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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!
- 1 board
- 60 over-sized cards
- 1 rule booklet
Average Rating: 4 in 107 reviews
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.
My wife and I are always looking for fun two player games that require a lot of skill, include a touch of luck and are fun to play. This game has it all. The luck factor is relatively low, but it is not an "abstract strategy" game (she doesn't like abstract games like Chess and Go). I've convinced a lot of couples to get this game and I have yet to hear a couple that is unhappy. If you want a good two player game, this is the best one I have found!
This is such a nice surprise. It is a very fun way to play a game, and different than other games. The best thing is it is not a huge, complex game, and never says it is. The rules are pretty simple, but then you play and try to figure out that you don't know all the strategy. It is fun to try to win different ways. It is great before or after another game, or just for a fast evening if you start late. We usually play for around half an hour or so.
Well, this is the kind of game I'm looking for. I like 'natural' complexity in a game in that I want there to be lots of deeper possible strategies, but I don't want this to come from a ton of rules.
Lost Cities is like Carcasonne in that there are a small number of rules and yet when you start playing you see lots of possible different strategies. I'd say it takes half a dozen games to even start seeing what the different strategies are in Lost Cities.
In addition, the theme is cute, and married well to the underlying play mechanisms, so that's another plus. And it case it's not mentioned elsewhere, the different cards of an expedition show a sort of 'movie' of the expedition finding stuff, so that makes it even nicer, and good for small children too (my son is six and he often beats me).
If you don't care for the luck aspect of the game playing with 2 players, try it with 4 - and don't buy the extra deck like it suggests, just play out your whole hand instead of stopping with the last card drawn. Makes for a really challenging game! There are 2 teams of 2 in the 4 player version and you are allowed to pass up to 2 cards back and forth to your partner as long as you have 8 cards in your hand - be careful not to leave your partner hanging after he's passed you cards (that makes him down to six and if you don't pass anything back he is forced to play a card). Also, you don't want to pass too much because every time you pass and the other team does not, they are gaining a new card from the deck. Give it a whirl! It's wonderful!
I adore this game. The simple rules are easy to learn, the cards and board are very portable (making it easy to set up in an airport, for instance) and the variable number of rounds (3 - 5, your choice) make it a great way to pass almost any chunk of downtime.
Lost Cities may seem complicated at first, but the scoring is easy to pick up. Within a short game or two, you will be an expert. Then the fun starts, as you venture to score the most points by exploring 5 lost cities. The games are short, so we usually play to five or seven wins. The only drawback is that after we wore out the cards from our first set, we had to buy another game!
My bf and I just got this game today and immediately tried it out. It was very easy to learn and became an instant addictive game between the two of us. The game is pretty fast paced and it can be played for as many rounds as you want. It does has a lot of chance factor in it, but I think it also has a good strategy factor too which makes it a well balanced game. I am not a serious gamer but I do enjoy this game ery much. It's fun and very interesting. Highly recommand it especially for couples.
As I read the reviews below, I guess there's just a lot of people out there who take gaming much more seriously than I do. Lost Cities was the first game I picked up from FunAgain and it managed to hook my wife and I into these types of games. There IS strategy in the game and if you are paying attention at all you do have to make your moves with consideration of what your opponent is doing.
Is the strategy intensive? No, but we've found this to be a great game to play while watching TV and kicking back with a bowl of popcorn. Plus the ease of play has made it easy to recommend the game to others.
If you are a hard-core gamer or 'gaming snob' then I guess you might find fault with Lost Cities, but for casual gamers I bet the chances are you'll find an enjoyable experience.
I see that this game has been getting bashed lately, so I'll step in to defend it!!
I think that this game is an excellent two-player game. There are multiple strategies and decisions to make throughout the course of the game which make it very fun for even hardcore gamers!
However, I think it is also excellent for non hardcore-gamers due to its game length. The game can be as long as you want it to be since it is scored in rounds. A round consists of playing until the entire deck is played through, which is actually pretty short considering the fairly small deck size. You can decide to play anywhere from one to a million rounds, whatever you like. I usually play the suggested three round game, which takes about 45 minutes.
All in all, a delicious two player game that should be in anybody's game collection. I mean, come on, it's a good price, plus it's an excellent game!!
This is the first game I showed my girlfriend as an introduction to the gaming world. She loved it and is now addicted to gaming of all sorts. Some think there is a high luck factor to the game, yet there seem to be many many choices to make, such as which expeditions to take when you have a hand of 8 cards and you manage to get dealt five different suits; also, which cards to ditch so that your opponent doesn't take advantage of your bad luck. A sneaky player who sees that he/she is winning will try to fly through the draw deck as his/her opponent tries to draw cards from the discard piles to draw out the game longer. Overall, a very strategic and addictive game that is taken off the shelf frequently!
I love this game, because it's good for battle-hardened European game fans and non-gamers alike. You can teach this game to someone in about five minutes, and games last only about 10 minutes per round. But you'll find yourself playing rematch after rematch.
I've played this game with friends all night long, in matches that go up to 3000 points.
Here's the story: This game is simple, challenging, portable, and the cards look and feel great. There are no better 2-player games out there.
Lost Cities rules!
Have to give this game 5 stars--one of the most fun 2 player games I've ever played. My wife and I will pick this game up and play it almost every 2 or 3 days. Easy to learn, but builds a lot of tension as you try and decide how to help yourself without helping your opponent. Liked it better than Kahuna (although Kahuna is recommended), and a lot better than Toscana. I'm still going to get Hera & Zeus, Caesar and Cleopatra, Settlers of Catan Card Game, Carcassonne, Schotten-Totten, and Starship Catan--supposedly other 2 person games definitely worth trying! Stay tuned--but get Lost Cities.
This card game takes courage and skill and the luck of the draw. One of my favorites along with Hera and Zeus. Other games I like for two include Tally Ho, Savannah Cafe, and Landlord. Lost Cities is one I usually win agaist my boys while the others I have more trouble beating them.
A fantastic game that can be addictive....and a little brutal, depending on the temperment of those involved:) A great game for 2 people. I've only had the game for a few days and have played more games than I can count already. I can't wait to try other two man games from the same company!
This is a great game that is very simple (we started playing after a quick glance through the minimilistic rules), but offers some deep strategy and agonizing decisions. It seems almost too simple at first, but after a couple of games you really come to appreciate all of the layers of complexities and choices. There is a lot of indirect bluffing and sneakiness that can go on between the two players (and even a bit of cooperation now and then), which keeps things lively.
It is very abstract, but the 'Lost Cities' theme is well-represented through the artwork on the oversized cards.
Lost Cities is an intense card game which goes quickly but always leaves me wanting just one more game. The rules are relatively simple, but the scoring mechanisms introduce extremely difficult strategic decisions which result in agonizing choices. Highly recommended. If you have just one other gamer in your household and are looking for a good game to play with that person, this is an excellent candidate.
The rules call for 2 decks when playing with 4 players. If you just have 1 deck, try this instead:
Pair off into two teams of 2, with teammates sitting opposite one another. Deal each player 5 cards instead of 8. Play normally, with two exceptions. Once per game, a player may pass a card to his partner in addition to playing or discarding, before drawing a new card. When the last card has been drawn from the deck, every player gets one final play.
Enjoy! We found this to be a very tense battle with many hard choices. Scores were in the 10 to 40 range for each hand.
Lost Cities is a great game if you want to play for a half hour or so. If you love it like we do, you'll play it longer, of course. We play 3 hand games, which go by quickly and keep every hand tense. High score after 3 wins.
It is true, as a previous reviewer noted, that the game could potentially be played using a deck of cards (minus one expedition). Nonetheless, as a game, there is a simple elegance to it. We played quick, 15-to-20-minute rounds that challenged our abilities to out-poker and out-guess one another... and yet didn't seem like strenuous brain work. Casual gamers will enjoy this quick, fun game.
This is a quick and easy game to learn, but after playing a few hands, you begin to realize the subtle strategy involved. I couldn't disagree more with those who say it is purely luck-driven and lacks strategy. The optimal strategies to use each hand differ based on the hand you're given and the cards your opponent plays or discards. Sure, some luck is involved, but, in general, you make your own luck by taking calculated risks. This is one of my family's favorites.
First off, the review messed up: there is NO (1) card, the cards start at (2)... but, whatever. The little elements of strategy don't turn up till after you play a few games--especially the end of the game when you can stretch the game out by picking up discards, but by doing so you can let your adversary go out with their choice card. I think some people expect too much out of a simple 2 player game.
