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I admit it. I'm addicted to board games and I'm intent on dragging my family down with me. The latest addition to my collection was a used copy of Canyon, a trick-taking card game driven canoe racing game intended for 3 players ages 10 and up.
What You Get
~1 fold-out game board
~6 round wooden playing tokens that represent canoes
~1 black wooden marker
~30 tempo cards
~50 playing cards
~1 illustrated rulebook in several languages
How to Play
This game is a combination between a racing board game and a simple trick-taking card game. Players play a card game hand and the course of the hand determines how quickly they get to move down the river. The first player to get their playing piece all the way from the start of the race around a winding canyon, and through rapids to a landing space at the end wins the game. Bonuses are given for predicting the number of tricks you will take during any given hand.
To set up the game, have each player choose a color and place his chosen token on one of the 6 starting spots on the board. Give him the 5 "tempo" cards in his matching color. Place the black marker on the round chart on the board, on the space marked "1". Shuffle cards and deal 8 to each player for the start of the first round.
Course of Each Round
Each round of play consists of 5 phases:
1) Cards are dealt and a trump card is turned up.
2) Players look at their hands and predict how many tricks they think they will be able to take during that round. They declare their prediction by turning up the appropriate tempo card.
3) Players play the card game.
4) Players move their canoe markers down the river
5) The black round marker is moved 1 space on the chart
The Card Game
Determine who will be the first dealer. That person an equal number of cards to each player (in the first hand it is 8). The rest of the cards go into the center as the draw pile. The dealer then turns up the first card on that pile to reveal the color of the trump for that hand. Players then look at their hands to determine how many tricks they think they can take and display the appropriate tempo card. The player to the left of the dealer is the starting player for the hand. He chooses a card from his hand to lay face up on the board. In a clockwise direction, each of the other players also lays down 1 card. Players must follow suit if they can. If they can't, they can lay down any card they wish. They can play a trump card but are not required to. The trick is taken by the player who lays down the highest trump card. If no trump is played, the trick is won by the player who lays down the highest card in the starting suit. Once the trick is won, the winning player leads by laying down any card in his hand. Play continues until all cards in the players hands are exhausted.
Once the hand is over, it's time to move your canoes. Players move their canoes in the same order as the hand was played (starting player going first, then play going around the table clockwise). During the first part of the race, players move their canoes the number of spaces equal to the number of tricks they took during the round, plus the number of their bonus for accurate prediction. Movement proceeds this way on each round until players reach the rapids section near the end of the race. Once they reach this area, they only get to move forward if they predict their number of tricks exactly, and then they only move the number of bonus spaces. If they predict incorrectly, they are pushed one space by the rapids, in the direction of the waterfall. If they go over the waterfall they must start again at the top of the rapids. There are a few other rules for movement throughout the race, the most important being that no canoe can occupy the same space.
The Round Marker
After all canoes have moved, the round marker moves one space on the chart. As mentioned, the first round players have 8 cards. Each successive round players have 1 fewer card, until they are down to just 1 card. After this point, each successive round the number of cards is increased by one until the players have 8 cards again. Should the race still go on, the card numbers begin decreasing again. This can continue indefinitely. In order to keep track, the round marker is moved around the chart one space each round. This chart tells you how many cards are to be dealt on that hand.
What We Like
Trick-taking games are basically boring to me. However, they are simple, and combining a simple trick-taking game with a racing board game makes the whole thing quite fun. Rolling dice or spinning a spinner to determine movement would be boring. Playing a trick-taking card game is boring. Combining the two somehow creates good fun.
The Changing Rounds
The ever changing number of cards in a hand also adds to the variety in play. Some hands are short, some are long. The short hands rely on increased luck and you have less control over the results, but their effect on the movement of the race is less also. In the longer hands you have more control and more opportunity to jump ahead.
The first part of the race goes very quickly. I was surprised by how quickly in fact. Once players reach the rapids, though, things slow down quite a bit and get pretty interesting. I was worried that this would become frustrating or feel endless. But although you have to think a little harder about your predictions and players do occasionally go over the falls and are set back, but it's not endless or completely out of control. It took several hands for someone to get from the start of the rapids to the end of the race, but it didn't take too long, and only one of us went over the falls one time during our first play of the game.
Children and Adults Enjoy
Playing this game is simple enough that my 7 year old grasps it easily, but there is enough thinking involved that adults can enjoy it. It's a good family game in that way.
Time to Play
It takes us about an hour to get through this game with 3 players. The way it works with dividing the same number of available tricks amongst higher number of players, a game is going to take longer with more players. I'm not sure I'd want to play this game with 6 people, because of that. However, for the three of us, a game that takes about an hour is ideal for an evening where we only want to play one game.
What We Don't Like
The Board is Cheap
The cards are good quality and the wooden playing pieces and marker are also very nice. So, why is the board so flimsy? It's a small complaint in an otherwise nice game, but still it seems like they could have given us a thicker board.
I think the age rating of 10 and older on this game is ridiculous. The card game is extremely simple and my 7 year old has no trouble at all with it. The strategy of the game is very simple and there is enough luck involved that young children have just as much chance at winning as anyone else does.
I got this game for free, but I hear it retails for about $28.00. That seems about right for a game like this with wooden components, good cards, and even a cheaply made board.
Fans of card games and fans of racing games will enjoy this one. It's a good family game that can be enjoyed by both adults and children, and anyone in between.
I agree about the cheap board. Mine is still warped a little (on both sides). And I also agree that a better quality board would've been really nice.