reset and played again. “Just” an hour this time with the exact same feelings. For something that looked like it would be bursting with personality, everything was so dry and stuck on repeat. Such a shame! I was excited to see my heroes survive and wield some excellent or humorous items. This just left me exhausted, bored, and disappointed.
Price & Value
Challenges & Mechanics
Design & Theme
Components & Rules
Achievement & Enjoyment
Distinctness & Randomness
+ Pros (Positives)
- Choosing an item card to put in the display area requires some thought and is an interesting game concept.
- All of the player boards are unique with cleverly designed shop interiors inside for a nice surprise at the start.
- Variety in the items and heroes provides some unique combinations and abilities that can be utilized.
- Most of the required play space is compact enough to keep everything in a relatively contained area during play.
- Outfitting each hero with gear is rather fun since it involves collecting coins and ensuring survival with defense.
- Part of the required damage is done automatically, so defeating each monster doesn’t take too many rounds.
– Cons (Negatives)
- The solo mode rules are missing the supply step rules from the official beta, which is a very surprising oversight.
- Most of the card backs use the same pattern in different colors so they’re unnecessarily hard to tell apart.
- Every round feels extremely repetitive and it never feels like anything is happening with the shop’s progress.
- Play time is exceptionally long for a lightweight game that doesn’t provide a satisfactory conclusion.
Score 35+ Points
- Overall Goal Progress 100% 100%
Goals and Milestones
Score at least 30 points.
Score at least 35 points.
Continue the Conversation
What do you think of Bargain Quest? I was quite disappointed in how this solo mode played out. So much potential to be an awesome kind of game! Do you think there’s anything that can salvage a game like this? I was already on the fence about it, so this may have sealed its fate. As much as I wanted to love it, I wasn’t sold on it. Bad jokes are free of charge!