As a ludologist and game collector, I like to travel with my games. I usually carry between 10-15 games with me at any one time. Lost Cities may well be one of my most worthwhile purchases as it gathers crowds and often begs of repeat plays. Many times people will ask me about the game and where to purchase it since they have never seen anything like it. I must admit that there are games I would prefer to play over Lost Cities such as Acquire, [page scan/se=0217/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Formula Dé, Evo, Can't Stop, or Tikal, but there is no other game that I wouldn't mind settling on.
The game is very compact, the board is ancillary and may be left at home if you wish, thus reducing the game to a deck of cards. I keep the board with me as it makes it easier to teach new players how to play.
From a cost point of view, for the same cost as a game like Fluxx, you get better looking cards, a nice 4+ color instruction manual, and a sturdy box with plastic tray as well as the unnecessary board. In regards to cost/value, I would have to say that this game has paid for itself several times over. If you consider that I paid $20 for the game, and the game has been played approximately 500 times in my ownership, that works out to about US$.04 per game. You can't even play Pac-Man for under a quarter.
If you like card games like Canasta and Rummy, you will probably like Lost Cities. If you find typical 'common' card games to be boring or overly luck ridden, you will likely dislike Lost Cities. And while Lost Cities is thinly themed as an expedition, the theme is thin enough to put off some Themed Game purists. If you want a more heavily themed game of this genre, consider Tikal.
Overall, Lost Cities is a delightful game, and I heartily recommend it, especially for couples and people who like to carry light games with them to parties, or just to kill time at an airport.
Ten games later, the high score for one hand was 136. This game rocks! It is so tough to make a decision when your opening hand looks like it should be your hand for the last few plays.
136? In one hand?
This is ostensibly a simple game with an incredible amount of depth to it. Do you wait for the investment cards or start the journey now and discard the investments later? Do you try for the 'eight cards in one expedition' bonus or hoard a couple of the big ones away from your opponent?
By the time we realized how many games of Lost Cities we had played, it was late evening.
This one is a definite buy and keep at hand. It makes a great pick-up game when you've been knocked out in a Monoply game.
Did I mention that a friend of mine scored 136 in one hand?
Let me be frank: This game has my wife and I hook, line and sinker. After reading all of the previous positive reviews of the game, I decided one Sunday afternoon that I must find this game! So I found an excuse to run an errand so I could 'explore' the area for Lost Cities (sorry, couldn't resist).
I found it, brought it home. First question my wife asks me when she sees the box: "How much did this cost you?" I told her and she came back with what most everyone's said in these reviews; something to the effect of "That seems awful high for a card game."
Needless to say, we've been playing and playing and playing since I've brought it home. Which brings me to my title line; I would rather have a $20 game of Lost Cities that I can play (and enjoy) with my wife over and over again than a $38 copy of Settlers of Catan sitting on my shelf collecting dust because we never play it (not owing to the actual game itself, but the availability of other people to play with). I tend to base how good a game's value is not simply by the components you get in the box, but how often the game is played as well; in this respect, Lost Cities is a phenomenal value. Pick it up and you'll agree; it's extremely addictive.
About the actual game itself: It's all been said before, but I will make these couple of points. Yes, there's luck. Yes, there doesn't seem to be that much to the game in the way of strategy (but first and second and third looks of this game can be deceiving, as avid Lost Cities players are well aware). Yes, the theme seems a veneer pasted on at the last second. Doesn't matter. I say this with a background of enjoying and appreciating all types of games; not just the ones that ache your brain every turn like Torres or El Caballero but games that have luck integrated into their systems like Settlers or Lost Cities: Lost Cities is subtle, addicting and in my opinion, brilliant.
Hmmph... It's ironic that I just received Lost Cities yesterday, played it last night, and there is a review today from Ty who thinks this game is overpriced and not a family game.
Sorry, Ty, I strongly disagree. Although at the onset, I was hesitant to purchase Lost Cities. I tend to be a little skeptical of the replayability of two player card games, but the previous reviews were strongly positive, so I thought, "what the heck...?"
I was not disappointed. The rules suggest playing a game of three rounds, but my friend, Dale, and I were enjoying it so much and the rounds went so quickly last night, that we ended up playing until I could barely keep my eyes open (about 12 rounds).
We both liked that the game was easy to learn, yet forced you throughout the game to gamble and make some tough choices. Regarding the theme issue... granted, the theme is relatively independent of the game mechanics, but c'mon, this is a card game. I think the expedition theme works, and I especially liked the artwork on the cards.
Regarding the issue of price, Lost Cities costs less than 2 tickets to a movie, yet I feel that I've already gotten my money's worth of enjoyment from playing once, and I'm looking forward to playing again. This was definitely a good gaming investment.
This game is very easy to get going, but there's a lot more than meets the eye once you get a couple rounds under your belt. There's quite a bit of strategy involved, as you'll soon realize. The quality of the cards and board is excellent and the artwork is very nice. Anyway, it's a great game--don't miss it!
Having put off for months getting this game, thinking I had enough Kosmos two player games, I realize the folly of my thinking after getting a copy several weeks ago.
After the first game I was hooked. Now I see what all the fuss is about!
Lost Cities is very simple to play. The rules are just 2 pages, so you can start play in under 5 minutes. The games moves right along, and you can complete the recommended three rounds for a match in under 40 minutes generally.
I have read the reviews saying it is nothing but a fancy solitaire game. This could be no further from the truth. The interaction is not one of playing a card to wreck the opponent's game, but more subtle. It is a matter of holding certain cards, timing your discards, and when to draw from the pile vs. the discards.
The game is very intriguing, with plenty of possibilities to make you think through your turn to make the best card plays. Is there luck? Absolutely, but rarely enough to trash your game. I dislike games that hinge on getting a lucky card or die roll, and Lost Cities does not have that flaw.
Simple, has depth, quick, makes you think--what a great game. My only gripe is the cost. I have to agree it is a bit much for what's in the box... yet it will get played a lot, so perhaps one can give a few bucks extra for some genuine enjoyment.
'Simply smashing! Eh, wouldn't you agree 'Ol Boy?'
'Here here, bravo, well done. Now let's talk about the next expedition'...
When my wife and I sit down to play a two-player game, we generally like something with meat on the bone... something to go mano-a-mano with. Something that is worth doing a dance around the table when you win.
So I avoided this game for a while... it looked too light. But when I got both this and Hera and Zeus for Christmas (2000), we started with this one... and haven't put it down yet.
It is a fun game with amazing varied results. Some games I'll score big, others I'll end up with a negative score. And it doesn't feel like luck--it feels like I'm taking calculated risks and making small, subtle decisions every (quickly-paced) turn which impact my card management. It isn't until the very last turn when I can sit back and see if it all worked out.
There is player interaction in my opinion (as opposed to other reviewers). And again, it is a subtle one. My wife and I make few game-related comments, ask few questions, and indeed avoid much eye-contact... because we don't want to give away which discards are bluffs or to help us out later, or to stall the end of the game, or to speed it up. But there are plenty of defensive moves made throughout the entire game.
This is a fun one!
After reading some comments about the game, I thought it might be a good one to play with my girlfriend. She's not a gamer, but she really enjoys rummy-like card games. This seemed to be close in nature to rummy games with simple rules, so I gave it a go. This turned out to be more than I hoped for--simple enough for my girlfriend to pick up, but deep enough for me to sink my teeth into.
Some may complain about the lucky nature of the card draws, but smart play has won every hand I've ever played. I seem to be much better at this than my girlfriend--I count cards and number-crunch in my head while she plays by gut instinct. This can be seen as a potential drawback--like many Knizia games, having a mathematical mind helps a lot.
You really have nothing to lose. It's reasonably priced, takes two minutes to learn and about ten minutes to play a hand. Highly recommended.
Having played over 100 hands of Lost Cities, the subtleties and strategies of the game continue to fascinate and challenge. The game, like chess, definitely has three phases: opening, middle, end.
Opening: the initial cards dealt, plus the first 8 or so draws force one to make decisions about which expedition(s) to focus on.
Middle: avoiding discards helpful to one's opponent as well as making decisions about which expeditions to start laying and which to continue building in hand.
End: the final 8 or so plays of the hand force one to decide which cards to lay, and in which order, so as to maximise their value.
A criticism levelled at Lost Cities is that it lacks player interaction. I would suggest the following points raise some doubts as to the validity of this:
- the expedition(s) my opponent is building influence my discards and choice of expedition
- do I spike my opponent's play by building the same expedition as they, being prepared to suffer a small negative score (a strategy which also allows me safe discards)
- is it worth holding off playing certain cards to my expeditions, knowing or hoping that this might be creating discard problems for my opponent?
For my money, this game has great replay value and immense enjoyability, more so for me than Schotten-Totten which is perhaps a little more analytical.
Lost Cities is the perfect game to play with those who find that board games are too involved, or for true gamers with too little time for more lengthy games. It provides a surprisingly deep and exciting challenge in spite of the simplicity of its mechanics.
