FlowerFall

Check out this quirky game!

In FlowerFall, you literally let your flower cards fall on the table, trying to claim as many points (represented as neutral green flowers) as you can.

This fun & unpredictable little game is an ingenious design from Carl Chudyk. Many board game hobbyists have heard of Chudyk’s games Glory to Rome or Innovation, but what about this more under-the-radar entry?

The grey player wins this field worth 5 points, as they have the majority over white.

It’s quick and action-oriented, which even my young son really enjoys. On the back of each card are 5 neutral green flowers, so you can drop it on either side depending on your intentions. Sometimes, the card flips or glides in a weird way, which makes it interesting. No matter how skilled you might get at it, there will always be a level of unpredictability and moments where turn order is important. It is a simple and effective idea.

How it looks in action. You must drop the cards from eye-level.
The finished game just looks like a game of 52-card pickup!

#6 – Twilight Struggle

Twilight

At a Glance: Twilight Struggle is a perfect encapsulation of the Cold War: paranoia, provocation, power, prestige and propaganda.

Twilight Struggle is a strategy game for 2 players set during the Cold War where one person plays as the USA and the other as the USSR. Gameplay involves playing cards and placing Influence in different countries around the world. The game is separated into 3 periods, Early, Mid, and Late War, split into 10 total rounds, maximum. The game could end sooner than that, however, as the goal of the game is to reach 20 Victory Points, which are gained in a few different ways. Each round begins with Improving the DEFCON status. DEFCON starts at 5 (peace) at the beginning of the game and may go down to 1 (nuclear war). Certain events and military actions like Wars and Coups degrade the DEFCON status. If you ever cause DEFCON to reach 1 and nuclear war to start, you lose the game. Everyone is dealt a hand of cards and the Headline phase starts. All cards other than regional Scoring cards have an Operations number and event text. For the Headline phase, only the event text is resolved. Cards either benefit the USA, USSR, or both. So in the Headline phase you want to play a card that benefits you. Then, the meat of the game takes place, which is the Action phase where players will be playing cards from their hand and either using the Operations points or resolving the event. The catch is that if you use the Operations points on a card that benefits your opponent, that event still occurs. So in that situation, it is a tough balance of helping your opponent, but not as much as you’re helping yourself. Operations points may be used to place Influence across the map. Influence determines who controls certain countries and whenever the Scoring cards are played for each region, each player has a chance to score Victory Points at that moment depending on how much they dominate that region. Operations points are also used to try to overthrow control in countries by rolling a certain number for Realignment or attempting a more aggressive Coup. You may also use a card to advance on the Space Race, which gives you special advantages if you get to milestones first. And the other cool thing about the Space Race is that the event text does not happen, so it is a good way to get rid of a card that would really help your opponent. Players alternate playing cards, using Operations points, trying to spread their Influence around, and resolving events that help each other. After the Action phase, you check the Military Operations Track (you must complete a certain number of militaristic actions and if you don’t you receive a penalty). Then, the next round begins. If no one reaches 20 Victory Points before the 10th round ends, then whoever ends up on top in final scoring is the winner.

You would be hard pressed to find a better strategy game with a historical theme. It is so thematically sound, it is educational. Instead of nondescript chits on a map, it actually feels like you are playing through the Cold War years, albeit an alternate history, so to speak. There are literally thousands of options on your turn. And that may seem overwhelming, but it is also very freeing. Depending on what cards you have, things can go in very different directions from game to game. Do you try to penetrate the superpower’s hold on their side of Europe? Exercise your Influence over the Middle East? Advance on the Space Race? Attempt a risky Coup? If this topic interests you, you will find so many things to appreciate about these options and all they included in the game. I enjoy the way the Action phase works where you REALLY don’t want to play cards that help your opponent, but it is inevitable, so you have to make those Operations points count. The Space Race is a nice separate mini-game, and I really appreciate the way the current DEFCON status affects what you can or cannot do in certain regions, like making Coup attempts in Europe. The battleground countries end up being great tug-of-war matches too. Sure, it is certainly not a casual, beer & pretzels type game. Your brain will be firing on all cylinders. The tension is palpable. The paranoia is real.

