Travis Cooper
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
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INTRODUCTION

I was first introduced to Lost Cities (the card game) at a local game store. My sister and I went in to try out a game, but not everybody was there yet, so the guy at the game store told us he could teach us Lost Cities. He said it was a quick paced fun game. We quickly picked up how things worked and it became so fast that as you played your card it was already your turn again.

Fast forward a little and I read the announcement that Keltis wins the Spiel des Jahres. I couldn't believe that it won and I usually buy the Spiel des Jahres winners because I am often in situations where those games are appealing to the people we are playing with. I did have some time to think about it though, because it took until December to finally come out in the US.

In doing research I heard somewhere, or read somewhere, that this is a game that even your girlfriend would play. While they meant that to be a good thing, to me it was a bad mark on the game. Finally I decided to buy it just because of curiosity, I was hoping that it somehow improved over the card game.

COMPONENTS

The components for the game are pretty standard. The art is fine, nothing spectacular, but not bad either. The meeples are your standard meeples, 4 player colors with 4 small meeples and 1 larger meeple. There are some cardboard tokens that go along certain spots on the paths along the board. Some other tokens for permanent artifacts. The money is in different denominations and sizes. Then there are cards numbered 0-10 in each color with two copies of each card.

SETUP

The setup is fairly quick. First each player chooses a set of meeples. The path tokens are mixed up and randomly placed on the designated spots along the paths. After shuffling the cards each player is dealt 8 with the rest of the cards stacked face down near the board as a draw stack. Finally chose somebody as the starting player.

GAME PLAY

The game is played in three rounds (okay you can do just one round if you don't think you have the 45-60 minutes for the full game). The starting player of rounds 2 and 3 will be the player to the right of the player who had the last turn in the previous round. On your turn you will must use a card from your hand, if that puts one of your meeples on a space next to one of the cardboard tokens you resolve it, then you must draw a card.

Use a card

There are three different things you can do to play a card from your hand. First, you can play a card in a color that you haven't played yet. Playing this card allows you to place a meeple at the first step on the path matching that color. The first step is worth -20 points meaning you start out negative in an expedition for a specific lost city. If you'd like you may place your large meeple, this meeple scores double points for the step it ends up on. So it starts out at -40, but could potentially score you 100 points.

Next, you could play a card in a color that you have already played. If you chose to do this the card you play must be the same number or larger than your top card in that color. This means that you want to start off your paths with 0s if possible, or at least a fairly low number. If you play a higher card you are limiting your ability to move further along that path.

The last option for using your card is to discard it. If you chose to do this you just make a stack in that color, or play on top of one if it already exists, where everybody has access to it. While you don't want to do this often, because other players can use that card, there are times when it is needed. If you only have a bunch of high cards and you don't want to play that high of a card on your paths yet discarding means you'll give yourself a chance to get the card you need from the draw pile. It never fails that once I play an 8 on my 2 I start drawing all the 3s, 4s and 5s that I can't use anymore.

Resolve action token

If you placed a card to move your meeple along the path and landed on a space next to one of the randomly distributed tokens you now resolve that action. There are three types of tokens. The first has a 5, 10, or 15 on it. These represent victory points/money(VPs), so you will just take that many VPs and put them face down in front of you. The second is a green artifact, this token you will remove from the board and place it in front of you. The last one is a set of stairs. This allows you to move any of your meeples currently on the board up one space on their path.

Draw a card

Now you must draw a card. If there is a card on top of one of the discard piles that you need you could draw one of those, or you can draw from the top of the face down draw pile. Now your turn is over.

Round end

The round ends when either 5 meeples cross a bridge, the bridges are near the end of each of the 5 paths, or if the draw pile is exhausted. At this point each player will collect VPs based on where their meeples currently are on the path. Don't forget your big guy is worth double points. You then need to return your artifacts, so they can be used in future rounds, and replace them with the permanent artifact tokens. Artifacts only score you points at the end of the game. Now reset the board as you did to start the game. The tokens get mixed up and placed on the paths again, all the cards are shuffled and 8 dealt to each player and your ready to start the next round.

Game end

The game ends after the third round finishes. At this point you need to look on the artifact track to see how many points you get for the artifacts you have collected over the three rounds. This also starts in the negatives, you need to get 5 just to get back to 0. The player with the most VPs wins the game.

THE GOOD

Even your girlfriend will play this game! While this phrase usually turns me off of a game, it might be something good for your situation. The game is simple, anybody can learn it quickly. The strategy isn't deep so everybody will be playing pretty well soon.

The board game is an improvement over the card game. You know have the extra VPs and artifacts along the paths. In the two player card game it didn't take long before you would have some safe discards, meaning your opponent couldn't use them. However, with 4 players it is likely you won't have any cards that nobody can use. This means the discarding isn't totally useless and you have to be more careful about it.