In Lost Cities, players create 'expeditions', in effect series of cards of increasing numbers ranging from 2 to 10, in five separate 'regions' or color suits. Each expedition starts with a negative value of 20, so it is important to add cards to an expedition you begin to avoid a negative score. Each player either adds a card to an expedition or discards a card (face up), and then draws one from the deck or picks up a rejected one until the deck is gone. The opponent can pick-up a discarded card instead of drawing from the deck, so being careful with discards is of prime concern.
Choosing which expedition to start, and when, are capital decisions. If you start an expedition too early, you tip off the opponent who will hoard that suit of cards perhaps preventing you from completing that expedition with a positive score. If you wait until you have all the cards in your hand to make a lucrative expedition, you may not have enough time to play them all before the deck runs out. Most of the time, you must gamble by starting an expedition in which you have a few cards, hoping to draw more as play proceeds.
Thwarting your opponent while building up your own expeditions sometimes forces some hard choices that must be made with imperfect information. Discarding the wrong card may greatly help one your opponent's expeditions. So, some amount of probabilities calculation based on the observation of the cards played or discarded by the other player can increase your chance of completing your expeditions without helping his. Bluffing also has its place at times.
Overall, Lost Cities offers a straightforward system in which players must make many strategic decisions under the pressure of a dwindling deck. Both conservative and risky strategies can yield success, and trying to find the right mix each time is the joy of this little jewel of a game.
I am always on the lookout for a good game for two players, but most of the games that say you can play with 2 don't play very well with 2.
This game is an exception. My wife and I enjoyed it from our first game, and our enjoyment has gone up as we have realized the complex strategies behind the simple rules. I noticed that one reviewer complained about the complex scoring. Personally, we found scoring pretty easy and don't understand the complaint.
Our family bought Lost Cities about a month ago, and it's one of my favorite games. It feels a lot like backgammon or bridge: it introduces a luck element and forces the players to respond to each hand's luck appropriately. It's true that a novice can win by drawing lucky cards, but in a long match, the expert player will almost surely win. Like with those other games, the presence of luck does not eliminate skill.
At the start of each hand, players try to delay, since committing yourself to one course of action rules out other courses of action that may be equally good (depending on the cards drawn next). The problem, of course, is that you must play either to an expedition or to a discard pile, and it can be dangerous to feed cards into the discard pile that may be valuable to your opponent. If you ignore what your opponent is doing, you will hardly ever win at Lost Cities.
You may decide to 'sacrifice' score for time by starting an expedition that will probably lose points, but will allow several valuable delaying plays. For example, with 3, 5, 8 in an expedition you could play these three cards and accept a score of -4 for that expedition (assuming you don't draw the 9 or 10.) During that time, your opponent might do something that would benefit you far more than the 2 points you lost. Such 'sacrifices' seem to work in the games I have played (but of course, other groups may have different tactics that work better). The drawback to this strategy is that you might turn 3, 5, 8 into a valuable expedition if you can just delay for a while to see what cards turn up.
As the game progresses, at some point the delaying gives way to a race as players strive to play all of their scoring cards before the deck runs out (this is a lot like the Olympic bicycling event in which each player cycles as slowly as he or she can at the start in an attempt to 'draft' behind the competitor during the mad sprint to the finish). The key question: when do you stop delaying and start sprinting? Miscalculation can be deadly.
I can easily imagine books about Lost Cities that outline the best opening moves depending on the initial cards drawn (like bridge books). I can imagine playing with 'games' and 'rubbers' so that the score from previous hands will affect the strategy for the current hand. I also suspect one could play Lost Cities with a doubling cube like in backgammon.
If you like games that can be played over and over and seem new every time (for example, if you're a backgammon fan), this is a game you should try.
(No animals were harmed too badly in the making of the above review summary.) Despite the glut of glowing reviews, I thought I would add my two bits, in case anyone is wondering what I think (ha, ha). Comments like 'this game could be played with a deck of cards' and, 'the board is totally superfluous' may be technically true, but where's the fun in that? Come on, you could play most games with cut-out pieces of paper, rocks and a board drawn in the dirt with a stick. It's games like Tikal, Medieval Merchant and Mississippi Queen that keep us coming back for more!
Which is exactly what I keep doing, night after night, as I sidle up to my wife and grin mischeviously. 'Lost Cities?' My TV is getting jealous of all the attention, but man, this game is good. It's odd how Reiner Knizia has all these games, most of them good, some great, but this little ultra-simple two player card game is eclipsing them all with the number of reviews and the numbers on the selling charts. Most of it has been said below, but I'll point out some things I like. I think the most fun is the filling up your hand with cards you think your opponent might want, then the consequent agonizing over wanting to get rid of them but not wanting to help the enemy, yet not having quite enough to safely start your own expedition... or do you? Maybe, on the other hand, if you put down a card you know they want, perhaps they'll give you something that you need in an unspoken trade/leap of faith move. Then there's using the board as storage to put down cards you're collecting so you can draw more from the pile--but do you put down the high-value cards that you won't need for a while and risk your opponent swiping them to make your score lower? Or put down a few piddly ones and risk having to dig them out later in a series of expensive discard/pickup moves? Meanwhile the opposition is treating the draw pile like a candy bowl! How many left? Fourteen cards, hm, so if I don't draw from the pile for the next three rounds but she does, that will leave 11, which means I'll have five draws minimum if I need them. But maybe she wants that blue 9, which means she won't take five cards from the draw pile... Good grief, how could such a simple game get so complicated! Whoops, did she just take that yellow 7? Dang!
Welcome to my brain during a game of Lost Cities. Not only are the decisions deliciously agonizing in traditional Knizia fashion, but the artwork, card size/stock and rules are all top notch. Different tactics are already making themselves evident to me with my wife, who tends to commit to a color or two depending on what investor cards she starts with. I tend to gather and store cards until I know I can beat the negative twenty, then start my expeditions. You can play pretty dirty at this game or very mellow and almost cooperative, although I refuse to make spoken agreements about trading discards. I don't think that was at all what Reiner had in mind. Scoring at the end is not a big deal, certainly not worth whining about. I'm a total clod when it comes to math, so if I can do it in my head, so can you. Besides, ever hear of a calculator? Every complaint I've read about this game just seems silly after playing it. It seems a shame to be nitpicky with a game that is sooooo good.
I don't usually make comments like 'Instant Classic'--that's just a little over the top--but Lost Cities should be added to grade-school curriculum. Perhaps the day it was published could be made a national holiday! Heck, maybe I'll just start a new religion--it worked for L. Ron Hubbard! Sorry. I'll put it in a nutshell for you: It's really good, buy it and throw out every other game you have. Nah... on second thought, just throw out your television.
I had to pop a review in front of Wendell's, just because I have learned to really enjoy this game. In this reviewer's opinion, every game has its place. I have played all levels, from War in Europe to Go Fish with my daughter. Lost Cities fits a nice niche of simple rules, tough basic math decisions, and a game that can be set up quickly in any small area.
After a hard day with the kids, my wife loves to play this game with me. I recently played it with my partner on the floor of the Air & Space museum in Washington. The artwork serves to 'pretty' a game which really could work with 5 suits of playing cards, but Knizia's magic more than makes up for the 'Lost Cities' stamp.
I highly recommend this game for those that like the 3 factors I identified above. In response to the review that prompted this one, I have never found it boring (the regularity of difficult decisions does not allow for boredom), the scoring is far from complex, and my wife is willing to play it!
I have gotten good mileage for my small investment. I better have. I am running the tournament at WBC 2000!
It's all been said already, but I have to add that for a serious strategy-gamer (myself) and for a party-gamer (girlfriend) I don't think I could have found a better game. Seconds to learn, entertaining to play, and fun! The scoring system isn't as bad as some of the reviews say, in fact it adds to the challenge of the game. There was a game where I thought I won for sure, but in the last play of cards I lost by 19 points! Pretty sneaky babe. For the price alone, get this game!
This is one of the most simple, yet addicting, card games I've ever played.
When I first bought this game and read the rules, I was extremely disappointed. All sorts of negative thoughts were swirling around in my head: 'Where was the promised excitement of exploring lost cities?', 'Isn't this just a 2 handed game of solitaire?', 'Couldn't the game have been played with a modified deck of cards with 5 suits instead of 4?', 'Have I been ripped off?'
Fortunately, I overcame my initial reaction of returning the game and gave it a try. After one play, I realized how wrong my initial reaction was. There are so many subtleties involved with many different strategies to try that the game never becomes boring. The player interaction is indirect--yet even this indirect interaction can have many different levels of complexity. For example, do you purposely draw a card you don't need, trying to fool your opponent into thinking you are pursuing that expedition? Do you try to hinder your opponent by holding onto cards she needs, while at the same time reducing your own chances of building a good hand for yourself since you can only have a limited number of cards? Do you discard a card you need but don't have room for in your hand, hoping you'll be able to draw it again before your opponent buries it or takes it for herself? Such are the types of quandaries you face playing this game.