The deluxe edition is very nice, and has a giant board. There are plenty of reminder tokens for different events that have lasting effects for instance. The cards are very thick, and would be hard to ever wear out. The rules are laid out more like a conventional war game would have, and I would definitely recommend watching one of the good video tutorials on YouTube before playing. What’s great though is that the game is actually fairly simple once you familiarize yourself with the first play. But the strategic and analytical depth is astounding. Generally, you might have a good idea if you’ll like this before you even play it, based on the theme and heavy strategy style. But if this really interests you like it did me, try it out! This one is a LEGEND.

Check it out: https://amzn.to/2SnGiOT


#9 – 7 Wonders

7 Wonders

At a Glance: 7 Wonders makes civilization-building more fun and engaging than ever. Will you focus on military, science, or grand architecture as you build an empire from the ground up?

The 7 Wonders

7 Wonders is a civilization-building card-drafting game for 2-7 players where everyone takes control of one ancient civilization as it develops over three Ages. The game uses a card-drafting mechanic for each Age. 7 cards are dealt to each player. Everyone chooses one card, then passes the rest to the player beside them. Everyone reveals theirs simultaneously, contributing the resource cost or trading with neighboring cities. Some cards provide resources so you can more easily pay for future cards. Some cards only score at the end of the game. Some cards create trading routes making it cheaper to use neighboring resources. The drafting & passing continues until the cards are gone, then the next Age begins. After each Age, you check the military strength between all the neighboring cities. Basically, you either get points for having a stronger military than either of your two neighbors or a penalty for losing. As you progress through the Ages, some cards may be paid for through previously built structures in lieu of their resource cost. For instance, if you build the Altar in the 1st Age, then you may build the Temple for free later on. In addition to placing cards in your area, you may discard them under your wonder board and attempt to build the seventh wonder of the ancient world that corresponds to your civilization. After the 3rd Age ends, you count up all your victory points and whoever has the most is the winner.

7 Wonders is an incredibly well-designed civilization-building game. It is nearly impossible to create a 100% balanced civilization, so there is quite an interesting strategic dynamic in selecting your pathway to victory: will you build up your military at the expense of science? Will you be ruler of the marketplace at the expense of your strength in battle? I definitely recommend this with 4+ players if you can, because this just adds to the depth of strategy. However, some of my games have been with just the 2 player variant too, and it still has engaging gameplay. Because everything is done simultaneously, this is one of those rare games that work well with 7 players with very little downtime. Also, the trading aspect is really great, as you can only purchase resources from the 2 people sitting on either side of you. It provides a cool level of interaction, but because it is only your neighbors, it is not overwhelming.

The components are very nice, especially the wonder boards, which are large and thick and the artwork is very well done which is a nice visual bonus. The Wonders boards are also double-sided with a more complex B-side you can play with. 7 Wonders plays quick but feels grandiose. It accommodates a larger group with little downtime. It just wins on a lot of different levels.

Check it out: https://amzn.to/2SieCLc


#13 – A Game of Thrones: The Card Game

Game of Thrones

At a Glance: A Game of Thrones: The Card Game is a highly thematic card game that perfectly captures both the dark intimacy of the backroom backstab, and the epic battles of Westeros.

A Game of Thrones: The Card Game is a deck-building card game for 2-4 players that is branded as an LCG by Fantasy Flight, the publisher. A Living Card Game is different from a typical Collectible Card Game in that you don’t buy packs with random cards in them. Everything is standardized and you know what you get in each pack. In this game, each player takes control of a House from George R. R. Martin’s novels, then constructs a deck around that particular House. There are Plot Cards which set the scene at the beginning of each round, but every other card may be used in your customizable deck. The object of the game is to be the first to get to 15 Power. At the beginning of the round, each player selects one Plot Card to kick things off. These are revealed simultaneously and resolved. Whoever has the most Initiative showing on the Plot Card (plus any modifiers on characters or locations) decides who will go first. Players receive gold income based on the Plot Card plus locations and characters that provide gold. Gold is used mainly for Marshaling cards which is where you play cards from your hand and pay their gold cost. Once everyone has marshaled, the Challenges begin. There are three types of attacks in the game, represented by three different symbols on the cards. Some characters may have all three on their card, or maybe just one. First is Military, represented by a red axe. The winner of a Military challenge gets to kill one of the defender’s characters. An Intrigue challenge, shown by a green eye, allows the winning attacker to randomly discard an opponent’s card. Lastly is Power, shown as a blue crown, where the winning attacker takes Power from the opponent. Whenever you resolve a challenge, you compare the Strength (STR) of all participating characters (+ or – modifiers) and whoever has the most wins that challenge. If an attack goes undefended for any reason, the attacker gains 1 Power as a bonus. You may declare one of each type of attack on your turn if you wish, but each time a character is used for anything, they kneel (Card turns sideways) and cannot be used for anything else that turn. After the Challenges, you check for Domination by adding the STR of all standing characters plus any leftover gold and whoever has the most gains 1 Power. Players then lose any unused gold and stand all their characters again and a new round begins with the Plot phase. Whoever reaches 15 Power at any time is the winner. They also have Titles that are used when you play with more than 2 players where you choose a different one each turn that grants a bonus and interacts with the other Titles in interesting ways, allowing you to form temporary alliances.

