#33 – Lost Cities


At a Glance: Lost Cities is one of the best 2-player games of all time. It strikes an appealing balance between tense and mellow.

Lost Cities is a card game for 2 players where you are trying to go on archaeological expeditions that will pay off and provide a good return of investment, both in money and prestige from great discoveries. There are 5 suits (colors) numbered 2-10, with a few Handshake cards in each color. On each turn, you must either play a card to one of your expeditions, or discard a card to the central board, then draw a card. Cards that are placed in your expeditions must be in ascending order for each color, so once you place a “4” for example, you cannot place a “3” later. The game continues until the last card is drawn. OK, so here is how the scoring works at the end of the game: if you decide to go on an expedition, it starts 20 points in the hole. Then, all numbered cards you placed for that expedition are summed up and scored. So if you placed the 4, 6, 8, and 9 in the yellow expedition, then that would score 7 points (-20 + 27). The Handshake cards, which must be played before any numbered cards on that expedition, multiply the result. But this also applies if you end up getting a negative return, so the Handshake cards carry a bit of a risk with them. You do not have to embark on every expedition, in fact I would advise against it. Any colored suits that you did not place cards on simply don’t score anything. There would be no -20 investment because you did not even embark on it. Whoever has the most points (i.e. the highest total return) wins the game.

Wow, this is one of the best 2-player games of all time. It is so simple, but so strategic, plays pretty quick, and has a nice balance of tense and mellow. You know, if you consider yourself a big game geek, but have a spouse or partner that just does not share the same interest level, this game would be perfect. It is deeply strategic enough, but also so accessible and easy to learn. There is some luck with drawing the cards, and the temptation is to push that luck and weigh the odds of how far you’ll progress in the expeditions. With the Handshake cards, there is even more risk/reward to the ventures.

The components are fine. I think the coolest aspect is that the cards are large and the artwork on them changes slightly as you get closer to 10, with more and more of the special discovery being revealed in the picture. Our cards are kind of getting worn out at this point because of how many times we’ve played, so sleeving them would not be a bad idea. There is a small board that is just for the discarded cards—not necessary at all, but it’s fine. This is another great game designed by Reiner Knizia, the most prolific game designer of all time, and one of my all-time favorite 2-player games for sure!

Check it out! Very affordable: https://amzn.to/2Pcn24e

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