The production level of the game is quite nice. Sure, it is basically a deck of cards with 5 suits instead of 4. But what a nice looking deck of cards! The oversized cards have such a nice look and feel, and the artwork of the progressive exploration of the various lost cities adds a great deal of charm. The artist did a great job of capturing that 'Indiana Jones' adventurer/archaeologist style.
As for the question of the role of luck, there is some involved, but very rarely does it dictate the outcome of the game. Since each player can only have a limited number of cards in their hand, and you actually play through the whole deck, the role of luck is minimized. As long as you don't take extreme risks where your success on an expedition depends on the draw of one particular card, you should be only marginally affected by the luck of the draw. You are definitely more affected by the actions of your opponent. Personally, I almost always lose when I play this game against the 14 year-old gamer in my house. If luck played a large role in the game, I would think I'd manage to win more than 20% of the time against her. Alas, every time we play, it seems I'm adding yet another line to my loss column.
If I had to pick a favorite 2 player card game, Lost Cities would be it.
This is an awesome game!
It is very good for playing with serious gamers and also with spouses/newcomers/light gamers.
I've been recommending this one to everyone!
Lost Cities is the perfect game for the couple looking for a nice way to spend a quiet evening. A kissing cousin to solitaire and Racko, this game is surprisingly clever in its subtle, multi-layered strategy. The premise of exploring lost cities is really just texture for what is essentially a card game. The components are straightforward, 60 cards divided into five 'expeditions' (in reality, suits) of different colors and a fold-out board which serves as the discard pile, one pile for each color. Each expedition consists of nine cards numbered 2-10 and three investments cards which act as multipliers when tabulating the final score. Each player starts with 8 cards, the remaining 44 form a draw pile. A turn consists of placing a card either in an expedition or the discard pile and then drawing a card from either the draw pile or discard pile. Scoring is accomplished by forming a run of cards running from low to high (e.g. 2-3-6-7-9-10), each succesive card played must be greater than the one before it. Any expedition cards placed before the run is started increases the risk/reward factor. The hand ends immediately when the last card is pulled from the draw pile. Players then tally their respective runs and then subtract 20 from that total. For each investment card played at the start of the run the tally is multilplied by x+1. Thus in the example above 37-20=17 points. If there had been two investment cards played before the 2 was laid down the total would have been tripled to 51 points. But careful, it's very easy to score a negative result if one is careless. Finally, there is a 20 point bonus (not subject to multipliers) for any run of eight cards. A game is usually the aggregate total of three hands, which takes about 30-45 minutes to play.
With rules that straightforward the game should be entirely too simplistic, right? After only a few hands it becomes obvious that there are several layers of strategy blended into this charming little game; it is a true delight to play. Both gamers and non-gamers alike have taken to this game in our circle of friends. Although the game certainly could have carried a lower price tag it is clearly a value for the price - much better than blowing a similar amount to see a lame movie or grab a cheap dinner. If Rio Grande can continue to produce games of this caliber then who can grudge them a decent profit in a field that's difficult to thrive in? Lost Cities is a great acquisition for the family or couple that enjoys a fun, quick card game.
Yet another design from the indefatigable Dr. Reiner Knizia. This time the good doctor has provided a two-player card game ostensibly about exploration of lost civilizations. Like many Knizia games, the theme is incidental to the gameplay, and this game excels in its play.
There is a surprising amount of strategy to this card game, as players must decide when to commit to starting an expedition. Too soon, and the opponent may deny you your best cards. Too late, and there may not be enough time to get out all the expedition cards you want.
Kosmos has committed itself to issuing innovative two-player games of high quality. So far, we have seen Caesar and Cleopatra and Kahuna, now joined by Lost Cities. I look forward to future games in this line.
I like games that require mostly skill and strategy. Generally, the people I play games with also like a bit of luck to ensure that everything evens out a bit for everyone involved. Lost Cities really has the right balance and is a well designed two player game. The game requires a lot of strategy and it never hurts to get the right cards at the right time.
I read the reviews for two player games and practically everyone said that this was the game to get. So I did and my wife and I like this game a lot and play it often. So, if you are looking for a game to play with your significant other or any one other person, I think that Lost Cities is the way to go.
The sheer volume of reviews speaks to the stature of this game. Knizia is one of the best designers out there and this is one of his most accessible games for folks new to the hobby. In fact, this was one of the games I played on my very first game night, so I have very fond, very nostalgic memories associated with this game. It was also the second game I introduced to my spouse to entice her to the hobby (still a work in progress). Anyway, if anyone is on the fence on this one, you shouldn't be. The price is right; the gameplay is fun, the art is cool. Add to your cart immediately!
Lost Cities is a great card game for two. It's easy to learn, fast- paced, and challenging without being a brain-strainer.
It's also a pleasant husband-and-wife game, because there's little or no aggression involved. For the most part, it has the feel of a double solitaire game, where you're each just playing to your own card sets. You do want to pay attention to what your opponent is doing, as it will (or should) affect your decisions; but you can't do much to foil your opponent's plans, other than withholding discards (as in rummy).
The only downside, to me, is the scoring. At the end of each round, players have to tally up their points, and that can get a little annoying or tedious. It also requires some adding, subtracting, and multiplying.
I picked up this game after reading reviews and seeing how it was a highly recommended game on Funagain.com.
My wife and I are enjoying playing the game because it has a variety of strategies that can bring you victory or defeat.
The game is simple to learn and gets you thinking about what moves you need to make, how far can you gamble with investment cards, etc.
The packaging and artwork are topnotch too!
Now if only I can beat my wife...
This is one of the best 2-person games my wife and I have ever player. I enjoy more complicated games, but my wife likes things that move faster and aren't as serious. Lost Cities is more her style, but it forces you to make tough decisions on discarding versus investing in a new expedition. So, it's got enough decision-making to keep my interest and enough pace to keep hers.
We keep a running scorecard in the box and just keep adding to the total on a going basis. This way we can play one or two hands or for up to an hour. We might play a lot for a few nights in a row and then we may not play for six months and just pick up the score where we left off.
This is the game that got us started as gamers. We've played this over and over and still really enjoy it. It is not a deep strategy game and there is a significant element of luck involved. But it is this luck element that makes the game the perfect choice when we want a quick, pleasantly distracting game that doesn't require a lot of time or brain power. It is a easy to learn, fun to play diversion. Probably better for less hard-core gamers such as we. We enjoy Zertz, and have just started Carcassonne, but we keep replaying Lost Cities and we can't wait to bring to the family reunion this summer
This game is pretty good. It combines mind-numbing uncertainty with one-on-one to the death mania. I regularly smack myself in the forehead playing Lost Cities, for inevitably making the wrong move and messing myself up. However, this game is definitely not for the math challenged. There's a lot of adding, multiplying and subtracting.
Knizia's Lost cities has simple rules and easy gameplay, but is actually a challenge. Since I got it, I've had to buy a second game. The first game has now gone to the great game liberary in the sky.
As you now understand, it's severely addictive, and provides lots of head-to-head action.
Why not 5 stars? Well, I actually enjoy Kahuna more and all the gaming comes more down to my friends enthusiasm than mine.
I keep seeing reviewers who feel like this is two player solitaire or 100% luck driven. I must suspect they were not paying attention as they played the game. The choices you make *are* significant, and there is considerable calculation to be made near the end as to how far you can push your luck waiting to open an expedition or get a middle rank card to pump up the value of an expedition.
If you didn't find any interaction, you must have missed the fact that you play with the same deck of cards. Opening a weak expedition can discourage your opponent for trying to score it. As the other player progresses your 'safe discard' choices increases (including 'queuing' cards for a potential later pickup). Discards can be critical to the waiting game of building a solid expedition, but they may feed your opponent an important card, or tip off where you are weak.
So yes, there is strategy. If all you did was turn over a card and play the 'obvious' choice, you didn't play an optimal game of Lost Cities. It isn't a perfect game (Puerto Rico is my current favorite game), but it is a very good game.
This is a fun game if you are looking for something light and that you can teach in 5 minutes. Some comments made are true - it may be a bit expensive for what it is (60 cards and a small board), and the theme is definitely pasted on - I got absolutely no feeling I was on an adventure or exploring lost cities. With that said however, I would still highly recommend this game. It's easy and fun and great for husbands and wives who may not have the time to play a long game. The scoring is a little quirky, but not bad. Overall highly recommended.
