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Subject: Category 5 Review rss

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Darin Stephenson
United States
Holland
Michigan
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Category 5 is the hurricane-themed English language version of the game originally published as 6 Nimmt! Aside from the theme, which has no impact on the gameplay, the two games are nearly identical.

Object: Be the player with the fewest points when at least one player exceeds 74 points. (Tropical storm winds must reach 74 mph in order for the storm to be classed a Category 1 hurricane.)

Components: A good quality, durable deck of 104 cards, numbered 1 to 104. Each card has from 1 to 7 hurricane flags on it: most cards have only 1 flag, cards ending in 5 (5, 15, 25, ...) have 2 flags, cards ending in 0 (10, 20, 30, ...) have 3 flags, cards that are multiples of 11 (11, 22, 33, ...) have 5 flags, and card 55 has 7 flags. (That's an average of about 1.65 flags per card.)

Players: 2 to 10. I've tried the game with 2, 3, 4, and 7, and it plays well. I believe it would play equally well with any number from 2 to 10.

Mechanics: The cards are shuffled, and 10 cards are randomly dealt to each player. 4 more cards from the deck are then placed on the table initiate the 4 rows of cards. Simultaneously, each player chooses one card from his/her hand and places it face down on the table. The cards are revealed, and players play in order, from lowest numbered card played to highest. When it comes a player's turn to place the card they have selected, one of two things happens (a) if the player's card is a lower number than the last card in each of the 4 rows, the player must choose one of the rows of cards to take -- the player's card then becomes the first card in a new row, or (b) if the player's card is higher than the last card in one or more rows, then the player must play the card on the row whose last card is lower than the player's card, but as close as possible in numerical value to the player's card. In this way, there is a unique spot for a card to be placed, and rows are always built from low numbered cards to high. If a player is forced to play the 6th card in any row, the player immediately must take the entire row, and the player's card becomes the first card in a new row. Once all players have played their selected cards, a new round starts, with each player again selecting a card to play. Play continues until all players are out of cards. A player's score for the hand is equal to the number of flags on the cards he/she has taken. Points are recorded and, if no player has yet exceeded 74 points, cards are reshuffled and a new hand is dealt.

Rules: The rules are well written, and the game takes only about 5 minutes to explain.

Overall recommendation: This game offers a terrific amount of fun with a low pricetag (my copy was $6), short play time (30 minutes) and easy-to-learn rules. The game works well as a light filler for a gaming crowd, or a more general group of non-gamers. While the game is somewhat unpredictable, it still offers options for strategic play, and there are always several points during the game at which I feel the choices are not at all obvious. I would consider this game a "must-have" for any gaming family or game group. When you're in the mood for light, quick fun with some interesting choices, games don't get much better. As a matter of personal preference, I like fillers that are a little more meaty (Knizia's High Society comes to mind), but I still would gladly play Category 5 any time.

Variant: There are a number of interesting official and unofficial variants of the game. One of the most interesting, in my opinion, is called "Variant 1" in the game rules. In this variant, you don't use all 104 cards, but only cards numbered 1 to n, where n is (10 times the number of players) plus 4. Thus, every card is dealt, either on the table or in a player's hand. Our game group has tried this variant a few times, and it really decreases the randomness of the game, and gives more opportunity for clever play. I wouldn't recommend this variant for a group of non-gamers, but serious game-players will find that it adds depth to the game without sacrificing any of the fun.
 
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Richard Hutnik
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Variant 1 (the tactical version) actually turns 6 Nimmt into an interesting 2 player game. I remember trying it once, for giggles, and it worked out well.
 
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