AbluXXen, a card game from Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling that German publisher Ravensburger released in January 2014. I'll say a bit more about the game after this rules explanation and overview video:
Since recording that video a few days ago, I've played another four games, all in a single session, which came about because someone who had played previously insisted that his wife learn the game (despite her being tired and wanting to leave the game store), so I taught her and another new player and as soon as we finished — with her winning by a point over the other newbie — she pushed the cards at me and said, "Let's play again".
That's the kind of reaction I've had with the game personally and from others. The first game is fumbly and awkward, with you staring at the jumble of numbers in hand and not being sure what to do — but everything clicks after a few turns once you've seen your stolen cards sunning themselves with others of their kind in an opponent's playground. "What the...? You are going to pay, sucker!" Or stuff gets stolen, and you realize that you're upgrading in the process, perhaps not making progress now but readying a high-powered card missile for imminent launch once someone else lays down a few cards that look tasty for you.
After two games, she left and we had a pair of five-player games, this time with everyone already having played previously. Games with five are shorter because (1) you're pulling 13 more cards from the deck before the game even begins and (2) you tend to have more stealing/discarding, both of which make stealing a higher risk — but if you don't steal, you probably have no chance of winning unless you fly through your cards and catch everyone else with full pockets. So much tension!
Who knows? We have another ten months to go before wrapping up 2014, and I'm sure to find something else that piques my interest like this game, right? One can hope so anyway...
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