I got Lost Cities as a gift. The game is simple to learn. Though the theme is somewhat extraneous to the game play, it does allow for a bit of imagination. The 'luck' factor is there, allowing for the weaker player to occasionally prevail, but overall the better strategist may lose a battle but ultimately win the war (so much for the poor soul below who faults his 'bad luck' for losing virtually every hand....) As I play it frequently and enjoy it, I'll award 4 stars.
I was looking for a fun two-player card game I could play with my wife, and got (almost) exactly what I expected. The play is really fast, especially once you have the strategy down. It averages 20 minutes for the recommended three rounds. My wife mostly plays board and card games to humor me, but after two three-round games, she actually recommended we play again. The only complaint my wife had was the math aspect to the game, citing that it was more complicated than necessary for such a fast paced game ('Negative integers? In a CARD GAME?').
I don't have a problem with the math, per se, but it does take the steam out of the semi-furious pace between rounds. This is why I gave it only four stars. All in all, this is a definite recommend.
If you are looking for a fun 2 player game, this is very good. Like all great games, it seems simple at first, bearing a strong resemblance to a 2-player solitaire. But beneath the simplicity lies a fairly complex game that grows on you. The theme of exploring is well intended, and does reflect in the gameplay, but it could have just as easily been an abstract theme. The artwork is somewhat rough, but forgivable, as this game proves that an elaborate gameboard and playing pieces do not make a great game.
This game has definitely had lasting power as a game which can be picked up, quickly played, and always enjoyed. The decisions are tough but quick and leave you feeling like you played the game, not that the game played you. It's a great choice that any two players, regardless of background, are sure to enjoy.
My wife and I are trying to find more time for games, so the 2-player Kosmos/Rio Grande games are perfect. After playing the wrong way for our first few games (didn't realize you could pick up discards) and becoming bored by what was a luck-only game for the most part, I re-read the rules and realized our mistake. The change has made this game much more enjoyable, as quite a bit of strategy comes into play.
My only qualm is that a bad initial hand can mess up your entire round, thus putting you in a very deep point-hole that is hard to get out of.
Lost Cities is absolutely an outstanding game. Fantastic mix of strategy and luck. Every hand is a decision in balancing risk and reward. You can plop down investment cards early and hope to draw what you need, or avoid committing to any expedition until you are fairly certain you will get close to the 20 point cost. The first strategy can yield big rewards, but is riskier because it can also yield big losses. The second is safer, but may net you lower points overall, and you may end up discarding cards your opponent can use.
The strategy in the game is not real deep, but is so subtle that the more you play the more you discover ways to improve your game. If you have the top cards of a color, do you discard an investment card and/or some low numbers in the beginning to try to lure your opponent to start up an expedition there? Do you start up an expedition in your opponent's color, knowing you will take a loss, just to keep from discarding the cards?
The comment that 'this game can be played with a regular deck of cards' cracks me up. Sure it can--all you have to do is take two decks of cards (one isn't large enough) and mark up a bunch of cards in order to indicate the fifth suit and the investment cards. If you are willing to do that, then you really don't need to buy any card game, do you? Just mark up a bunch of cards for Bohnanza beans, Hera and Zeus characters, etc. Heck, why not draw up some Settlers of Catan hexes on paper and use different colored buttons for playing pieces while you are at it? Hardly a valid criticism of the game.
The only reason I give this game 4 stars instead of 5 is that it is not a great value. $20 retail is very expensive for a card game, and the oversized cards are thin. After only a dozen or so games the cards become noticeably worn and I suspect after quite a few more games they may become difficult to shuffle and start to crease. The cards really should be thicker and/or have more plastic coating on them. It seems like Kosmos / Rio Grande could improve the value of the game by dropping the superfluous board and going with standard sized cards (the artwork would be harder to see, but you don't look at it much past your first few games anyway) and passing along the savings via a reduced price.
Anyway, it is a great game. I highly recommend it.
Normally, I prefer boardgames over cardgames (especially 2-player cardgames), but I really enjoy Lost Cities. Designer Reiner Knizia has once again delivered a masterpiece game of simple rules and tough strategic decisions.
The cards: Oversized and functional, with artwork depicting expedition and excavation sites. They're true to the theme, but uninspiring. National Geographic-type photos would have been better.
Playing time: Outstanding. Quick paced. We normally play a 3-round game in 30 minutes or less, making for multiple playings in one sitting.
Rules comprehension: Outstanding. Great clarity. A novice can be taught the mechanics verbally in less than a minute.
Challenge: Excellent. Players have to make tough decisions on most turns. The depth of the strategies becomes evident with the first game.
Player interaction: Excellent. Some may disagree with me here, but this is more than 'double-solitaire.' Discarding requires substantial strategy/tactics.
As a family game, this is suited to older family members who like rummy-style games, or games with very agonizing decisions.
Basically there are five suits and you are trying to build suits in front of you in order from 1-10. Once you place a card, you can not ever play a lower card in that suit. Since you get points based on the number of the card, higher cards are more valuable. Too make things even more interesting, BEFORE you start laying numbered cards down, you can lay score multipliers down--which can multiply your score positively AND negatively.
The tension in this game is from the cards you hold in your hand. You and your opponent are fighting over the same deck of cards and there is no telling if you will be able to find enough cards in that color to make it worth starting that suit. But you have to gamble on something otherwise you'll never lay a card.
On top of all this, the 'suits' are represented by 'expeditions' to different exotic locations around the world. What difference does that make? Well, since I dislike 'numbered card' games, it tricks me into thinking I am not playing a numbered card game. The artwork is second to none. This game is overpriced, but you'll play it so much, you'll still get your money's worth.
The good: An original, intelligent card game for 2 players, beautiful artwork. The bad: Overpriced.
All in all, this is an excellent game for 2 players, best suited for players 13 years or older. A good two player game for older families.
A game reviewer recently suggested that the outcome of Lost Cities is determined almost completely by chance. He wrote, 'There are precious few real decisions to make, and many of them are made in a vacuum. There's no way to know if the green or blue handshake is the better play--you just have to hope to draw the right cards... it does feel like it's playing itself more than I'm playing the game.'
I had wondered about that, as regards Lost Cities--a game that I have played probably 8 times, now--and always enjoyed.
'How much luck?' I asked myself. I guess I still come down on the side that says that there IS skill; the reviewer is primarily referring I think to the initial plays one has to make. But over the course of the hand you're still observing what your opponent is doing, deciding whether to discard or play to the board ('go on an expedition,' lol). Etc.
My mark for determining how much luck is in a game is to ask how frequently 'the world's best player' would or could lose to a total novice. In chess, zero chance. In coin flips, 50%--these are the two opposite extremes. Lost Cities feels closer to chess than to a coin flip, but on the 0% to 50% continuum I would put it at maybe... 17%? I dunno. So I say skill counts for something in Lost Cities. This said, I recently lost to my brother and was of course convinced that luck counted hugely! :)
But looking a bit deeper at that game, I won two of the three hands, but the one hand he won he made a mega-score on. And I am convinced that his mega-score was mainly lucky, because he got incredible card distribution in one suit.
In baseball, blowout scores indicate skill, while one-run victories indicate luck (comes down to bounce of a ball, or fair or foul, etc.). In Lost Cities--and this is a flaw, I think--blowout scores more often indicate luck (GREAT CARDS!), while 'one-run victories' actually indicate skill.
And that's problematic, as--well--what does the final score really then mean?!
I do think Lost Cities is lots of fun, hence its bestseller status, and the branding/theme/colors help it outsell lots of others, too. I still give it four stars because four stars to me says, 'I want the gaming industry to do more of this.' But I don't give it five, for the reasons indicated.
I'll keep playing, but for two players I now prefer Hera & Zeus--you are not so 'funneled' down a single path that has you highly dependent on which card you're drawing this turn--a factor you cannot determine.
My wife and I have been getting a lot of enjoyment from this game. Winning a hand requires some luck, but in a series of hands it is strategy that will win the day, and there is more to that strategy than first appears. I keep learning, and currently I seem to have figured things out better than my wife... but I expect that will change. Fast and Fun!
Having played this game for only 2 weeks I can see what a clever little game it is. It is easy to learn (although for scoring you'll need a pencil and paper unless you are really good at mental arithmetic) and has enough depth to make my wife and I play again and again.
The cards are beautiful to look at and give the game a classy feel to it. The board is also nice, but I'm not sure why a draw pile wasn't added. A small summary of scoring might also have been a useful addition to the board.
In all, Lost Cities is a great little game that is easy to learn and fun to play. If you enjoy The Settlers of Catan Card Game this one will appeal to you. Its greatest strength is that it won't take as long to play and its easier to teach to others.
