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Land Unter


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Product Awards:  
Spiel des Jahres
Nominee, 2001

Ages Play Time Players
10+ 30 minutes 3-5

Designer(s): Stefan Dorra

Manufacturer(s): Amigo

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Product Description

It's pouring buckets out and some sheep are getting wet feet. The water level continues to rise. Hopefully the lighthouse will be able to withstand the water -- and the onslaught of sheep. This game was a nominee for Spiel des Jahres 2001. AMIGO now presents this version with new graphics.

Product Awards

Spiel des Jahres
Nominee, 2001

Product Information

  • Designer(s): Stefan Dorra

  • Manufacturer(s): Amigo

  • Year: 2002

  • Players: 3 - 5

  • Time: 30 minutes

  • Ages: 10 and up

  • Weight: 207 grams

  • Language Requirements: Game components are language-independent. An English translation of the rules is provided.

Product Reviews

 
 
 
 
 

Average Rating: 4.5 in 6 reviews

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Glug glug glug
July 07, 2004

I don't think that any card game can ever aspire to take Bohnanza's place as most replayable card game of all time (at least, not in my tastes.) In fact, if I could give one card game 6 stars just to acknowledge how much better it is than any other card game in order to make giving 5 star ratings to other card games more reasonable, then I'd give that 6-star rating to Bohnanza. Having said all that, I've got to give Land Unter 5 stars too.

You see, it's not my fascination with Stefan Dorra (though this is one more reason to be fascinated by his games), nor the wonderful artwork (comically illustrated, and wonderfully colored drowning sheep, lighthouses, and storm cards), it's the absolute uniqueness of gameplay that again wins the day.

Okay, so what you've got to do is keep your sheep afloat. Even if they are drowning, you do have a chance to rescue them by using up your life preservers, but since unused life preservers are your points at the end of the round, you of course do not want to use them.

So how do your sheep drown? Each player is dealt a hand of Weather cards (follow me here because there are 3 types of cards in this game). The Weather cards are numbered 1 to 60 with no duplicates. Now since the hands are dealt out randomly, like all other card games, one player may have a better hand than another player. UNLIKE other card games, this game has a built in handicapping system. At the top of each Weather card is either a blank, or a half a life preserver, or a whole life perserver. Before the round begins, players total up their life preservers and then take an equal amount of life preserver cards in front of them face up. The stronger your hand, the less Life Preserver (LPs) cards you get, the weaker your hand the more you get. Which means that having a weaker hand has more potential points -- but also more potential to use up those life preservers.

Now the Water Level (WL) cards are shuffled and placed in the center of the table. Now the top 2 are revealed. These cards depict sheep in various levels of flooding, numbered 1-12 (with two of each number), with 1 cards being safer than high cards. Now everone takes a Weather card from their hand secretly and reveals them simultaneously. This is where the game takes anotehr twist: the highest Weather card takes the LOWER Water Level; the second highest card takes the HIGHER Water Level card; everyone else gets off scot-free. If you've been crunching the numbers you now realize that you almost never want to be second, for it ensures you the worst card. But now another twist: the players place those Water Level cards in front of them, now players look around the table to see who has the highest Water Level card showing -- EVEN WATER LEVEL CARDS FROM PREVIOUS ROUNDS. So sometimes you WANT to be second if it means getting a lower Water Level than you currently possess. Whomever has the highest WL card at this point must turn over a Life Preserver to save their sheep. The round ends when either one person loses all their Life Preservers and their sheep drown (-1 point), or all 24 Water Level cards are given out, at which point each player receives a point for each Life Preserver preserved, with the person(s) with the lowest Water Level card showing getting a bonus point.

That is the game in a nut shell. Sound simple? Very much so. Very fun? Yes!

AND THAT IS NOT ALL!

Now everyone turns in all the Water Level cards (which are reshuffled), then takes ALL the Weather cards they played, and all the Life Preserver they had, and PASSES them to the player on their left. That's right: the next hand everyone plays the hand that the player on their right had to play. In this way, everyone must play everyone's hand!

Unique! Fun! Quick! Simple! This game is a wonderful family card game, and it's unique approach to balancing strength of hands should even click with gamers. True, it is light, but it is fun and deserves 5 stars as a recommended purchase.

