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Subject: Double or Nothing Review rss

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Mike Petty
United States
Lapeer
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Game Information

Designed by Reiner Knizia, published by Uberplay in 2006.
For 3 to 6 players, ages 10 and up.
Playing time is 20 minutes.

Double or Nothing is a push-your-luck game with graphics based on the standard four suits—spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs.

Overview
My guess is Uberplay was hoping this game would catch the attention of non-gamers and card players. If so, I think they succeeded by providing a quick diversion that keeps everyone involved.

The game is extremely simple to learn. Make sure one or two experienced players get a turn before the newbies take theirs and everyone can learn how to play just by watching. Knizia, being a man of numbers, can always be trusted to make some tricky decisions based on probabilities. So, the simple rules and tense decisions will likely appeal to a wide range of players, at least for a few times through the game.

Complaints? The graphics are quite dull and the cards are really thin. I’m curious to know the production story behind this one, since this is not the usual fare for Uberplay.

Rule Summary
It's all about having the most points at the end of the game. Most of a player's points will come from the symbols (the familiar four card suits) that show up on a row of face up cards. Any suit that appears an each card, from the leftmost card to the very end of the row, forms a “line” that can score points for a player. Each symbol in the lines counts as one point. A card that is added to the end of the row may break a line, meaning it doesn’t have that line’s symbol on it. That means that line won’t score points for anyone for the rest of the round. Furthermore, when a player chooses to reveal a card, then he finds it doesn’t continue any existing lines, that player is out of the round. And that brings us to the main choice of the game.

On a turn, a player will decide if he’ll reveal one more card and add it to the line, thus staying in the round, or if he’ll stop and take the points currently showing in the line. If he flips a card over and no current lines are extended, he’s out. Likewise, if he takes the points he’s out. Each player has a chip in front of him with “In” and “Out” printed on it, so with a flip of the chip each player’s status can be clearly indicated.

The game builds to a nice climax each round because the last player in has to go “double or nothing”. In this case, it means he must flip two cards over and the points will be doubled if both cards continue at least one line. In our games, this usually results in “nothing”, but when the double’s happen, it can really get a player a lot of points.

There are a couple other twists well worth mentioning. Most notably, players receive three cards (yes, just three for the whole game) at the before play starts. Anytime a player would normally choose to reveal a card and add it to a row, he can play one of these cards from his hand instead. If you find yourself in the “double or nothing” situation, you can play one card from your hand, but not both. (At least one must be revealed randomly.) As you can see, though, these cards add a touch of control—but never quite as much as you’d like!

Lastly, there are seven bonus cards in the deck. These have numbers on them from three to seven. When a bonus card turns up, it adds that many points to the current value of the row. Bonuses aren’t doubled, though. Also, if two bonus cards come up the round ends immediately, offering no players who are still in a chance to get points. When the seventh bonus card turns up the game is over immediately. If it’s not immediately apparent, these twists add to the tension, making some decisions of staying in or taking the points all the harder.

Components
In the box you’ll find six wooden pawns, a score track, a short rule book and a deck of cards. The pawns are fine. The track is durable, but you’ll probably have to bend it backwards a little to get it to lie flat. The rules are simple and very clearly illustrated.

I’m not normally one to care much about graphics, but I have to say this game looks dull. I’ve seen it entertain non-gamers and cause some excitement, so they don’t completely destroy its charm.

What really shocked me, though, was how thin the cards are in this game. They have a durable linen finish, so they look to be high quality cards. In handling them and shuffling them, though, you’ll quickly find their quality to be less than the usual that we’ve seen from Uberplay. With this thin material, I question the wisdom of printing the card backs right to the edge of the cards. My deck already shows some wear and if the nicks and marks become too apparent on some cards, particularly the bonus cards, it can definitely impact the game.

Final Thoughts
All things considered, I like Double or Nothing. It plays very quickly and casual or non-gamers can learn it easily. I suspect I’ll play it with many different groups, especially with the folks I meet at our regular coffee shop game days. Though I’ve criticized its drab look, I can see the familiar symbols were chosen to make the game feel accessible, and that it does.

Regular groups of gamers will probably enjoy the first few romps through this latest Knizia release. We all like something new as a filler or a closer. I don’t see this game having much staying power for any single group, however, as there are so many stronger designs demanding time on the table.
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