If you are into games, you probably know the mechanics already. I disagree with people that Lost Cities is 2 player Solitaire. You have to watch what the other person is doing. You can't give the other person a good discard. If you can't discard, it forces you to play. You have to play a card if you want the discard to. My sister only wanted to try one round the first time we tried it. We ended up playing 4. Then we played it the next day.
This is a very simple, addictive game. It plays fast and you will almost always end up playing it over and over. Most of the strategy is not making the best play but in not making the worst play that will help you opponent. It is agonizing what to play at the beginning and this holds true to the very end. Set up is nil and it plays so fast that it is perfect for when you just want to knock a few games out at lunch or when waiting for something (like the other gamers to show up). Highly recommended.
My girlfriend and I have found this simple, clever little card game to be addictive but often maddening.
Lost Cities exhibits the character of a well-designed game to have simple rules but to represent a sufficiently complicated problem. In the time before the deck runs out, one must gamble that one is able to play a sufficiently high number of cards of each 'expedition' (read: 'suit', or 'color') to justify the size of the risks that one has decided to take early in the game with respect to each one. I enjoy the fact that the game's using simple arithmetic tools ('investment' cards are simply 'multipliers,' and other cards' face values are simply added together) makes it a comprehensible 'problem.' However -- and I hope to be proved wrong in this someday -- it's my impression after several plays that the probabilities in the game can never be computed with enough certainty to allow the triumph of strategy over luck over any near-term horizon. My girlfriend and I have been contrasting it with En Garde, (she has a stronger opinion as to the size of the role of luck in that game than I do,) but we are both of the view that the role of luck in Lost Cities is significantly greater, and that it will produce a fairly even distribution of player wins, even if one becomes strategically more adept than the other. Consequently, frequent play of Lost Cities can produce frustration that one's improved understanding and play are not necessarily being rewarded by superior results to the extent hoped for.
Players may pass through various stages in learning this game. At first, they may simply try to play through their hand with minimal reference to what they believe their opponent to be holding. After they attain some experience, they may learn to play more 'defensively,' -- to play to frustrate one's opponent's play while also gaining points for oneself.
The board is in some respects superfluous to the game, but I am pleased by its inclusion. It is nice to know that the game can be made smaller for travel, but when played at home, can be used with an attractive and stabilizing surface.
In sum, I give this game high marks for being interesting and for inducing repeated play. However, the balance of luck vs. skill may be weighted too much towards luck for some players' tastes.
Lost Cities is a perfect example as to why Reiner Knizia is one of the best game designers ever.
A simple concept, familiar mechanics, and addictive gameplay are the hallmarks of a Knizia cardgame (see my review of Katzenjammer Blues) The amazing thing is to think that a game like this will be invented and perfected over a period of weeks or even days.
Kudos to Kosmos for their delightful series of two player games (Kahuna, Caesar & Cleopatra, etc.) This game ranks as one of my favorite for luring unsuspecting friends into the joys of non-domestic boardgaming.
I agree with most of the comments below. Yes, its essentially a variant of solitaire, but hey, pretty colors.
My friend and I enjoy playing it, with one caveat: when the time comes to score, we roll our eyes and estimate. The scoring system is really irritating. Have a calculator handy.
What can I say? This is a great game. Being a fan of complex, strategic games, I thought Lost Cities would just be a simple game to enjoy with my wife, not with a bunch of guys on a game night. I couldn't have been more wrong.
Although this is not the ideal game to pull out for a big game night (only 2 players), it offers enormous depth of play, and consistently presents its players with difficult decisions to make. Should you begin an expedition now, or wait for an investment card? And if you wait, how long do you wait? That draw deck is getting smaller.
As for the complaints about this game, I think they are trivial at best. I, for one, don't mind paying a few extra dollars for a nice looking game with attractive components. It adds atmosphere to the game, and helps enhance the whole experince. Also, while there probably seem to be tougher decisions in the first half of the game (much harder to discard), the latter half offers up some tough ones of its own. Is it too late to start a new expedition? Should I hold out for a few more cards before I play the 10? And the decisions go on and on....
I know this may sound simple, but the key to determining if a game is really good or not is this: how much do I want to play it? I find myself 'wanting' to like many games, and for some reason or another, they just don't hold my interest. Lost Cities keeps begging for one more game--it plays quickly, keeps my interest, and constantly forces me to make tough choices. It's a winner in my book, even if it's not a war game with a 1000 pieces.
A wonderful two player game, Lost Cities has filled a void in our gaming group. Easy to learn rules (basically one page) are combined with the beautiful artwork of the cards. After several playings, I am still learning new strategies of when to hold cards, when to start an expedition, as well as when to discard. To be fair, however, I feel that this game is more of an 'occasional' rather than a 'constant' play game. Thus the four star rating as opposed to five. Lost Cities does play quickly--we completed three rounds (games) of play in less than an hour. A big plus for those who want a quick game before the heavier stuff begins.
Others have mentioned the 'useless' board. And while it's not really necessary to the game, it does help in keeping the discard piles separate. As for the higher price, I'd rather pay a little more for a good game than a little less for one that will wind up in the trash.
This is quite an enjoyable game if you're looking for a light, two-player game. It's a good adult game, and although I haven't played it with my kids (ages 8 and 11) yet, I expect them to be able to catch on pretty easily as long as I help them with their scoring at the end of each round.
In its favor, the rules are extremely simple, it plays quickly, the components are well made, there's a nice blend of luck and skill, and there's more strategy than you'd expect or realize at first. On the downside, it's just a bit expensive for a card game.
Concerning some of the more common criticisms:
Board is useless - Unnecessary, true; but useless, no. It adds a nice look and feel to the game and helps keep the three rows of five cards neatly aligned.
Solitaire for two - If you think so, you're not comprehending the subtle interaction brought about by the common discard/draw piles and draw deck, and each player's visible play area and hidden hand. Give it some more thought.
Playable with a standard deck of cards - Where'd you get a five suited deck of cards? All right... I suppose you could play a four suited variation with 2 through 10 as the expedition cards and face cards as the investment cards, but I think that would alter the play of the game significantly, and it sure wouldn't have the same wonderful look and feel.
Overall, I highly recommend this game, with respect to my comments above.
This is a card game dressed in an adventure game format. When you first read the page of rules your first reaction will probably be, 'That's it?' Only with some play will you see how the strategy and timing of the game are essential. A 'Beer and Pretzels' game with a good blend of skill and chance.
Upon opening the Lost Cities package and first reading the rules my reaction was an incredulous 'so that's it?!' Given my past good experiences with Knizia's designs, however, I decided to give the game a shot.
I'm very glad I did so.
Behind this deceptively simple (verging on simplistic) facade is a devilishly subtle game. What appears at first glance to be merely a two-player solitaire game with little to no player interaction turns out to be a game with lots of player interaction -- just none of it direct. As a result, Lost Cities is now a game which has outdone almost all of my other lunch-time-at-work games. (It very neatly supplanted Kahuna, taking the second place narrowly behind [page scan/se=0478/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Button Men in requested games.)
So why am I giving it only four stars? Well, the game is pricy and it is pricy because of the completely unnecessary board. It looks pretty, but it jacks up the price needlessly.
At first blush, I was vary wary of Lost Cities, but once you play a few times you find a really great game underneath.
The object of the game is to complete expeditions that will score enough points to make them worthwhile to undertake. Each of five expeditions has cards worth points from 2-10 and three investment cards (handshakes) that act as multipliers for the final expedition score. Game play is very much like rummy except that you play your card or discard, before you draw. You can either play on one of your expeditions or discard to the middle, and then you draw. The round ends when the last card has been drawn (both players are able to count the remaining cards in the draw pile) and scoring begins.
A poor expedition will cost you negative points, while the high scoring expeditions can score big with the handshake cards.
The choices over whether to play on your own expeditions or to the discard pile are very interesting. Do you start an expedition you are weak in or discard a potentially useful card for your opponent? Do you draw from the draw pile or draw from one of the discard piles to extend the round and perhaps score a few extra points?
For such a simple game, it has amazing depth and feel and provokes a lot of thought during the game on the best approach. It is best to play at least three rounds to even out the luck factor as with any card game, but three rounds can be played in 30 minutes and the rules are very clear and are picked up quickly by a family member or dedicated gamer.
I'm not a big fan of rummy type games, but this Knizia offering has won me over. A must buy that can be played and enjoyed by anyone anywhere.
At first glance, I thought this game would be too simplistic to enjoy. Well, since Reiner Knizia is the deisgner, I should have known better! LOST CITIES is a nifty little card game that moves quickly, yet offers plenty of challenges for both players.
You start the game by beginning expeditions (there are 5 possible per side) that hopefully will turn a profit for you later. How much to invest (done via the 'handshake' cards), and when to start up, are some of the crucial early decisions you will have to make. Over invest in a poor expedition, and you can lose many points. Don't invest enough, and your advantage will probably only be marginal.
