Amdré Zatz &
Sergio Halaban





G@mebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game :

It´s holiday time and everybody enjoys the sun, the beach and the drinks in foreign countries again. Of course a souvenir for the relatives, who could not afford a holiday trip, is a must and so the luggage on the homeward journey of many tourists becomes heavy and sometimes valuable too. The search for the best souvenir is a well known activity in the holidays and would be of no major public interest, wouldn't there be the strict limits of the toll. And so some smugglers had the fabulous idea to mask themselves as normal tourists to smuggle more valuable and even some illegal products like alcohol and antiques. Before the customs boundary you now often can watch people become nervous whenever the sheriffs ask for declaring the goods. However some heard that Sheriffs are paid very badly and so with a little help from the costumer they all of a sudden can become blind on one or two eyes, due to a massive increase of their income just in the moment when declaring begins. Of course, there are also some very mean guys, who - without any reasons - confiscate all goods of a costumer and put them in their own bags.

In Hart an der Grenze ("Close to the border") this well known process on the customs boundary is the players task. The game can be played by 3-6 players and consists of three rounds. In each round the players clockwise once take the role of the Sheriff. There are three types of legal and three types of illegal goods, which the players can put in their suitcases. This is done at the beginning of the turn by putting 1-5 goods cards from their hand in a cute metal suitcase in front of each player. Next the Sheriff player asks for declaring the goods. Each player must then declare his goods by saying the number and the kind of goods he added to his suitcase. Of course this does not to have to be the truth. As a matter of fact nobody would declare an illegal good as long as he is not completely crazy…


Then the Sheriff player may choose one of the players who must declare and reveal his goods by opening his suitcase. If this player didn't lie and told the truth, he gets compensation (money), which is declared on each of the legal goods cards. Of course the compensation is only granted for legal products. If however the player lied, he now has two possibilities. On the one hand he can confess his lie and has to pay a fine that is also declared on the cards. On the other hand he may try to find an arrangement with the Sheriff. The whole process may go like this:

  • Sheriff: Well, I can´t believe that you only have two sombreros in your luggage. Please declare your goods.
  • Player: Uh, this is a little bit stupid, but I have some dirty underwear in my suitcase. Wouldn't it be nicer, if we forget the control and I would give you six dollars?
  • Sheriff: Are you kidding. This is my job; I have a wife and three children. I can't afford a sacking. Ok, dirty underwear is not really one of my favourites, so let's say 13 dollars.
  • Player: Mmh, I'm really not Bill Gates and I have family, too. So my last offer is 10 dollars.
  • Sheriff: Ok, let's forget this rubbish. (he takes the money) Go on, next costumer please…
  • All other players then can put their goods from the suitcase to a home stack. The next player takes over the role of the Sheriff and the game continues. Once in a game each Sheriff has the right to confiscate all goods of one player, which were not declared (normally the illegal goods).

    After a round - that is when each player had the role of the Sheriff once - the players may sell up to three of their goods. The game ends after the third round.

    In the end game, the players then may sell the rest of their goods for a higher price. But for each good there is a total limit for all players. The player with the most goods of one sort may sell this goods first. Other players only may sell the same good as long as the total limit is not reached. So it is always an important decision which goods are sold after a round (when there is no total limit) and which goods are kept back for the end game (when the goods are more valuable) Hart an der Grenze is a pure bluff game. Next to the bluffing mechanism there is not much to do and to decide for the players. The game is explained very quick and should be understood even by smaller children very easily. It comes along with an extraordinary beautiful design that invites to play the game at once. Especially the individually painted suitcases (one of them with a Settlers of Catan motive) elated me and my family. But for me the game is a little bit too much focused on the element of bluffing. I would prefer more elements to act for the players and at least some degree of strategy. So for the grown-ups the game becomes a bit boring soon after the second or third game. Children however will have long-time joy, especially because of the excellent design.

    Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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    Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany