Full disclosure: A review copy of Cover Your Assets was provided by Grandpa Beck’s Games.
Hey, the last of this run of Grandpa Beck’s Games. I’ve covered two, already (Skull King and the first edition of The Bears and the Bees), and this will make three. I’ll likely try to do more in the future (Skull King is part of a trilogy of card games, so I’m hoping they end up bringing the other two over from Europe), but for now I’m looking at Cover Your Assets, a game about high-value stuff collection and, of course, its inevitable theft. Let’s dive right in.
In Cover Your Assets, you play as people who enjoy the finer things in life. Fancy cars, stocks and bonds, the idea of owning a home; all things that are somewhat out of reach, lately. But enough about the skyrocketing price of homes in the Bay Area; this is a game review. Your opponents are building up little nest eggs as well, and while that’s all well and good, you’d much rather their things be … well, your things. And you think you know how to pull that off. Naturally, they feel the same way about your stuff, so only one of you will end up rich. Who’s it going to be?
Nothing to do, here. Shuffle the deck:
Deal each player four cards. If you’re playing at 2 – 3 players (or just want a more interactive game), deal each player 5 instead.
Flip one card into the discard pile; you’re ready to start!
Cover Your Assets is all about making money and hiding it from your opponents. How do you do that? Well, you create pairs of assets. Doing that allows you to build up your wealth, but be careful! Other players may try to steal it from you, if they can. The player with the most money wins, or you can try and complete the Millionaire Challenge, where the first player to $1,000,000 wins!
On your turn, you may take one of four actions. I’ll outline each in turn.
Make a Pair – Hand
If you have two of the same cards in your hand, you may make a pair of them and place them face-up in front of you in your Asset pile. If you already have Assets, place the pair perpendicular to the other pair. Note that wild cards (Gold / Silver) match any card, so they can be used to create a pair. Just, put the wild card at the back so that you can be secretive about it. More on why, later. Some rules:
- You may only make a pair, even if you have more than two cards of the same type.
- If you make the same pair as a previous turn, they still go perpendicular; you never combine sets.
- Two wild cards can’t (and shouldn’t) be used to make a set.
Once you’ve done this, draw back up to four cards in your hand.
Make a Pair – Discard
You may do the same thing as Make a Pair – Hand, but you may use the top card of the discard pile, instead. Note that if the discard pile is empty, it stays that way until a player discards. Placement rules are the same as making a pair from your hand.
Attempt to Steal
Once you have at least one set of assets in your stack, you may attempt to steal assets from any player with two sets of assets in their stack. You may only attempt to steal the top set of assets from another player, though. Here’s how you steal:
- Choose a player. Remember, they must have at least two sets of assets. You’re not a monster.
- Show a card matching the top of their asset pile or a wild card. You may steal a set of assets of that type.
- The challenged player may attempt to counter. They can counter by showing a matching card or a wild card. This cancels out your attempt to steal.
- You can attempt to counter their counter, and so on. This continues until one of you gives up or you have no matching cards.
The winner of the challenge takes all cards used in the challenge and combines them with the asset pile, making a huge (and valuable) set of assets that they place on top of their pile. All wild cards are put on the bottom of the pile.
The player whose turn it is refills their hand first, followed by the challenged player, if needed.
Discard and Draw
If there’s nothing you can / want to do, you may discard a card and draw a new one. Not much more to say about that.
End of Round
Play continues until all cards are played. Total your assets, and the player with the most wins the round!
This is the recommended way to play the game (though I usually just play round-by-round). Keep track of scores across rounds, and if one player finishes a round with over $1,000,000 in total assets, they win! If there’s a tie, the player with the most total money wins.
Player Count Differences
Honestly, I’d recommend it at higher player counts. The decision space is limited enough that downtime doesn’t increase a ton, and also you can get robbed by any player at any time, so there’s still stuff happening even when it isn’t your turn. You’ll also get table talk where people tell you to steal from someone else, which is generally amusing. At lower player counts, there’s just … less happening, I feel. Here, given that there’s a huge spread of cards in people’s hands and there are a lot more asset piles available, you’re going to see a lot of movement and a lot of theft. Just make sure you don’t let any pile grow too aggressively. Like I said, I’d probably stick to the higher end of the player count spectrum for this one.
- Don’t make any one pile too powerful. It makes the game swingy. It’s great if you control the giant money pile, but as soon as you lose it, it’s gone forever and you’ve just given the game to another player. That’s not the worst thing, but it’s far from the best outcome, I’d argue.
- Honestly, I’d try to avoid stealing; better to be stolen from. If you can counter a steal and keep the pile, you can then immediately dump a lower-value pile on top of it, making it much harder to steal the expensive pile in the future. That’s hard to pull off, but it’s great when it happens.