In the mid-game, both sides advance their ventures, while trying to deny high value cards (numbered 2 through 10) to their opponents. Sometimes, an expedition started late can be quite profitable as you continue to draw, and also possibly accumulate your opponent's discards.
Near the end game, the number of remaining cards left in the draw pile is of prime concern--once the deck is exhausted, the round ends. Whether to select a discarded card (thus extending the round), or to take the top one off the deck (thus bringing the round closer to the end) becomes just as important as the final cards you play from your hand. Foresight is important since when the round ends, unplayed cards will be worthless.
After a recommended 3 rounds (about 30 minutes of play time), the game ends, and the highest total score wins.
LOST CITIES is an attractive, finely tuned game that requires timing and balance. The rules are so short (actually, not much longer than this review), grognards and newbies alike can dive right in. Heck, some of the most enjoyable games I've recently played have been with my 8 year old son, and for that alone, LOST CITIES is almost priceless.
I don't know how much Rio Grande Games has 'invested' in the production of LOST CITIES, but I for one hope that they reap a high profit from this 'expedition' into fun family gaming for us all.
I bought this game to play with my girlfriend. We have played a few times now, and the first time we played it was terribly intense. We were agonizing over every decision and it took over an hour to play one game. Subsequent playings have not lasted as long and frankly have not been as engaging. Decisions turn out to be generally quite simple, although sometimes interesting situations arise in which you might need to give your opponent a card she needs because it's the only card you can play at the time, or you have to end your own expedition with fewer points than you would like.
I give this game 3.5 stars because it is a nice quick play and there is a good amount of decision-making, without too much complication.
I am an avid gamer, and often play games multiple times trying to find a niche in different circles I run through.
This one is great for those folks who don't like to learn many rules, who find it hard to pay attention for more than 10 minutes, and like a bit of chance in their games (but not all chance).
I play if fairly regularly when I don't feel like thinking anymore or if the person I'm trying to kill time with has those feelings. It's pretty predictable and whatever is dealt comes out. There is a bit of strategy in what is held, but unless you haven't played the game before.. it's really a pound of luck, with out the completely random feeling that makes one's brain despair.
Decent. Repeatable. Not on the Yard sale chopping block and not something I'd warn folks against. Just not much really to say that's great about it either. Great for kids who can count to 15 and order things, so a bit more than my 4 year old nephew can get, but I'll give him 1-2 more years for that.
The Bad: As said before, it is an overpriced card game. The board is not needed. It would have been a 4 otherwise.
The Good: When I first read the instructions I thought it was going to be the worst game I ever played. I was wrong. It was very enjoyable. My also wife loves it. This game has hidden stategies and complexities that make it extremly challenging.
Although this is one of my husband's favourite games, I have always found it a little boring and even fustrating because there is only one round of cards and it doesn't allow you to build any strategy. Coupled with a very strange scoring system it's not a game to buy if you're looking for a good 30-60 minute sit down. Realistically it wil take just 10 minutes to play. If you want a silly fast no-thinking game this could be the one for you.
Not what I expected. its a fun game, but you can easily turn your brain off, you dont really need to think...if you looking for something challenging, dont buy this game. Advice from a serious gamer, this is definitly not the best 2 player game. Solitaire for 2 players is the best description. There are lots of other 2 player games that will challenge you.
We like this game but do not love it. It's pretty fun, fast-paced, and surprisingly challenging. I have yet to figure out the line between overly cautious and too reckless. Mistakes are punished more harshly than good decisions are rewarded, so it can be a little discouraging when you get down by 50 points or so in the first round!
My friend and I alternated playing this and then Schotten-Totten, both by Knizia. Too much luck of the draw here, and more places to spot your cards and think wisely in Schotten-Totten. More glamor in the layout here and bigger cards, but strategy doesn't hold its weight and Schotten-Totten would get the vote.
This game was kind of fun and interesting the first couple times that I played. It didn't take long, however, for the weak theme to completely wear off and leave me with a frustrating card game.
I judge a game simply on how much I enjoy playing it (whether I'm winning or losing). Is the player interaction fun? Do I have opportunities to be clever? Am I having a good time playing? In this game, I would have to say 'no' on all counts. Throughout the game you are constantly faced with frustrating decisions by being forced to play or discard every turn when doing so can only hurt you. Do I give my oppenent a card I know she needs? Do I play it myself and take a small loss? Do I play a high expedition card on one that I started because I have nothing between a 2 and an 8.
Now the deck starts getting low and you have too many cards to still play before the deck runs out. This is where the game becomes stressful. I still need to draw another yellow to make points. I still have to play 4 blues to make points. I get enough deadlines at work. I don't need to come home and deal with them. I am a great lover of games, but simply do not enjoy this one very much. A card game that I found to be much more fun is King of the Elves. It is a 2-6 player game which plays very well with just 2 players.
Lost Cities could very well be characterized as a two player solitaire game. The idea of the game is to create expeditions to explore Lost Cities, but the theme is almost irrelevant. Lost Cities is basically a card game where the cards you have played must be worth more than the opponents' to win.
The components of the game are of good quality. The card graphics are very good, with an interesting style. The only question mark comes with the inclusion of the totally superfluous board. The board could have easily been excluded and the package size (and price) reduced accordingly.
The rules are very clear and include a scoring example to clarify the slightly unique scoring method.
The gameplay is quick. I (and others, I've noticed) have found the play to be very luck dependent--too much, in my opinion. It is difficult to plan much strategy when the cards you will receive after the initial deal are basically random. You must keep an eye on your opponents' played cards and play accordingly, but most of the time the card you will play is pretty obvious. There is no real interaction between the players and the gameplay becomes almost automatic.
I've played Lost Cities maybe 10 or 12 times. I find it middle-of-the-road--interesting enough for a quick filler game when there's a few minutes free, but not engaging enough to keep my interest.
'A fine game that you will continue to play over time. But if you don't already own Caesar and Cleopatra, buy that first.'
I purchased this game about 9 months ago and have played it 20 times or so. Without a doubt, this game offers fairly deep strategy combined with luck and risk taking.
The player will find that he must take some bold risks very early in the game--often without great justification for doing so (in terms of the information in his hand). Much of the game the player finds himself sweating over whether or not the right combination of cards will turn up. If they do, the player gets a handsome reward, otherwise he is severely penalized.
I give the game high marks for originality. Although the deck is a glorified deck of ordinary playing cards with an extra suit, it is a clever invention. I find the gameplay enjoyable and satisfying. Winning makes me feel like I outsmarted my opponent despite what lucky cards I drew throughout the game. If one player happens to get a lucky draw of cards, however, victory is virtually assured.
Despite these good marks, there are a couple of areas where the game does not succeed with me. One is the theme, the other is the value. In reading the marketing blurb, I had the impression that the game involved travel, exploration and adventure. What I found was that the theme is a very thin veneer covering an abstract strategy game. While I enjoy abstract strategy games greatly, it is not what I expected and I believe the theme fails for this game. (See alternative theme below).
I also found this game disappointing in terms of value. I spent $18 on a glorified deck of cards with a superfluous (read useless) gameboard. As mentioned by another reviewer, the game can be played easily with an ordinary deck of cards.
A preferable alternate theme:
Each round represents a fiscal year for two competing venture funds.
As a venture capitalist, it is my duty to analyze 5 companies and assign them a rating of 0-3 stars (represented by investor cards) based on my belief of their future success. Once investment begins, no further rating is useful (or allowed). It is also my duty to organize support for the companies at various investment levels. Numbered cards represent potential investor interest at different funding levels. There are 10 funding levels: $100,000 - $1,000,000 represented by the cards numbered 1-10. Investment levels always increase. For example, once a company is at the $500,000 investment level, it never would regress back to a lesser investment level. To do so, would risk investor confidence in the company. In order to profit from the investment, a company must IPO--and for that, a total investment of 2 million dollars is required.
The scoring system is my annual bonus in hundreds of thousands of dollars. The higher rating I gave to a company, the higher my investment multiplier. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true. Unlike all of the investment firms in the world that I know of, if my venture project fails, it comes right out of my paycheck (negative score).
The winner is the player who has collected the most money over a five year career.
This game has gotten a staggering positive response in a lot of the gaming press, and I think it's easy to see why. It has that elusive combination of extremely simple rules and very challenging and engaging play. You are always presented with difficult choices, and are often in the position of having to select, from a variety of options, which is least bad. This means it always feels like the pressure is on, and errors are always punishing.
Unfortunately, this very interesting decision-making masks the fact that it is very close to two-player solitaire. Sure, there is some player interaction in that your opponent can pick up your discards, but decisions in this respect are always straightforward and there is (in my experience anyway) very little bluffing or direct competition.