As for 'Glug glug glug'? That's what we say every time some let's a sheep drown -- and that easily doubles the entertainment. =)

 
 
 
 
 
by Hajo
One of the best little card games currently out there!
November 12, 2003

This one was clearly one of the best investments that I made into games. It has a quite original feel to it, which is somewhat close to 'Take 6', but with a couple of interesting twists that make it much, much more enjoyable. Everybody(!) I introduced to this game liked it!

Basically players use one of their cards (12 cards per player, cards show values from 1 to 60) each round to bid for 2 Tide cards, low tides being the good, high tides the bad ones. After each round the tides are checked and the one(s) with the highest tide lose a life saver.

The prime rule for bidding, however, is: 'Don't Go Second', as the highest card played gets to take the 'good' tide, but the second highest is left with the other (usually 'bad') tide. Of course, if the tides come right (or wrong), it doesn't matter which one you take. It is often advisable to just try to keep out of it completely, though not always possible, of course.

Thus it is obvious that the card hands may differ strongly in their usefullness (many high and low cards opposed to a lot of middle cards), however the game balances a bad hand nicely by providing proportionally more life savers with it. And thus the possibility to yield more points, as remaining life savers are counted and scored at the end of each game round. And after that you just pass on your hand & life savers to your neighbour and start over again. Repeat round until you have played everybody's hand!

The fun part of course is to see in the end who did well/not so well with what hand. There is a whole lot of double guessing your co-players and difficult decisions (as one bad decision may make the differenc between drowning and getting 3-4 points), and in the end everybody at least FEELS fairly treated and cannot blame bad Karma for having lost (although game results depend to a good extent on how the tides show up for bidding).

I brought this game on the table for the first time on a weekend I spent gaming with a few friends. It was midnight and I thought it would be a nice, little chill-out thing before we all called it a day.

We forced ourselves to finally stop around 8 o'clock in the morning...

My tip - go get it!

 
 
 
 
 
by Ed
The Pig Game rocks!
November 02, 2002

As in most game groups we have our favorite closer games, this game may be a little to long for that, but we still end up playing it towards the end of the night.

To me this game has the perfect mechanics to be a good card game. It's has a silly theme, it has a fast pace, you can't complain about a bad hand because you play them all. Oh yeah, it's fun too!

I think the other reviews will give you a good idea of what the game is about. I just wanted to give two thumbs up to my favorite card game. Our other two favorite card games are Take 6 and Rage!, but Land Unter is much better in my opinion.

 
 
 
 
 
Quirky and fun
July 24, 2001

Land Unter is one of those games where the theme really doesn't seem to matter at all. Some card games have been unfairly lambasted for their lack of theming, such as Reiner Knizia's Vampire, but here is a game that has been released using two quite different themes and it hasn't suffered at all.

What makes this game is the interesting mix of mechanics. For a full description of the game, there is another review that goes into blissful detail about the inner workings of this gem, but here is my simple take on the matter.

Each player has a unique number of points that must be protected, and the number of points is tied to how poor your hand is to start out. High and low valued cards are helpful, but worth no points. Medium-high and medium-low cards are worth half a point each, and the dreaded middle values are worth a point each. This nicely balances the scale and makes each hand roughly equal.

Players also get a chance to play each of the hands in the game, as the hands are passed on to the next player after each round. Given that each person will try each hand, there is no excuse for a bad score at game's end, other than your own poor playing. On the other hand, a high score is definitely a mark of good gamesmanship.

While not every person's cup of mocha, this is definitely a very good card game, well suited for a game night opener, or even an afternoon play with friends. It'll never take the place of Bridge or Canasta, but it deserves quite a lot of merit.

 
 
 
 
 
Fun filler with an interesting mechanism
June 20, 2001

Land Unter is a fun card game that is somewhat of a combination of trick-taking and bidding. It's definitely on the lighter side, but it plays quickly and makes good filler. The rules are not too hard to follow, and the card illustrations are very cute, making it a good game for families as well.

There are three types of cards: weather cards, numbered 1 through 60; water level cards (with fabulous pigs on them), numbered 1 through 12; and life preserver cards. The game is played in the same number of rounds as there are players. Players score points for each life preserver they manage to keep in each round.

Each player is dealt a hand of 12 weather cards. The remaining cards are put back in the box. This adds some chaos into the game because, with fewer than five players, not all cards are in play, so it's hard to know what's out there when trying to take tricks/bid.

