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Subject: Game Review: Lascaux rss

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Patrick Hickey
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Lascaux

Lascaux is a simple push your luck and bidding game appropriate for light to light/medium gameplay. The rules are understandable on the first play.

The Goal

There is a deck of 54 cards. Each card has a picture of an animal on it. There are 6 animals, and 9 of each type. You collect these cards, and if you have the most cards of a particular suit at the end of the game, you get one point per card in that suit that you possess. If you do not have the most of a suit, it is valueless to you. You also get a small bonus for how much money you've saved up.

The Components

The components consist of

1: The aforementioned deck of cards, which have the animals, as well as two colors per card.
2: Mini decks of six tiles, one per player. These tiles have an icon on the top noting who owns them, and a color on the bottom.
3: Fifty money chips. These appear to be abalone shell.
4: A bowl, built into the game's packaging.

The components are high quality. The abalone shell in particular is fun to have and hold.

The Rules

Each round, cards are flipped up until you have all six colors visible, or you reach seven cards. These are the cards you bid on. Each player then secretly chooses one of the colors on the cards, and places the tile in front of them so that the color is concealed. Bidding begins with whoever first dropped out of the bidding on the previous round.

On your turn during the bidding, you have two choices. You may place an abalone chip in the bowl, or you may take all the abalone chips out of the bowl. If you do the first, you stay in the bid. If you do the second, you are out of the bid, but you may keep the chips you acquired. When you go out, you place your tile in the center of the table, still face down. Later persons who go out will place their tile on top of yours, making a stack. When everyone is out, the top tile is flipped up. The player who owns that tile then takes every card with that tile's color on it. Then the second tile is flipped up in the same manner, until all tiles are flipped up.

That's it for the rules. Essentially you are secretly claiming a portion of the visible cards, and then bidding on the priority you will have for receiving your secret portion.

The Strategy

In general, the earlier you go out of the round the more likely you will be able to take a lot of money chips for the next round. And also the more likely that you won't get any cards. Choosing an obscure color can help if you intend to drop out early. Going all in can guarantee you your chosen color, but can be very, very expensive.

The value of a particular card can vary a lot based on your situation, and its a good idea to keep track of that. For example, if you have 5 ibexes, a 6th ibex is worth +1 points. But if you have 4 rhinos, and I have 4 rhinos, the last rhino determines whether anyone gets any points at all for the rhinos. So if you get it, you will get +5 points.

The Screwage Factor

First, be careful about bidding your money down too far. Once you do, it can be very, very hard to climb back out of the hole. This is a trap easily avoided by an aware player, but on your first play you might fall for this trap. If you ever run completely out of money, you won't be able to bid at all- you will have to just take whatever is in the bowl and drop out of the round. This can mean that running completely out of money wastes two or three rounds of the game. Once you know about this, it isn't a threat, so make sure to warn new players.

Second, because all points are visible, in a game where you have done particularly badly, you always know and you always know the likelihood of catching up. This can be depressing if you are miles behind.

Third, *ahem.* PLEASE PEOPLE! The bowl in the center is a perfect hemisphere! Watch what happens when you throw or spike your abalone shell into a perfectly hemispherical container! Ski ball comes to mind. The abalone shell ricochets out, bounces across the room, and gets lost. DROP IT IN NICELY. Thank you.

Summary

I like this game. Its a good simple bidding game that doesn't take a TON of brainpower, but does reward care. Its easily learned in one game, has high quality components, and provides entertainment appropriate for its duration. There is a slight screwage factor, but honestly, it doesn't bother me because the game is rather short. If you get screwed in game 1, come back in game 2. And the biggest screwage in the game only occurs if you do it to yourself.

I played this game several times at a convention, where it made a great pickup game for people looking for something to do between events. I'd recommend this as a good bidding game for casual players, for hardcore gamers looking for a filler game, or for families looking for something short but sweet.
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