This means that sometimes it seems in the end like you are just playing out the string. There is a touch of give and take in the early game, but after that, once the expeditions are started and players are heading down a course of action, there just isn't a lot there.
There is still a lot to like in this game as the other reviewers have clearly pointed out. It's a good and clever game which plays quickly and keeps you interested. Is it worth $15-$20 for a game that is essentially just a game you could play with a standard deck of cards, and is not clearly a huge improvement over traditional 2-player card games like Rummy? I dunno. I'm not complaining - I'll get my money's worth, and I'm a sucker for good-looking games, which this certainly is - but if you're looking for good 2-player games I'd be sure to check out Samurai, the Settlers Card Game, El Cabellero, GIPF, TAMSK, or Druidenwalzer before deciding for sure on this one. Those games are all a bit more complex and/or longer, and for the most part lack Lost Cities' elegant simplicity, but might have more long-term appeal. Depends on what you like.
This game has three things going for it:
- It's short. A game can effectively be played in 10 or 15 minutes. Just right for a quick break when you don't have time for something more.
- 2. It's simple. The rules can be learned in 5 minutes and it can be taught to nearly anyone.
- 3. It's fun. For such a short and simple game, this one is quite fun. There is certainly some strategy mixed with a bag of luck.
The only drawback (and the reason it got 3 stars and not 4) was that it was slightly overpriced. This is not a board game - although it came with a small fold-out playing board which is completely inconsequential to this game. This one is basically a card game and would have been more attractive at a typical card-game price. Still, it's getting plenty of playing time so I'll recommend it for those looking for a quick and easy game to play!
I am afraid I found Lost Cities very overrated. It's not a bad game, but I would only call it fair. It's a game with negligible theme and is simply cards with numbers where your fate is in Mistress Luck's capricious hands. There are many more fun luck-based games out there, and there are many better 2-player games out there from Kosmos.
Kahuna, Flowerpower, and Druidenwalzer, all of which are generally not as recommended as Lost Cities, I enjoy exponentially more. I'm not sorry I own Lost Cities but I do find it a bit dry and overrated for me to ever be eager to play it.
Boring, luck is in control of 90% of the game. I wanted to like it. I played it with my girlfriend 5-6 times over the last 4 months. I, yawn, excuse me. I just played a game and the opium-like effect of the game is still hanging like a London fog in the cobwebs of my unused mind. This is a game that will appeal to the non-thinking crowd. Perhaps if I play this game anymore I shall run the risk of falling face down if a puddle of my own drool. For my own health I wish to avoid drowning in this manner so I will be forced to place the game in the far dusty reaches of my game room.
The game is fun but it is without a doubt nothing more than a traditional/public domain solitaire card game with an extra added suite. Knizia could release a custom version of 52 card pick-up and it would sell like hot cakes as long as it had his typically high production values. For originality and complexity, this game could just as easily have come off the back of a cereal box.
OK, I'll preface all the nastiness by saying the game is actually kind of fun. It's an alright way to kill some time after a long day at work and when you don't feel like thinking much anymore... But in every area upon which one could judge a game, Lost Cities falls down.
1) Strategy is practically non-existent. Very disappointing from Knizia.
2) The value is crap. 15 dollars for cards? And the setting is so generic and the cards so standard that Lost Cities can essentially be played with a pack of Bicycle playing cards if you like.
3) Replay value is lousy. The game-play is very repetitive, and after a few games you'll feel like a robot going through the motions rather than an innovative strategy gamer forming a plan out of the void.
Again, the game is a decent way to kill time. So is sleeping: it's just about as stimulating and it costs less. If I were you, I'd do myself a favor and pick up Hera and Zeus, if I were looking for a good two player strategy game and didn't mind paying 10+ dollars for pieces of cardboard.
With all the good things said about this game, I thought I'd love it. And you know what? The game is filled with tough decisions (which I like); it does have nice art; it does have an enduring quality. But it has no theme! I could play this game with a deck of cards, and that, to me, is no good. On top of that, the game is overpriced because of the extraneous board they put in.
I have heard that Schotten Totten is a very similar game by the same designer, Reiner Knizia, but it is cheaper and more accessible. I would have to say, sight unseen, that Schotten Totten is the better game (and certainly the better value).
I have to give this game 2 stars because I find that while I will play it, I never want to, and try and suggest something else. And this is not a family game either, which is a huge drawback for me. Overall, I would say that if you want an inexpensive, fun, two-player game, try Hera & Zeus (also in the Kosmos line.) And if you really think you'll still like Lost Cities, buy Schotten Totten so you don't feel ripped off.
Well, I'm writing this review after playing 7 games of 3 rounds each (plus a few random hands to kill time.) Of these 7 games, I have won 1 of them. Now I tend to think of myself as decent board gamer, not great, but decent. I think I understand the strategy of this game, and have compared it with the people who have beaten me, to find our strategies to be very similar. However, I would also like to point out that I am known for having bad luck. (An example: While playing Settlers of Catan, 4 out of 5 times, if I have 8 cards in my hand when it comes to my turn, I will roll a 7.) This is just something I have to adjust for, so I'm prejudiced against games with a high luck factor.
This brings us to the luck factor of Lost Cities, I would say that this game is at least 75% luck, probably much more, which to me is a huge negative. As an example, in the last 2 games I have played one of the rounds had the other player getting all the high cards. One time it was four 10s, three 9s and a few 8s, this makes it very hard for me to score anything at all. The other time he got all five 10s, four 9s and four 8s, making it next to impossible for me to score in any color. I still managed to squeak out with a positive score, which says to me that I understand the strategy, enough to not get a negative score.
Other than the luck factor, it's a very pretty game. I also like the game mechanics and the time that it takes to play, fits well into my lunch hour. However, when this game is played between 2 players of equal skill, it is basically a quick version of War.
From the reviews below, it appears that people tend to think better of the game the more they play it. I'll admit that after a dozen games, I'm still at the stage where it feels like two-person solitaire. I don't think that I will have the chance to play any more, though. Whenever I suggest Lost Cities, my friends make faces and groan about the complex scoring system. Maybe, coming to appreciate this game is like seeking enlightenment. It takes dedication and a long period of boredom first.
Simple rules and deep but fun gameplay aside, this is essentially an overdressed basic cardgame that can be played just as easily with a standard deck of cards. I will admit that the oversize cards are beautiful, but as others have pointed out, the board is completely unnecessary.
My wife and I enjoyed this game for awhile, but it ran out of steam quickly. We've found much better games that have lasted the test of time.
Admittedly there's a bit more to this game than most of the 'German Invasion' type games but honestly I don't see what the hype is all about. I played this once and was bored stiff. I played a few more times to see if I was missing something. Nope. This game has nice graphics and some neat game mechanics, but in general it's overpriced fare for people who have money to burn on a game that's just not all that challenging or fun. As for the lost cities theme, I just didn't get any sense that I was playing the part of an explorer - the whole theme seems tacked-on. I felt this game could just as easily have been about cooking or building robots.
I also don't understand why this game is rated so highly. It can be played with 2 decks of regular cards and the same rules without buying the game, and it's still a pretty pedestrian card game.
This game was a waste of money. I don't understand why anyone would say it's "addictive." I got it for my husband for Christmas. We opened it, and its just a simple board with cards. That's it. And it's boring to play. Oh, we might play it every now and then, just so we don't feel like we wasted our money entirely, but really, it's just not fun at all. Total waste.
I can sympathize with the previous reviewer. This game was so talked up my wife and I played at least 30 games thinking we would eventually find some exciting hidden aspect of the game that we must be missing. It's not that it's terrible, it's just that it is absolutely nothing special. And I'm definitely not missing anything strategy wise. There are so many other two player games that are out there (e.g. Lord of the Rings: Confrontation, Hera and Zeus, Castle, Ceasar and Cleopatra, Battleline, etc..).
I guess I bought this game with out much knowledge of what it was all about. It was billed as the best two player game around. It dosent seem to have much interaction between players. My girlfriend plays on hers and I play on my side. It ends and we add up our results and we do it again. And again. And again. We are supposed to play to 3000 but I cant handle it. I am used to ravensberger games like tikal and other board games where there are choices and different ways to play. All this game comes with are some cards with numbers. I guess like many others it come out as an expensive big carded solitaire. I dont know what I wanted but I think it was more smiles, and sense of me playing against her. I fear what other kosmos games are like. If someone knows what I am missing
I have played this and Hera and Zeus from Kosmos' two-player card game series. I must say that Hera and Zeus is a much more interesting game. This game is basically dull and tedious. If you enjoy long stretches of yawning and wishing you were somewhere else doing something else, then this is the game for you. Otherwise, take my advice and steer clear.
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.