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David DeVoss
United States
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Designer: Reiner Knizia
Publisher: Kosmos/ Rio Grande Games

Lost Cities: the Board Game (LC:tBG) is a hand management game based off of the original card game Lost Cities, both designed by Dr. Reiner Knizia. Most of the core game mechanics between the two games are the same, play or discard a card and then draw a card from either the deck or a discard pile. But the board game aspect of LC:tBG sets it apart.

The original Lost Cities is a 2 player card game where players go on "expeditions." A deck of 65 cards (numbers 1-10 and 3 x2 point multipliers in five different colors) is shuffled and eight cards are dealt to each player. Players go on expeditions by playing cards of a certain color in front of them, playing on top of colors already in front of them. A player can only play a higher card of a color expedition they have already started (a blue 6 can be played on a blue 5 but not a blue 7). However expeditions cost money, or in this case points, so when you start a color you automatically lose 20 points. These points are regained by playing more cards of the same color until the numbers on the cards add up to or higher than 20. Every expedition color adding over 20 will yield positive points to players and the player who has the most points wins. The game ends once the final card from the deck is drawn so be sure to manage your hand and keep an eye on the deck.

Honestly, Lost Cities is not a game I enjoy. I understand that the mechanics of the game are solid and the game has a well-deserved fan base. However, the hand management aspect of the game really wore me down through each play. I dislike holding on to high cards for as long as I can, playing them, and then immediately drawing a lower card of the same color. Another aspect I do not care for is the situation when I have a high card of the color that my opponent is going for, but no other cards of the color. I can't discard this card or my opponent will draw it from the discard pile and earn more points than they already have. Whenever I play Lost Cities I feel like my hand just gets bogged down with cards that don't benefit me, but I can't risk playing or discarding the cards. I know this is probably just poor hand management on my part, but it’s an experience that kills the enjoyment for me since it is the main mechanic. The final aspect I dislike in the original game is the seemingly arbitrary first expedition choice. Often I would be dealt a hand where I had the option to start several expeditions, but did not know which one to choose. I hated the feeling of starting one color and never seeing another card in that color except for what was already in my hand. The first expedition I start always seemed to be what I hope to draw in future turns with no real reason beyond that. For all of these reasons I found that I do not particularly care to play Lost Cities.

Now, dear reader, you may be thinking "I thought this was going to be about Lost Cities: the Board Game?" Well for a comparison review I have to talk about both. LC:tBG was first published in 2008, almost a decade after the original game was published. Because of my aversion to Lost Cities I did not play LC:tBG for several years after its release. The deck of LC:tBG is larger than that of the original (two copies of numbers 0-10 in five different colors) to accommodate the 2-4 player count. In this game each player receives 5 meeples (4 regular sized explorers and 1 large researcher). The meeples are used to follow the expedition track of each color. Now when you play a card you do not do so to increase a running total, you move your meeple farther along the expedition track of the color you played. No longer do you score points by adding up the total of your cards played, but points are earned for how far you make it down each track. The researcher meeple acts as a x2 point multiplier, and where ever the researcher ends you double the points. Again expeditions cost money points so the first 3 spaces on each track are worth negative points. While progressing each track your exploring meeples will cross certain tokens giving you some advantages. The tokens either award you extra points for reaching a certain space, give you a boost and let you move any meeple forward an extra space, or let you collect an artifact. Now when you cross a token it remains in place for other adventurers to use unless it is an artifact. These are removed from the board and collected because a good explorer knows they belong in a museum; just make sure it goes to the museum you are working for. Artifacts are worth a certain number of points based on how many are collected over three rounds (or a single round for a short game) adding a slight set collection aspect to the game.

Everything about LC:tBG seemed to fix the issues I had with the original game. The expedition tracks and tokens switched the importance from high numbered cards to low numbered cards. Now instead of scoring extra points high cards move your explorer just as far as a low card, but leave you with fewer options in future turns. Hand management is still the core mechanic of the game, but I no longer felt my hand getting bogged down with useless cards while the tokens and the track really gave me a starting place in each game. Even if I only had two cards of a certain color, I could play them to reach a boost for my researcher or grab an early artifact. Before I would just start on a color and hope that I would draw more of that color before the end of the game, now I don't feel as punished for starting an expedition because of the effects I can take advantage of.

I believe I am in the minority of my opinions of Lost Cities: the Board Game vs Lost Cities. Lost Cities is currently ranked 278 on BGG with an average rating of 7.13 while the board game is 792 with a rating of 6.85. However, I believe that the board game aspects of LC:tBG expands upon and even fix certain issues within the original. If you are wondering which one to get then take advice from me (a stranger on the internet) and check out Lost Cities: the Board Game.

Ratings:
Lost Cities 4.5/10
Lost Cities: the Board Game 6.5/10
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Silver Fang
United States
Dallas
Texas
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You echoed my thoughts on the game.

Whenever people are discussing wether to get the board game or the card game, I always tell them to get the board game, and then, if you want the card game experience just down load the rules and thin the deck accordingly.
 
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