Play Games - Interact - Have Fun!
This Bidding/Trick Taking/Trump variant of the card game Oh Hell is a perfect example of a good card game being made into a great "board" game. The deck consists of 5 colors of cards numbered 1-10. You are dealt a hand (# of cards varies each turn) and then bid on how many "tricks" you will win during the ensuing round. After the deal, the top card is turned over which becomes "Trump" for this round of play. Like other trump based games, you must "follow in color" (play the same color card) of the card that was "led" (the 1st card played by the player to the dealer's left) unless you don't have any of that color which allows you to play any color you desire.
The idea is to have the highest value card of the color led after everyone has played a card (which constitutes a "trick"). For example, if someone plays a BLUE 5, the next player plays a BLUE 3, the next a BLUE 7 and finally the last player (who has no BLUE) plays a GREEN 5 - then the player with the BLUE 7 takes all the cards and wins this trick. If the last player had a card of the Trump color (let's say trump was RED, he could play ANY RED card to "steal" the trick away from the player with the BLUE 7. The key thing to remember with Trump cards is that ANY trump card (even the lowest value card of 1, will beat ANY card of the led color. So a RED 1 will still steal the trick if a BLUE 10 had been played. The key to winning is to evaluate your hand properly and Bid correctly.
Unlike other card games with a cribbage board, Canyon uses a game board that is designed like a river flowing through a steep canyon and the players markers are canoes instead of pegs. Canyon also throughs a few wrenches into moving your marker or canoe. In this game, you move your marker based upon your relationship to where the dealer sits, so the person leading will move first and the dealer last. This means you could get a great hand, bid correctly and win it and then STILL not be able to move due to being blocked by another player. BLOCKED? Yes, the board itself is also different than a cribbage board as it widens and narrows (the canyon landscape) and it has obstacles on it as well. Some areas allow only one canoe through at a time and you are NOT allowed to jump another opponent, so maneuvering to block the others is also key to winning.
You get to move 1 space for each trick you win and you also get extra movement bonuses for bidding correctly - but you must hit your bid exactly to get the bonus, otherwise its just one space per trick you took. Sometimes, it doesn't hurt YOU to take more than what you bid, but it does prevent someone else from getting all the tricks they need - another good strategy.
Finally, on the last portion of the board (the Waterfall) you are only allowed to move the BONUS amount - ignoring the number of tricks you have taken. You MUST get your bid exactly otherwise you cannot move forward and are moved towards the waterfall inthe direction of the current marked on the board (pushing others along with you). This section does a couple of things, it slows down the winners (slower people can catch up) and it forces the leaders to bid well to win - two great design mechanics to help prevent runaway victories.
Games are fast and fun and often the person in last place most of the game sneaks through to victory. There was (still is?) a free expansion from Rio Grande that adds Indian "personalities" to the game which give players a special ability for one turn (jumping, pushing, miss bid by one, ect...). This "expansion" balances the game even further as the player in last place get's 1st pick of the Indians (and that player needs help the most!)and the player in 1st place usually gets one that is of little or no help.
My group thoroughly enjoys Canyon and it's suitable for the younger set too as my 8 and 9 year old niece and nephew play it (maybe not with all the nuance of an adult). Give it a try, you may find that Canyon to be an exhilarating ride!