Hol’s der Geier (Beat the Buzzard)

Alex Randolph

Publisher: Amigo SpIELe

Beat the Buzzard! What exactly are the buzzards doing? (Photo Credits: Eric Martin@BGG)

A quick check on Boardgamegeek indicates that Alex Randolph published this game in 1988. Randolph (1922-2004) is more of Sid Sackson’s peer and he has published several outstanding classics including Code 777, Ricochet Robots, Twixt and many more. I owned the Code 777 and still own Ricochet Robots. However, this streamline filler tops them all. I think that Hol’s der Geier is Randolph’s jewel of the lot and the best-loved design. At least in my humble opinion. The fact that this game has been published and reprinted multiple times under various names, languages and versions by half a dozen publishers says as much. For some, this game is known as Raj or Beat the Buzzard. I see that the most recent edition is called “What the Heck?” My version is the one published by Amigo Spiele in 2018.

Hol’s der Geier is a very streamlined blind bid auction with a deck of cards. It has taken away all the chrome and stripped the game down to its core mechanism. The game is dead simple: You have full access to a suite of cards numbered from 1-15. Each player has a different colored set. Every round, a central victory point card is flipped over in the middle of the table and this pile of 15 cards have a numerical value ranging from -5 to +10. Player then simultaneously select and play cards from their hand, with high cards winning the trick for positive values while lowest card wins the negative values. Ties are broken in favor of the next highest or lowest card among all players. Only one player wins the central card. All individual cards played during the auction, including losing bids are discarded. The discarded cards are displayed for all to see. After 15 rounds, all cards are auctioned off and players tally their scores with the person with the highest score winning. That’s it. This auction style bidding is stripped all the way down to a 5-10 minute game and is the basis of many other games including Reiner Knizia’s High Society.

For such a simple filler, this game sure has legs. I keep on coming back to it because it supplies lots of “what the heck” moments of glory and anguish. I suppose I can’t fault the title for the latest version of the game. There is a ton of second guessing and psychology going on. For example, when a +9 card is revealed. It is pure anguish. Here is what goes on in my head “Do you play your highest card which is a 15 knowing full well two of your opponents also have that highest card? Perhaps they are saving the highest card for the +10? In which case, I should do my 15 card, unless they think I think they think I know they will play the 15.” More often than not, you can almost predict what someone you know well will play next. However, because you know that person well, he or she likely knows you as well and will double think about what you may play. Ahhh, let’s just say the situation is exactly a classic Sicilian Battle of Wits.

The game recommends playing several hands to find the ultimate winner. I think that is fine, though playing just one or a two hands is also enough to cap a heavy night of gaming. This is a light-hearted game that is half-bluffing, half-psychology and all round fun. It is not something you take seriously and for a short filler, it really checks all the boxes and gives us plenty of quality gaming moments for such short play time. Not surprisingly, Hol’s der Geier grabs a pretty high spot on my filler pedestal. I love the game and I also enjoy the heavier iterations of the game such as High Society. They all have a permanent place on my shelf .

Initial impressions: Great

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