There are so many aspects of this game that I really like. First are the Plot Cards. They really set the stage for that round and they can be significantly powerful. In fact, one Plot Card is called Valar Morghulis, and it kills ALL characters in play. Aside from the abilities or modifiers Plot Cards provide, they also provide much of the gold you will use for Marshaling your cards into play. I like the thematic ties the cards have, as depending on the character they may be stronger in Military might or they may be more underhanded or seductive, focused on Intrigue and deception. Littlefinger, for instance, has bonus STR as you have gold in your pool, which is greatly thematic as he specializes in bribery and backdoor dealings. And like the novels, MANY people will be killed. It is always a good idea to have a character in play that you wouldn’t mind losing to a quick death to protect your stronger characters. But ultimately you cannot prevent all deaths, so through the inevitable carnage you need to find ways to gain Power. Now we come to what might be my favorite part: each constructed deck feels unique depending on what House it is focused around. I generally play with a Baratheon deck, which is not a popular choice per se, but I love how Power-focused it is and how it has a great potential for defense, smothering your opponents and making their military aggressiveness impotent. But there are several other decks that might suit your playing style. The Stark deck is highly militaristic and have different special ways that they can kill your characters. The crooked Lannister House has by far the best access to gold and a lot of ways to undermine your strategies. Targaryen is fairly balanced, with a slight focus on military strength. With expansions, you can also create decks centered around House Greyjoy, House Martell, House Tyrell, or the Night’s Watch. There is an almost overwhelming amount of material for this game, so you can really dive deep and into the world.

Components are nice and I especially like the artwork. The Title figures are intricately designed and they’re a nice surprise as they could have just been represented by tokens. I own the 1st edition and some expansions that correspond to it, but they have since released an updated 2nd edition, with some gameplay tweaks. I would say it does not really matter which you get your hands on, but the 2nd edition is certainly more readily available and affordable. This is my favorite game in this genre of CCG’s and LCG’s and thematically captures George R. R. Martin’s brutal, epic, intense fantasy world so well. Excellent!

Check it out: https://amzn.to/2CrAm1J


#21 – Cribbage

 

At a Glance: Cribbage is my favorite classic card game and will always be in my home and close to my heart.

Cribbage is a card game for 2-4 players (usually just 2), where players use a wooden board with pegs and a unique scoring system to race to 121 points (this may vary too). The cribbage board that we own goes to 121 and has a third colored track so 3 can play separately. Cribbage uses one standard 52-card deck. Each player is dealt 6 cards, and alternate who gets the “crib”, which always belongs to the dealer. The players then contribute 2 cards each to the crib, so you end up with 3 hands of 4 cards. The crib remains face down for the moment. The non-dealer then cuts the deck, reveals the card, and puts it on top. If it is a Jack that is “His Heels” and worth 2 points for the dealer. First comes the Playing phase where players alternate laying down cards and announcing the running total of them. You peg two points if you make the total 15, make a pair by matching a previous card, or hitting 31 right on the dot. Runs are also worth 3 points or more for a longer continued run. Once the total hits 31 or as close to 31 as possible, which is called “Go” and worth 1 point to the last person who played, they then start over. Once all 8 cards have been played, the Showing happens and players score for their 5-card hands, which includes the common card shown on top of the deck. Each 15 is worth 2, Each pair is worth 2, runs are worth at least 3, and flushes which must be 4-5 cards are thus worth 4-5 points. Also, if you have a Jack that matches the common card, that is “His Nob” worth 1 extra point. The non-dealer pegs his points first, then the dealer pegs both his visible hand then reveals his crib and pegs that hand as well. Then the next round begins with the crib switching hands. This order of pegging is important, as the game ends RIGHT when someone gets to 121, whenever that happens.

