Purchase of the Game
I purchased this game when my local Kmart was having a 20% of Toys & Games sale. It is the Australian Crown & Andrews edition though it appears that most editions around the world are the same just re-branded by the same factory in Israel for different markets. I admit the reason I purchased this game was it is a Spiel des Jahres winner, not that I think these will all necessarily be the best games but I figure they are as a set a broad selection of accessible at least relatively good games. So given the opportunity I would like to add a few more SdJ winners to my collection and the sale was a good opportunity to get this one, the only that is widely available in Australia, at a good price.
My Gaming Experience
The first thing I have to say is I have never played Rummy, on which this game is supposedly based. But I have had experience playing Canasta and Mah Jongg which area also meant to be games similar to rummy so I do understand the concept of set collection games.
The game consists of 106 numbered tiles in four colours, four racks and the rulebook. For what you pay, even at full price the quality is more than fine.
What you really need to decide in value is are they and the games rules worth it compared to standard playing cards. These are essentially two identical decks of standard playing cards (with one joker each) converted to tiles with the face cards converted to numerical values.
The instructions are terrible. They are readable and have lots of examples but they don’t state fully and clearly the rules of the game. At first I thought this may just be the Rummikub version sold here in Australia, especially when I round www.rummikub.org and it talked about the different versions of play. But then I found the international manufacturers site at www.rummikub.com, downloaded the rules from there and found they were the same as the ones that came with my set.
The biggest issue of these rules is they don’t explicitly state a lot of things. Some examples:
*it explains the intial laying down of sets, the “Initial meld” but does not say if players but does not say if just first player needs to initial meld or each player needs to do their own.
*nothing is said if players can or cannot do melds later in the game or only manipulation.
*Manipulations is described mainly by specific examples rather than generically describing the things that can be done. I am all for examples but they should be to illustrate the rules rather than to define them.
*While there is a section for winner, that is the round/hand winner. The game then shows how to score but there is no indication if the ideal is to play to so many points or so many hands
I think while you can work things out from the rules, for a game that has been around for so long I thought they would have been more refined and should be improved to make things clearer.
The Game Itself
The basic idea of the game is play out all your tiles by laying them out in sets, either groups of 3 or 4 of a kind (one of each colour) or as runs of at least 3 consecutive numbers of the same colour.
The key interesting feature of the game is "manipulation", you don't need to lay tiles down from your rack as the sets describe above, you add tiles from your rack and at the same time rearrange all the tiles already layed down in any way as long as all the the tiles, those originally there and the ones you added, form a valid set. There is a 1 minutes time limit set for manipulation, it would hgave been nice if a timer of some type was included in the game to help enforce this.
If a player fails to sucessfully manipulate the sets they face a penalty of drawing 3 extra tiles. This is another example of rule ambiguity, the rales state that before initial meld players must draw 1 tile if they do not perform the intial meld. I am not sure if players can choose to not attempt manipulation and take only a 1 tile penalty latter in the game, the rules simply don't say if the player has and option to choose not to attempt manipulation.
I can see the clever idea of the manipulation concept, it is a fun challange to work out how you can move the tiles to fit the most from your hand in. However I keep feeling game play is very unsatisfying. I think this is because of my uncertainty as to whether I am playing it "right" I know if every understands the rules we consistanly play by this should not be important, but somehow it is. While manipulation is a nice idea, it's not really this wonderful inovative concept enough to draw me away from so many other traditional card games where you can find many games that give me the same kind of satisfaction.
I can see places for this game. Playing cards do have problems either by their association with gambling games or images of people or royalties for some religious and political groups and a set such as this can allow play by removing these associations.
The other place could be for you children. If children are old enough to count to 13 but halving trouble with the concept of Kings, Queens and Jacks and the suits. Or if they have trouble holding cards. Or tend to damage cards by the way they hold or play with them. Then the tiles and racks of Rummikub could be good to use. However I would be inclined just to buy some cheap packs of cards and take the time to help teach them, at least in the culture I have grown up in known how to play traditional card games is a useful skill.
If you don’t fall into one of those two categories of particularly wanting the tiles, don’t buy this game. There are many other traditional card games that are just as good. If you still really want to play this one then buy two identical standard card decks and download the rules to try it out first.
You can play Rummikub with two sets of cards, but the tiles are nice and the tile holders make it easier to group them and arrange them.
The rules that current sets come with in USA (from Pressman) are very clear.