At the beginning of each hand, two water level cards are turned faceup. Players then secretly select a weather card to play and then turn them up simultaneously. The highest weather card takes the lowest water level and the second highest takes the higher water level card (the bad one). Players keep these water levels until they are covered over with a new one obtained in the same manner. A comparison of everyone's water levels follows, and the player(s) with the highest water level must give up a life preserver. When a player runs out of life preservers and is required to give one up, the player is eliminated, scoring a negative point for the round.

Those are the basics of game play. The twists are interesting. First, each player will generally start with a different number of life preservers. The number a player starts with is calculated from the cards that he or she receives in the deal. Generally, though, the worse the hand, the more life preservers the player gets. It turns out that it is the middle cards (20-something through 30-something) that are the worst cards (bringing in the extra life preservers) because when you can't play really high or really low, there's a lot less predictability of where you'll fall in the bidding.

The second twist, and a really fun one that eliminates some of the luck element, is that after each round, the players pass their old hand of 12 cards plus their life preservers on to the next player, who now plays the next round with that hand of cards. Therefore, each player will play with each hand of cards once!

The people I played with really liked this concept, and it is fun to compare notes on how different players fared with the same hand of cards. This also eliminates some of the chaos of leftover cards being put in the box because, after the first round or two, players develop more of a sense of what's out there.

Well worth the price!

 
 
 
 
 
A fun closed-bidding card game
January 03, 1999

Zum Kuckuck is German for 'For The Cuckoo' as well as for 'Hell's Bells'. For the ornithologically challenged, the cuckoo lays its eggs in the nests of other birds. In this game, your objective is to avoid having all of your birds (the cockatoos) replaced by cuckoos.

The game is similar to Raj and other closed-bidding card games, but with a couple of twists to even the odds. The game is for 3-5 people, and I would expect that it would work as well with three as with five. I would recommend this game for both gamers and non-gamers, as the rules can be explained and demonstrated quickly.

The game consists of three decks: a 'number' deck, (sixty cards from 1 to 60); a 'nest' deck, with 24 cards (two each of 1 to 12); and a deck of identical cockatoo cards, each with a cuckoo on the back. Each player is dealt 12 cards from the number deck. Each card in the number deck has a picture of a cockatoo, a half-cockatoo, or no cockatoo at all. The 'best' numbers for gameplay have no cockatoos, the worst have a whole. Each player gets a number of cards from the cockatoo deck equal to the number (rounded down) in his/her number deck. Since scoring is based on the number of cockatoos which haven't turned into cuckoos at the end of each round, better number hands have less potential for good scores, while crummy hands have lots of cockatoos. I had one hand with seven cockatoos!

The nest deck is shuffled, and the top two cards are turned over. Each player secretly plays a number card to bid for the nest cards. The highest number card gets the *lower* of the two nest cards, while the second highest gets the *higher* value nest card. These cards are placed on top of any nest cards gained earlier in the round. This is important, as the player with the highest *exposed* nest card must turn a cockatoo card into a cuckoo. Most of the time, this means that high and low cards are good, and middle cards are bad. It also means that whoever takes the nest card may not be turning over a cockatoo.

After all 24 nest cards have been revealed and bid on, each player gets one point for each remaining cockatoo card (-1 if all are now cuckoos), and the lowest showing nest card gets a point as well. Then, each player passes their cockatoos and number cards to the player on the left, and another round is played. In the end, each player will play each hand. The result is that the game is very balanced toward gameplay rather than random elements (which consist of the distribution of the number cards and the order of the nest cards).

The game is relatively easy to teach, although the translated rules take a couple of goings-over to 'interpret'. The pictures on the cards are cartoony and cute, though I felt that they didn't display enough variety (all the cockatoo cards are identical, for example) and don't add to the game as, say, the Bohnanza beans do. However, I can shuffle all of the cards easily, which I *can't* do with the expanded Bohnanza deck!

Graphical sameness aside, I liked the balancing mechanics quite a bit, which added to the gaming experience. I also own and enjoy Raj, but the changing hands in Zum Klukluk make for different challenges from hand to hand while keeping the game from being decided by luck.

In the final analysis, the game is as much about what you think your opponents will do as much as it is about walking in everyone else's shoes.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.

Other Resources for Land Unter:

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