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PLEASE NOTE: This is NOT the English language edition, this is the Scandinavian edition.
Lost Cities is a game of exploring ancient ruins and is one of the best two player games ever designed - one of Reiner Knizia's masterpieces. A game that has been played by thousands of couples, each player is attempting to play cards in sequences that will score many points for them. Each turn, players simply play or discard one card, then draw one card. Players attempt to wait as long as possible to play high cards for themselves and hold cards that their opponents want. It is the ultimate two player game and can be finished in less than thirty minutes. This addicting game is three rounds of card laying fun!
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Writing this review to contradict some of the points made by the previous reviewer.
It's an extremely simple game, but because it's mechanics are entirely mathematical, it has a fairly rich potential for strategy, provided both you and your opponent have played a few times. It's one of the best two player games I've found.
The basic gist of the rules is, you build different stacks of colored cards from #0 to 10, in order. You can skip numbers, but you only lay them down in sequential order. So if you play a 5, then an 8, and later draw a 6, you can't play it. It "costs" -20 points any time you start a column. So you need to score at least 20 points to break even on any color you start building a column for. You can start columns with "doubler, or tripler" cards that double or tripple the points you earn, but if you aren't careful to complete at least 20 points, you will earn double or triple negative points.
You must play a card into a column, or ditch a card, and THEN you get to draw a card, from any of the ditched piles, or the draw deck. Making you play before drawing makes it always a nerve racking choice.
The game is not all that based on luck. It's true you might get lucky and get all the cards you need, but more often than not, both you and your opponent are stuck with cards you don't need... yet.
The heart of the game is deciding whether you are going to take risks, or play conservatively, which is a decision based on your ability to read your opponent's strategy based on the actions he is taking (watching what cards he is ditching or building with, and when he does so).
Also, the game manual suggests you keep a running tally of a couple games. This is a good idea, it tends to balance out the luck factor.
Once you play a few rounds, you and your opponent will grasp the basic gist of the scoring, and you then realize that the game much more about playing the other player, than playing the cards you've been given.
The main choice to make is: do you spread yourself thin starting columns in various colors hoping you get enough to not have negative points? Or do you concentrate on a few colors to guarantee you'll get points and hope your opponent isn't hording the same color you are betting on? In part this decision is made after seeing your starting hand, and learning what style of play your opponent favors.
The second main choice in the game is choosing what to ditch to make room for the cards you want, because if you ditch a card that your opponent wants, you've just given him points, and if you are hording cards that your opponent is also hording, you're wasting time you could be making points with another color. Sometimes its worth keeping things until your opponent is unable to use them, or you notice him ditching the same color.
Sometimes it's better to build toward zero points for a column that to ditch cards that your opponent might want. For example, if you're only green card is an 8... you can assume that you're opponent has a few green cards as well, so don't ditch it. Even if it means you are forced to start building in a color you aren't quite sure will earn you more than 20 points.
Keeping an eye on the draw pile (which you are allowed to count) gives you a sense of how many actions you have left (as the game ends when the draw pile is exhausted). Remember that if you draw from the ditched cards instead of the draw pile you extend the amount of plays you and your opponent get.
Also, as your opponent gets smarter about the game, you find yourself holding onto cards you could be playing, just to keep your opponent guessing. You notice he has played a few low point yellow cards. You have a streak of 7,8,9 in yellows in your hand, but you don't play them because you want to keep the hope alive for him to get yellow so he doesn't commit to some other color that is more likely to earn him points.
I hope I've shown some ways in which this is a rather strategic game, not just luck based.
My wife and I come back to this game again and again. It is a great way to spend just a few minutes waiting for dinner, or a longer time together late in the evening. What makes this game special is the fact that you are not (always) required to apply a lot of energy into "strategic thinking".
If your mood is such, you can have just as much fun playing it without too much thought. We have worn out the cards from so much playing and need to buy another copy!!
I play this with my husband over and over again. Each time I get a little sense of panic if I am going to make the 20 point mark in the colors I go for. This is a great game. I also recommend Relikt. Which is a great stategy game.