THE BAD

Even your girlfriend will play this game! Of course for me this is a bad thing to hear about a game. I don't normally want a game even my girlfriend will play. My wife loves boardgames and picks things up really well. I want something deeper that I will actually enjoy playing.

Come on, the VPs are hidden and you made them a different size? That doesn't really mean too much, you can get a good feel for what people really have by looking at the sizes.

This game is lacking in strategy. I think in explaining the game I can also explain all the strategy that anybody would ever need to know for this game. It is highly luck based. If you get bad cards, especially lots of high numbers, you will have a bad game. If you get lots of low cards you will do well. This is a little different in Keltis and they explain the variant in the rules. Even still there is just too much luck involved.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS

I really dislike this game. I still can't believe it won the Spiel des Jahres, especially since I've been playing Stone Age lately, it is a much better game. I think that it won largely because Knizia is the one who designed it. I will never look for an opportunity to break this game out, in fact I avoid playing it as much as possible.

If you want a game that even your girlfriend will play, or something that doesn't have much strategy, you will be pleased with this game. Most non-gamers I have taught it to enjoy it.

If you need something with even a little bit of depth this game isn't for you.

Travis' Reviews
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Tomello Visello
United States
Reston
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Your screen may wrap differently, but I was a bit thrown by the long title that appeared on my own front page;
the front page wrote:
Lost Cities: The Board Game - Even your monkeyboy157 girlfriend will play this!


now back to our regularly scheduled program.

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Laszlo Molnar
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Budapest
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monkeyboy157 wrote:

This game is lacking in strategy. (...) It is highly luck based. If you get bad cards, especially lots of high numbers, you will have a bad game. If you get lots of low cards you will do well. This is a little different in Keltis and they explain the variant in the rules. Even still there is just too much luck involved.

(...) I still can't believe it won the Spiel des Jahres, especially since I've been playing Stone Age lately, it is a much better game.

I agree on LCtBG being way too luck-dependent and that's why I prefer Keltis where a lot depends on skill as well while still being a super-light game. At the same time I can't understand the love Stone Age gets as while that has a quite complex ruleset (still being a very light game) that is a game where really too much depends on luck (especially compared to its complexity). You throw high numbers you win.

monkeyboy157 wrote:
I think that it won largely because Knizia is the one who designed it.

I have stated it elsewhere and I state it here as well: I just don't think it was a legacy-price. It's just a game that's very enjoyable for non-gamers and those are the games the SdJ usually goes to.

monkeyboy157 wrote:
Most non-gamers I have taught it to enjoy it.

As Spiel des Jahres is about games that make non-gamers want to play games, that just means the game was awarded rightfully.
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Hank Arkin
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Rancho Santa Margarita
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First, one cannot be too upset about somebody named after term in the movie Buckaroo Banzai, but there are a few items in the review that I believe should be addressed.

monkeyboy157 wrote:

Come on, the VPs are hidden and you made them a different size? That doesn't really mean too much, you can get a good feel for what people really have by looking at the sizes.


Clearly true. Rio Grande should send out replacement counters of uniform size VP Counters. This is a mistake that should be corrected.

monkeyboy157 wrote:

This game is lacking in strategy. I think in explaining the game I can also explain all the strategy that anybody would ever need to know for this game. It is highly luck based. If you get bad cards, especially lots of high numbers, you will have a bad game. If you get lots of low cards you will do well. This is a little different in Keltis and they explain the variant in the rules. Even still there is just too much luck involved.


While LC:TBG is not an overly complex strategic affair, there are subtleties in determining the path(s) to select (artifact rampage vs. point vs. free moves) , commitment of the double Meeple, or whether to start another path late in the round. Furthermore, the BG offers greater strategic alternatives than the Card Game and allows for four players. Luck is somewhat mitigated by three rounds of play.

monkeyboy157 wrote:

I still can't believe it won the Spiel des Jahres....


While the sister game Keltis actually won the award, LC: TBG is still a great choice that meets the selection criteria of the Spiel des Jahres. Could any of the finalists win? Certainly.



 
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Travis Cooper
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lacxox wrote:
monkeyboy157 wrote:
I think that it won largely because Knizia is the one who designed it.

I have stated it elsewhere and I state it here as well: I just don't think it was a legacy-price. It's just a game that's very enjoyable for non-gamers and those are the games the SdJ usually goes to.

monkeyboy157 wrote:
Most non-gamers I have taught it to enjoy it.

As Spiel des Jahres is about games that make non-gamers want to play games, that just means the game was awarded rightfully.


