Review: Storage Wars the game
Publisher: Spin Master Ltd.
Year: 2012
Tagline: Go Bid or Go Home

Storage Wars game cover

how we met

One of the best things about my vintage board game hobby is that I don’t have a lot of competition. If I go to multiple thrift stores, I generally find a game or two that I am excited about. It’s a fun way to spend time and I spend significantly less than I do at a board game shop or on Kickstarter. Unfortunately I do all of these things but whatever.

Anyway I was thrilled to find Storage Wars at thrift for $1.99 and wondered how I could be so lucky. Then I thought of Storage Wars itself and how sometimes we just get lucky. Then I wondered if someone set me up.

how it plays

I feel compelled to inform you that the real title of this game is Storage War$ the game. Here is how it works.

Each player chooses or is assigned a character, which matches a character from the show, and receives $300,000.

Four inviting storage lockers sit within easy reach of all players. One player takes the Auctioneer token and will auction off all four storage lockers. This is one round, or episode. The game lasts three rounds.

Before each round, an opaque bag containing chips is passed around the table from player to player. Chips represent items in the storage locker and their corresponding dollar value. Each player in turn takes 3 chips and looks at them, being careful not to reveal anything to other players. Then the players take turns placing each of their chips into a storage locker (the lockers have little slits on the top sides) at their discretion. They can put all chips into one locker if they like.

Four storage lockers lined up in a row

The lockers in all their cardboard glory. You can see the slits above the locker numbers

Once all chips have been placed the auction for that round begins. The auctioneer also participates in bidding.

At the end of each round, players open the storage lockers they have won (if any) and reveal what was inside. It is important for the contents of each locker to remain separate until you have had a chance to look at the contents. Chips are mostly positive and have a positive dollar amount assigned to them. If you are able to buy contents that match the items of interest on your character card then those chips are worth double! But you may get some negative chips that assign negative dollar amounts or, worse, the dreaded black mold chip which makes all the items in that particular locker worthless.

Pile of chips showing positive and negative dollar amounts

Some of the good, the bad and the ugly

If you run out of cash, chips can be traded into the bank for half of their face value.

At the end of three rounds, players count up their cash and item values and the player with the most money wins!

how it went

This game is based on a “reality” show called Storage Wars where “cash is king and winner takes all.” I love reality tv shows and have seen many of them, Storage Wars included.

In case you are unfamiliar with the show, the premise is that a group of people gathers together in some location for a storage locker auction. The auctioneer cuts open the lock, opens the door and gives people a few minutes to look inside. They may not enter the locker or touch anything, but they can look. Then the auction starts.

You could argue that the purpose of the show is to see how much people paid for lockers and how much money they were able to get in the end for the contents. That is interesting to watch unfold but arguably the cast of characters is what makes the show a hit. Each episode contains the same people with their same dynamic and you get a glimpse into their alleged daily lives and interests. You have eccentric Barry who just happens to get the most eccentric items, the couple Brandi and Jarrod who are just trying to buy contents for their store and frequently pursue quantity over quality, Dave who seems to have endless cash and minions, and Darrell the gambler teaching his ways to his son, Brandon. Even the auctioneer, Dan, and his wife, Laura, are consistent. It is no mistake that the auctioneer chip in the game contains the smiling auctioneer couple and that the character cards are a prominent part of the Storage Wars game.

Six character cards

Our heroes

The translation to the game is done well. We played with our usual four player game group. Seeing three chips out of twelve was a clever way to replicate being able to peek into the locker without seeing everything in the back or buried.

John was by far our best auctioneer, which certainly helps the fun in a bidding game. He brought energy and assigned each of us names. Bill was “the man with the face.” Bill did a nice job with his character. As Dave Hester, he often let the bidding nearly end before yelling yuuuuuuuuuuuup with a cheeky little smile.

Auctioneer token with a picture of Dan and Laura from the show

Dan and Laura, the favorite couple of Storage Wars (sorry Brandi and Jarrod!)

The game does have the common pitfalls of most auction games where it’s not always easy to know how much to spend. You may end up spending all or most of your money fairly early on and then be easily outbid ongoing. But this, too, seems consistent with the show and the best bidders show discipline.

Black mold showed up twice during our play, so one in six lockers. In the end, I won and Keri was a close second. I was conservative at the beginning and unwilling to spend a lot of money, which allowed me to pick up later lockers on the cheap. Not due to being attentive or strategic but really just luck. My final locker was worth $4,000 which was more than some players ended up with in total.

play or pass

Play. This is an example of a designer being thoughtful and deliberate in their translation from a television property. Bidding mechanics are not for everyone, but if you enjoy them then I think Storage Wars will meet your expectations. Familiarity with the show will heighten appreciation but is not necessary to enjoy the game.