Cribbage was invented in England around 1630 by Sir John Suckling and remains a popular game worldwide, especially in Great Britain, Canada, and the Northern US. I love the terminology that this game has developed over its long life, some more colloquial than others…”Heels”, “Nobs”, “Double-Skunked”, “19-hand”, “Muggins”, “Pone”, “Raggedy Ann”, “Stink Hole” and others you’ll come to appreciate once you play the game a bit. I must say a word about being “Skunked” though. If a player gets to the 121st hole before their opponent makes it to the 91st, it is known as “getting skunked” and it counts as two games if you are playing a match. I love the familiarities and catchphrases of the game, like when a 5 is cut from the deck, we say “5’s help everybody” in unison. Most of the time, I play 2-player games, but the game accommodates 3 or 4 players with just a couple rules modifications. I like how there are genuine decisions to be made, multiple ways to score, and times when you just hope Lady Luck is on your side. This is also one of my wife’s favorite games that we play together, and one of my fondest memories is playing this on a balcony of a historic hotel in a small Pennsylvania town during our honeymoon. My relatives played Cribbage as well, and I know that it will always be close to my heart.

Good Hand

Another great part about Cribbage are the wooden boards. There are so many different ones, crafted in unique ways, and can make great little heirlooms. I love bargains and encourage purchasing cheaper games in general, but in this case, it is not a bad thing to splurge on a nice, hand-crafted Cribbage board if you see one. Hands down, this is one of the best 2-player games out there and my favorite game in the classic card game family! Chances are, you’ve at least heard of it, but if you have never played it, I think you should at least give it a try and see if it becomes a family favorite that YOU can pass on to your kin.

Here’s a nice board, but there are SO many options: https://amzn.to/2EeMtjS


#24 – Chess

 At a Glance: Chess. What can I say? It is a centuries-old masterpiece for a reason.

Chess is an abstract strategy game for 2 players where the object is to essentially capture the opponent’s King. Each player sets up their pieces in the first two rows with 8 pawns along the front row. Pawns may move one space forward (or 2 on first move). The 2 rooks may move any number of empty spaces in a straight line. The 2 knights may move in an “L” shape and they are the only pieces that may jump over other pieces. The 2 bishops may move any number of empty spaces in a diagonal line. The Queen is the most powerful piece and can move any number of spaces in any direction. The King may only move 1 space in any direction. Players choose one piece to move on their turn and attempt to capture their opponent’s pieces, thereby eliminating them from the board. If the King is ever threatened with capture by an opponent’s piece, that is called “Check”, and the King must then escape by moving. If at any point your King is in check and CANNOT move without moving into another Check, then that is Checkmate and the opponent wins.

It’s hard not to be at least somewhat familiar with Chess and how it works. Chess, which likely originated in India, is now the highest-selling board game of all time, is played by millions all around the world, but is only mastered by few. There are tournaments held around the world as well, from the prestigious World Championship to your local elementary school. I was on a Chess club when I was a kid. I was such a Chess nerd in fact, I am proud to say I finished as high as 3rd in my state one year! I am a bit rustier nowadays, but the game has such a personal significance to me. There is no hidden information in the game at all, no random element of chance. It all comes down to the skill level and strategy of the players. There is a transcendent charm and elegance to it, as you know you are playing a game that has challenged brains for hundreds of years. It is a centuries-old masterpiece for a reason.

There are so many different editions of Chess available, made from different materials, inspired by many intellectual properties, so there is certainly going to be a set out there that fits your style. And the price range is huge as well. You can get incredibly cheap Chess sets or deluxe sets in the thousands of dollars. Doesn’t matter if it’s fancy or well-worn, the game begs to be played, to be mastered. I own a pretty affordable wooden set that does the job and I like it, but I must confess I would love to own a really nice set as a table piece someday. If you don’t already own some form of Chess (chances are high you do) then join the enriching pastime that has been enjoyed by millions.

TONS of options: https://amzn.to/2Ql2v38


HONORABLE MENTIONS

Abstract Strategy games generally have little to no theme, are usually for two players, and many times have plain nondescript pieces. Here are some good games in the same family as Chess that did not make my Top 100.