- You can form uneasy alliances. No better way to counter that kind of move than to have one player steal the lower-value pile so that the next player can steal the high-value pile. Sure, you may not get it for yourself, but it keeps it moving in the game, so maybe you can get it later on. That said, it also keeps it increasing in value, which might be, as I mentioned previously in this strategy section, an explicitly bad idea.
- It’s best to steal when you have two of the card in your hand. This lets you counter any attempts to counter your steal. Sure, you could just make a pile out of them, at that point, but where’s the fun in that?
- Hiding your wilds behind low-value cards is usually smart. Very few people go out of their way to steal a $5,000 unless they have literally nothing else to do. It’s funny when it does happen, because mostly the people don’t know the intense value of the thing they just nicked. It’s less funny for the person who got robbed, but then again, it always is.
- If you have nothing better to do, might as well steal the low-value cards. Who knows? You might catch a valuable wild.
- If you have a wild, bury it first. Nobody can steal your first pile, so might as well make it your highest-value one, if you can. This is more luck than strategy, but I think a major component of strategy is learning when and how to capitalize on good luck.
- Keeping at least one wild in hand isn’t a bad idea, either. This is just about protection, generally. You can use it as a last-ditch save to protect your stuff from getting jacked, but you are telegraphing to every other player at that point that you have no other cards of that type left, so that might also not be super worth it. Up to you.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Definitely a silly game. You’re just stealing each others’ stuff to try and get rich. It helps if you play while putting on posh accents and laughing evilly, as I assume the idle rich tend to do. The more into it you are, the less you’ll likely get irritated by all the take-that.
- The take-that isn’t as frustrating as I thought it would be. It’s still present (as I note in the other sections), but I thought it would be much worse. I think, given how easy it is to block (and how helpful blocking is), there’s a real incentive to just make your own piles and let well enough alone for players that don’t like take-that. For players that do, it’s right there and ready for you, so go ahead and knock yourself out.
- Solid for families. I mean, you may not appreciate the pun, but beyond that it’s a fairly simple, fairly quick, and fairly cute game. I think, generally, that’s Grandpa Beck’s wheelhouse, so this is another solid title in that line, I’d argue.
- Very portable. Same level of portability as Skull King, my favorite of the Grandpa Beck line. The box is already decently small and transportable, or you can just load the cards up into a Quiver or equivalent and take it pretty much wherever you want to go.
- Burying wilds is an amusing tactic. It makes all plays seem just a bit more suspicious, which I really appreciate. Like I always say, every game can be a mind game if you believe hard enough.
- You may have very little to do for your first few turns. It’s totally possible that you just … can’t play any cards for the first few rounds if your luck is bad. That’s disappointing, but ultimately something can be done. Usually it’s not too late, anyways.
- It would be nice if some of the cards had abilities or interactions, I think. Maybe something for an expansion. Right now they’re just kind of played straight, and that’s fine, but I’d love to see something a bit more whimsical. Though I suppose that’s what Cover Your Kingdom is shooting for, so that’s also fine. Your mileage may vary.
- It still is a very take-that-heavy game. If you don’t like that sort of thing, I’d recommend against it.
- You can gain a nontrivial amount of money by just having a lucky first hand. If your first hand is Gold + Home, you just banked $70,000 of untouchable money and there’s nothing anybody else can do about that. I assume this is why you play multiple rounds, so that is potentially spread out and therefore less likely, but it can still happen and it’s not great.
- Dogpiling is a real problem. You can get all of your stuff stolen by other players without much of a way to defend yourself, so if everyone decides that you’re losing this round, you’re most likely losing this round. It would be nice if there were a way to defend against that sort of behavior, but that’s more of a social problem than a game problem.
Overall: 7.25 / 10
Overall, I was actually pretty pleasantly surprised by Cover Your Assets! I think I underestimated it a bit because of all the take-that, but my first play went so well that I had to rethink it, a bit. Sure, it’s aggressive, but that’s the point of the game, rather than a mechanic hastily added onto an otherwise not aggressive game, you know? It means that the game sets the terms of those interactions and you have a pretty good idea of what to expect. That also tends to work well for games that you’re going to be playing with younger players (this one’s rated for 7+), since there’s not a ton of complexity to the game itself. Sure, the place where this breaks down a bit is that the game relies a bit on luck to make some of the magic happen, but that should cancel out over multiple rounds, in theory (and even if it doesn’t, it’s hard to care too much, unless you never draw a Wild card, which is frustrating). Either way, playing this makes me interested to see if additional complexity will make the game more or less interesting, so I may check out Cover Your Kingdom soon, should the Kickstarter fund. Either way, I’ve had fun with Cover Your Assets, and if you’re looking for a quick family game, you enjoy acquiring stolen wealth, or you’re just here for some take-that in a fun setting, this one might be for you!