Another Dr. Knizia masterpiece returns to grace our list again. A deck of five numbered suits invites you to plan up to five tempting but uncertain journeys. Just playing a card to start an expedition costs 20 points, which are deducted from the final total of your cards played there. Thus, a hasty decision could result in a large deficit if you don't draw the required cards. Subsequent cards added to an expedition must be played in ascending order. Investment cards multiply the value of an expedition (positively or negatively), but must be played before any numbered cards are placed. The player with the higher combined score from all expeditions begun wins. Tricky undercurrents of interaction with the adversary add further intrigue to a game that's guaranteed to challenge your decision-making prowess.
Making decisions in this game is as difficult as choosing lanes during rush hour, and the outcomes can be annoyingly wrong! Five suits of numbered cards represent expeditions which either or both players can start. Shuffle the deck and deal seven cards to each player. Expeditionary cards must be played in ascending order: There is no going back if you jump a step. An expense of 20 points to start an expedition is deducted from the final total of its cards to determine the expedition's score. Investment cards multiply the values of expeditions, but must come before numbered cards are played. Often it is wise to wait to draw better cards before starting or continuing a journey. Discarding instead is possible, but this may allow your opponent to pick up a valuable card. Spectators may see two travelers going their separate ways, but there are many undercurrents of interaction and bluffing that only the adventurers can know on the risk-ridden paths to the highest scores.
When I received the game, I quickly read the rules (only two small-sized pages) and thought this looked ok but nothing special. What was all the fuss about?
A month later and I have played this over 50 times with a wide range of people and I know what the fuss is over now. An excellent card games for two people that is addictive.
The game comes in a standard Kosmos 2 player box. The sort Siedler card players prefer. The modest contents are a pack of oversized cards and a small board. The deck of cards is in five suits distinguished by colour. The game is about reaching lost cities, which are hidden in the jungle (green), at the end of desert landscape (yellow), underwater (blue), at the edge of an cold arctic location (white) or a rugged volcanic environment (red). Each suit has cards 1 to 10, and 3 investment cards. Card 10 shows the final destination, the 9 shows a view as you approach the city, while the one shows the start of the expedition.
All this is tangential to the play, but the theme does at least bear some resemblance to what you are doing. Each player is the overseer to a range of expeditions, with a race to collect as much value from the range of expeditions as possible. You can imagine the Royal Geographical Society sending off explorers to chart these mythical cities.
Each player receives 8 cards, with the board placed between the players. The board is superfluous, acting as a neat place to store discards from each of the five suits of card. Each expedition (colour) is scored separately, penalising scores of less than 20 and rewarding those higher. There is a bonus awarded to a thoroughly charted expedition (eight cards or more are played) which can include the investors interests as well as the numbered cards. The investors double, triple or quadruple the basic score depending on the level of investment backing.
The investor cards must be played first on a suit or not at all. This means that when you have started playing numbered cards, no investment cards can be played for that expedition. Numbered cards can only be on top of lower numbered cards or the investor cards. This clever rule immediately imposes some decisions at every moment.
For example, suppose you are dealt 3 white investor cards, the 8,9 of greens, the 1 and 5 of blue and the 6 of yellow. If you start with the white investor cards you can play these over the next three turns, but unless you make a positive score for white at the end of the round, your score will be highly negative. You have no more white cards, and may or may not pick them up. The greens are nearly at 20, but by playing the 8, you can only play the 9 and 10 and would be missing out on investor cards as well as the 1 to 7. That rules out green. Yellow isn't so bad but you are missing lots of numbers by starting with the 6, so that more or less makes you go for the 1 of blues. You have now committed to blues. Hopefully, you'll pick up a load of white cards and some low greens to allow yourself to plan expeditions for these two. If yellows don't turn up, you can always discard onto the yellow pile on the game board.
The game ends when the last card of the draw pile is taken, so players are advised to count the number of cards remaining to let them know when to play cards from your hand. As you can see, a key element is playing for time, while better cards turn up. You can also delay the end of the game by playing cards to one of the discard piles, which will allow you or your opponent to replenish from a discard pile rather than the main draw pile.
While it might be argued that the game is very simple, for games players there are many strategies to play. I have probably discovered most of them, but since there is considerable fun in realising them, I won't go into more detail. I will close by saying there is no reason not to buy this game -- it doesn't cost much, it will fit in most cupboards and most importantly it is a good two player game. Highly recommended.