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Subject: [Review] Limits rss

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Tom Vasel
United States
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It does seem as if memory shows up in quite a few games these days - perhaps it's always been so, but I'm just now beginning to really notice it. Limits (Playroom Entertainment - 2007 - Uwe Rosenberg) is another game from one of the great card game designers (Bohnanza, anyone?) that sounded so simplistic from the rules that I was convinced I wouldn't enjoy it. Instead, I was impressed that Limits has become a very entertaining, battle of the minds card game that is quickly played. I'm pleased that this older game (first published in 2001 by Amigo Spiele) has been republished in an excellent format.

Folks who don't like Limits will complain about the memory aspect; and indeed, those who aren't fond of memorization will likely wish to steer clear. At the same time, the game may use memory, but it's all about a psychological battle between players. A player with perfect memory might do better than others, but they still must attempt to outguess other players to win. On paper, the game really sounds boring; but it plays well even with two players - an enjoyable, fast card game.

Limits is essentially a deck of cards that is broken up into three parts - point cards (in "1" and "5" denominations); Limit cards, and sixty Color cards (simply a card with one of five colors - red, blue, purple, yellow, or green). The amount of players determines the number of Limit cards used in the game, which are placed face down on the table. Five Color cards are dealt to each player, and the rest form a draw pile.

At the beginning of each round, the top Limit card is turned over. Each card shows the limit number for the five colors, which ranges from "0" to "9", but can also show an "x", which means that that color has no limit. Players then choose a card from their hand and place it face down in front of them. This card they've played increases the limit of that color by one. The youngest player takes the first turn in round one.

On a player's turn, they have two choices. The more likely decision is that they will discard a card from their hand face up on the discard pile and draw the top card from the deck. The other possibility they have, if they have four cards of the same color in their hand, is to reveal them, taking a value "1" point card. They then draw four new cards, discarding two of the four card set into the discard pile and the other two on top of the draw pile. The next player then takes their turn.

BUT, at the end of a player's turn, if anyone thinks that the limit on a color has been broken, they slam their hand on the table, shouting, "Call!". This ends the round, and everyone reveals the Color cards they had placed face-down in front of themselves. The player then counts the number of cards in the discard pile - specifically the color that was played when they were "called". If the number of cards of that color is greater than the limit (including the previously facedown cards) of that color, then the accused player loses the round, taking the limit card (worth "-2" points). The accuser receives a "+1" value point card. If the number is equal to or less then the limit, then the results are reversed.

At this point, all players add the color card that they had facedown back into their hands, and a new round begins with the player who took the Limit card going first. Play continues until all of the Limit cards have been taken, at which point the game ends. Players add up their points (subtracting two for each Limit card they have), and the player with the highest score is the winner!

Some comments on the game...

1.) Components: The cards are of a very high quality - linen finish and a nice white border allow them to be handled fairly heavily with no discernable damage. The Color cards are a bit bland - just a color, mind you - and they have an imprint of a hand. There are a few discernable differences in the background for those who are colorblind. The cards all fit easily into a cardboard insert inside a small box. The whole game really has a "colorful" vibe to it, which isn't really overwhelming (although the box is perhaps a tad ugly), but it gives the game a fairly abstract feel.

2.) Rules: The rulebook is only three pages, which makes sense, since the game rules are actually quite simple. I did appreciate the extended examples and figure anyone could learn the game from the rulebook easily. The game can be played easily with most age groups.

3.) Time and Players: The game takes about twenty minutes to play, which is a good thing; as it would likely begin to drag if it went on any longer. I enjoy this game in small doses; but because it is a game in which the same thing is repeated over and over, keeping it short is for the best. The game handles up to six players, and having the maximum amount makes for a fairly interesting game, because players have absolutely no idea about the limits. A three player game is a more controlled game; and while it lacks in the chaos of the larger game (especially as four people race to hit the table first), it may be my favorite way to play. At the same time, in a two player game, players place two cards face down in front of themselves, rather than one. This gives them a bit more wiggle room to maneuver with the limits. It's not one of the best two-player games I've ever played, but it is a good one, although it still is best with multiple players.

4.) Memory and Bluffing: Limits certainly panders to those who remember every card that has been played. At the same time, one is never quite sure what cards the other players have played at any particular time. I especially enjoy when the limit number for a color is "0". When a player discards that color for the first time, you can see everyone thinking, "Is he bluffing? Did he play that color as his face-down card? Did anyone else?" Watching what people play usually is no help; it's simply a matter of watching their faces. Perhaps they are bluffing.

5.) Fun Factor: And the bluffing, short and simple as it is, is what adds the "fun" to this game. Collecting four of a set is a nice goal, and it helps focus gamers as they discard cards; but the game is mostly about trying to guess when one player goes over the limit. Guessing wrong by one card, or catching someone trying to pull a fast one are moments of levity in this game; and they keep it fun and entertaining.

My verdict is that while Limits isn't really anything ground-breaking and won't likely be played twice in one setting, it still is entertaining enough for an "ice-breaker" of sorts on a gaming night and fun enough that it will see play on occasional game nights. I like the low-end bluffing; and although scores are often quite low (it's not uncommon to end up with a negative score), the game is short enough to be an enjoyable appetizer. And since it tastes good, it's a nice start to a gaming night.

Tom Vasel
"Real men play board games"
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