Reversi/Othello – Reversi (also sold as “Othello”) is a game for two players where the aim is to have the most disks flipped to your color at the end of the game. Every time you are able to “bookend” a line of the other player’s, you flip the whole line to your side. It’s a bit more formulaic and predictable after awhile, but still good.

Go – Go is another abstract game about controlling area on the board, and is believed to be the oldest board game still widely played today. Invented in China in ancient times, Go actually has more alternative outcomes than Chess and a larger board also. It looks really simple, but has a lot of strategic depth.

#29 – The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game

LOTR

At a Glance: The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is an intense, difficult adventure that matches the desperation of the heroes in Tolkien’s saga.

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is a Living Card Game (LCG) for 1-2 players published by Fantasy Flight. An LCG is a trademarked subgenre that differentiates itself from Collectible Card Games and the like in that you do not have to purchase packs with randomized cards inside. LCG’s typically have a base game and then multiple booster packs with preset, standardized sets of cards in them, so there are no surprises. Unlike almost all other similar card games, The Lord of the Rings is a cooperative adventure. It is customizable, as you can construct your own decks to suit your playing style or strategy. The cards can be boiled down to 4 styles (called Spheres of Influence): Leadership, Lore, Spirit, and Tactics. To begin, players select which scenario they want to play, then that forms the Quest Deck. Beside that is the Encounter Deck, which is comprised of random enemies and events that happen along the way. Each person has 3 Hero cards that provide resources to play cards from your hand. Then you are faced with the decision to make progress on the Quest, and how many characters you will commit to the quest. Because when they’re committed, they’re exhausted (turned on their side) and cannot participate in the later phases. During the Quest phase, different events and enemies are revealed and dealt with by comparing the willpower of the characters vs. the threat level of the cards revealed. Then, players will engage with enemy cards and combat them using attack strength. Like other similar games, each card has a certain number of hit points before they are eliminated, and at the end of the round, players refresh their exhausted cards. I’m scratching the surface a bit, but players will continue questing and attacking round by round. If at least one player survives the whole scenario then everyone wins. If all players are eliminated, everyone loses.

Even though the base game is supposed to have taken place in the 17 years between Bilbo’s birthday and Frodo’s departure from the Shire, the game captures Tolkien’s universe better than any other game I’ve played. The desperation, the difficulty, the glimmers of hope, nobility, selfless sacrifices, it’s all there, presented with great care and great artwork. It has many similarities in gameplay and terminology with other games in the subgenre, but it is cooperative, which gives it a whole different feel. I like how you have to weigh the options of progressing through the quest vs. committing ample strength toward the battles. There is a TON of material that has been released for this game, most of which I have not even delved into, and even so, it is such an excellent experience. Each sphere that you can construct your deck around has a nicely unique flavor to it. Tactics focuses on military might, Spirit emphasizes willpower and is useful for the overall success of the Quest, Lore is specialized in knowledge, defense, and healing. Finally, Leadership is great at increasing deployment and resources. The enemy cards and their shadowed powers are tenacious and even your best efforts sometimes end in failure. I do not say this often, but if you are just an occasional casual board gamer and wish to stay that way, then this game is probably not for you. But if you are a fan of Tolkien’s work and want to work together with a friend or spouse in a tough but rewarding adventure, then I highly recommend tackling this one. By the way, there are expansions that do include events from the novels, so those are available if you like the basic game.

This game was published in 2011, and to show you how well-loved it is, Fantasy Flight (the publisher) is still releasing expansion packs for it. Just this year (2018), there was an inaugural Con of the Rings that was held in Minnesota strictly for fans of the game. The immersion and wide spectrum of material released for this game have kept the fanbase alive and well. Just keep in mind, like most card games in this genre, if you want to really dive in and collect them, it will require quite an investment of time and money. But of any you can choose, this is one of the elite ones. It is immersive and tough, but so much the sweeter when you triumph. In their darkest hour before the unforeseen victory, Frodo said, Step or stone, breath or bone. Earth, air and water all seem accursed. But so our path is laid.”

Check it out: https://amzn.to/2SpBasT


HONORABLE MENTIONS

Tolkien’s world of epic fantasy really lends itself well to gaming, and this is one Intellectual Property that has been treated fairly well in games, as there are plenty of quality options. Here are some other good Tolkien-themed games I have played that did not make my Top 100.

