Rating ZMan's deluxe card game collection
Martin Larouche
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Longueuil
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ZMan / Filosofia have put out a collection of "deluxe card games", recently expanded with the release of Arboretum.

I've taken a look at this series and discovered insanely fun little games.

Here's how i see them.
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1. Board Game: Black Spy [Average Rating:6.27 Overall Rank:3434]
Martin Larouche
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The first of the games released in this line is also, IMO, the weakest.

A reprint of Alan Moon's old game, this is little more than the card game "Hearts" with awesome pictures on the cards.

However, there is 5 suits of cards (instead of 4), listed 1 to 11. The black cards are the one to avoid. This one has 6 cards with number 7, which are worth a lot of negative points.
Getting other suit's number 7 cards would provide you with +5 points. So you want those, but risk opening the way for all the black negatives...

These little twists makes this game much better than the old "Hearts". I'd play this over it anytime of day.

... but at the end, it's the poorest in this line of card games.
 
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2. Board Game: Sky Tango [Average Rating:6.38 Overall Rank:3318]
Martin Larouche
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Sky Tango was orignially known as Sonne und Mond.

It's basically 2 suits of cards (called "sun" and "moon") numbered 1 to 29, with 2 sets of 5 eclipse cards in the two suit's colors.

You have to put the cards in front of you in ascending order in each of two lines for both suits. You can play on your own tableau or on your opponent's. This creates lots of "take that" moments in this game, where if your opponent plays a "1", you could play a "29" on him. Since you can only play to the left or right of those cards, this would effectively prevent him from playing anymore cards in that suit.

Eclipse cards can be used to cover one of your cards, which can be used to "unblock" your line (like covering the "29" in the above example so it doesn't exist anymore).

It's a luck-prone game. But it's still a good one (if far from the best in this series of games).

My personal number 5 in this collection.
 
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3. Board Game: Chimera [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:2332]
Martin Larouche
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This is basically the game "Tichu" build for 3 players.

One player will get to become the Chimera, while the other two will have to partner to take him down.

I put this in the "not as good as Tichu, but still a great game if you only have 3 players".

My personal number 4 in this collection.
 
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4. Board Game: Tichu [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:123]
Martin Larouche
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Probably due to licensing rights, only the french version from Filosofia seems to exists in this series of card games (even though the insert is labelled "ZMan Games" in my copy).

I think Tichu doesn't need presentation as it's still sitting in the top 100 here on the geek after many, many years.

Awesome game.

My personal number 3 in this collection.
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5. Board Game: Arboretum [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:358]
Martin Larouche
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The newest release in this series.

This one's harder to describe as there's a lot going on in this game.

It's essentially 10 suits numbered 1 to 8. Each turn, you have to play a card next to another one in front of you (horizontally or vertically), forming your arboretum each turn. At the end of the game, each "path" of trees that starts with a card of a suit and ends with a card of the same suit will score you points... but only if you still have in your hand a majority in card values of the suit for your path amongst the players.

It's a very complex game (for what looks like a simple card game) that may be prone to analysis paralysis, but you'll be surprised at how much a little card game like this can do.

My personal #2.
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6. Board Game: Parade [Average Rating:6.94 Overall Rank:690]
Martin Larouche
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A reprint of a recent-ish game, Parade is my number 1.

6 colors of cards numbered 0 to 10, and that's it.

Cards are placed in line in the middle of the table. Each turn, you play a card from your hand at the end of the line. You can't touch a number of cards equal or less than the number on the card you played. In all the other cards, you take those with a value equal or lower to the card played or in the same color.

Thing is, all cards taken are worth negative points. The line of cards will get so long you'll have no choice but to take some of them at one point (unless you're really lucky). At the end of the game, if you have the most cards in a suit, those cards only cost 1 negative point. Otherwise, they are worth their full value, as indicated on the cards.

In the end game, you'll select two cards to add to your collected cards, meaning you'll never be sure if you do have the majority to cancel high-scoring cards you don't want.

A simple game, but full of strategy. Do you try to get as little? If you have to take some... do you take high values in a single suit, hoping to get majority or do you take cards with lower value, hoping your opponents will get more?

Can't recommend this game enough. The artwork is phenomenal.
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