Lord of the Rings: Journey to Mordor – This is s small roll-and-write dice game where you play as the hobbits on their way to destroy the One Ring. The dice interact with each other in an interesting way, almost like rock, paper, scissors. Thematically, it is a little weird in that it is not a cooperative game, but it is so light and easy that it ultimately doesn’t matter all that much. Good, quick, fun.

Trivial Pursuit: Lord of the Rings – This LOTR version of Trivial Pursuit is great for big fans of the films, though I do wish it included content from the novels.

The Hobbit – This is an adventure game from Reiner Knizia where players play as dwarves aiding Bilbo on their way to confront Smaug the dragon. It is sort of cooperative in that it is possible for everyone to lose if Smaug makes it to Laketown. Ultimately though, you want to be one with the most treasure at the end. Despite its flaws, the production quality is high.

#30 – 6 nimmt!

6 nimmt

At a Glance: 6 nimmt handles up to 10 players in one of the best pure card games out there.

6 Nimmt is a card game for 2-10 players. There are 104 cards numbered 1-104 and they have differing numbers of bullheads shown on them. Bullheads equal points and points are bad. For each hand, everyone is dealt 10 cards, then there are 4 cards laid in the middle of the table that will form 4 columns. Everyone then reveals a card at the same time, and play them starting with the lowest number. Cards must be played in ascending order in the column with the highest number showing that is lower than the card their playing. If a column has 5 cards it is considered “full”, so the next player who would have to play a card in that column per the rule, would be stuck with all 5 of those cards and their points. That 6th card would then start a new column. If a player has a card that is lower than the highest numbered card in each column, then they must choose a column and replace it with their card, thus taking those bad points as well, but there is some choice there. The first player to hit 66 points ends the game immediately and whoever has the least amount of points is the winner.

It is amazing how much the game changes with how many people are playing. We play a lot of 2 player games of this and enjoy it a lot, but I have played upwards of the max player count and enjoy it just as much but it is such a different experience. The more players you have, the more chaotic it can be. If you reveal a higher number, the columns may change quite a bit before you get to play your card. In a 2-player game, this is not the case. There is more certainty and more strategy. With a lot of players, there is more luck, but the craziness adds an extra element of fun I think. It is rare to find a pure card game that accommodates as many as 10 players in a legitimate way, and this game delivers. Given this and that it is extremely easy to learn, this is a perfect one to play at a big family gathering or a chilled out get-together with friends. Brew some good coffee, have good conversation, and play 6 Nimmt together.

The card quality is decent, and I do like how they are colored based on how many bullheads they have. 6 Nimmt is certainly one of the best pure card games I have played. It is easy to grasp and accommodates a wide player range. I highly recommend as my #30 favorite game of all time!

Check it out: https://amzn.to/2SqxCXk


#32 – Spyfall

Spyfall

At a Glance: Spyfall is a great social activity with crafty questions and sideways glances.

Spyfall is a social deduction game for 3-8 players. In Spyfall, the cards are first separated into different sets that represent different hypothetical locations. A set is randomly chosen and everyone draws cards that depict the exact same location, except for one player, who is going to draw the Spy card. Then, players simply begin to ask questions to each other. The spy’s goal is to stay hidden and try to determine the location. Since the spy does not know the location, they must try to formulate unassuming, believable answers so they are not accused—very tricky! The other players’ goal is to ascertain who the spy is and unanimously accuse them. If the wrong player is accused, the spy wins. Also at any point, the spy can stop play and guess the location, and if they’re correct, they win. The other players win if they correctly accuse the spy.

Spyfall is one of those great games that can be played anywhere: lounging around a living room, at the airport, school, on a road trip, you name it. Just deal the cards out and start asking questions. There are no real limitations on the types of questions you may ask, so you can be pretty creative. The real trick is knowing what questions to ask that will not give away too much information to the spy, but that are also specific enough so you can find out who is safe and who is the spy. These could be “What’s the weather like here?” or “Are there any children here?” It is funny when everyone gets inquisitorial and paranoid about who the spy is. It is especially sweet when you are the spy and the others accuse someone else.

This is such a great social activity. Each set of cards comes with its own baggie, and the cards are pretty good quality. As you can see above, there are plenty of locations, but the cool thing is that even if you end up playing the same location multiple times, the questions and results are always going to be different. Cherry on top: it’s inexpensive and in-print. Check it out!

Get it here: https://amzn.to/2E8gwdN


#33 – Lost Cities

Lost

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