If the Spiel des Jahres is just about awarding games that non-gamers will enjoy I guess I don't want to buy any more games that win the award. I thought the Spiel des Jahres was about awarding games that have high re-playability, can be played in a fairly short amount of time, are simple enough people can pick it up quickly, and above all a game for the whole family. It has done a fairly good job of that, Thurn and Taxis, Ticket to Ride, and Catan to name a few. I think Stone Age fits in perfectly with those. Getting back to Stone Age, there is absolutely no way you can convince me that Stone Age has more luck than Lost Cities. Whoever has the highest rolls doesn't win. Whoever knows what they are doing and actually has a plan of attack and executes it the best will usually win.
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Travis Cooper
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Oxybeles wrote:
While LC:TBG is not an overly complex strategic affair, there are subtleties in determining the path(s) to select (artifact rampage vs. point vs. free moves) , commitment of the double Meeple, or whether to start another path late in the round. Furthermore, the BG offers greater strategic alternatives than the Card Game and allows for four players. Luck is somewhat mitigated by three rounds of play.

monkeyboy157 wrote:

I still can't believe it won the Spiel des Jahres....


While the sister game Keltis actually won the award, LC: TBG is still a great choice that meets the selection criteria of the Spiel des Jahres. Could any of the finalists win? Certainly.


Saying it's not overly complex is an understatement. As far as your subtleties, that is all they are, and anybody who plays games on a regular basis will learn all of those subtleties after the first round, or at least by the end of the game. Even though you may want to hit all those artifacts down that yellow path, what if you never get the yellow cards to do it? The way you play the game is almost always dictated by the cards you draw. There are few times when you really have to make a decision. Placing your big guy is usually the only "hard" decision in the round.

Edit: I forgot to address the Keltis thing. I have played this with the Keltis rules and it doesn't make it too much better. It does allow you to decide which direction your cards will go, up or down, but other than that it is the same game. I do prefer that way though, because I only have to suffer through one round.
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Gregory Swarthout
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Reading your review, I was struck by this passage: "I don't normally want a game even my girlfriend will play. My wife loves boardgames and picks things up really well." Sounds like the two women in your life have very different tastes. Good luck with that.
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Billy McBoatface
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Travis, it's clearly not the type of game you like. Why not just leave it at that? I guess you're angry that you bought a game that wasn't for you, but a little research here on BGG would have told you that LC: TBG is a family game.

And in fact, it's a great family game. My wife and I can play with my 6 year old daughter and we all have a blast. But if you want a serious gamer's game, then look elsewhere.
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Travis Cooper
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wmshub wrote:
Travis, it's clearly not the type of game you like. Why not just leave it at that? I guess you're angry that you bought a game that wasn't for you, but a little research here on BGG would have told you that LC: TBG is a family game.

And in fact, it's a great family game. My wife and I can play with my 6 year old daughter and we all have a blast. But if you want a serious gamer's game, then look elsewhere.


I'm not angry that I bought this game, I bought it for a specific reason and it fills that purpose fairly well. I knew before I bought it that it wasn't my kind of game.

In my review I tried to point out the good and the bad. I mentioned most of what you have said is good about it in my review. It isn't deep in strategy, players can pick it up quickly, and non-gamers usually enjoy it. However, somebody has to bring up the bad points as well.

I learn more when researching a game from a negative point of view than I do from a positive point of view in reviews here at the geek. With a positive review everybody says how good the game is, the comments all say yeah I agree and that's all there is to it. With a negative review you can see what points somebody doesn't like and maybe those are things you won't like either. It also creates better dialog, like what is happening here now, about how well the game really will fit someone's needs.

I'm not saying don't buy this game. I'm just saying that there is a specific situation where it works, but if you aren't in that situation often, it's not worth your time. I think part of it might be the fact that I don't think it (Keltis) deserved the Spiel des Jahres as well.

If I just say I hate this game and leave it at that, then nobody will gain any benefit from it. You have to explain why you do or don't like something for it to be beneficial. Thanks for reading my review though. I'm glad you enjoy it with your daughter. This will be one of the first "real" games I teach to my daughter. This will be a huge step up from princess yahtzee, Hisss, and Feed the Kitty.
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Travis Cooper
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GSwarthout wrote:
Reading your review, I was struck by this passage: "I don't normally want a game even my girlfriend will play. My wife loves boardgames and picks things up really well." Sounds like the two women in your life have very different tastes. Good luck with that.


This comment deserves a thumb. Just don't tell my girlfriend I'm married.
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Michael Deacon
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If you play with 3 there is a little more wiggle room for playing the 'time' element of the game.

Try delaying your runs or using one color as a slow suit to build up for a big run. You don't have to play everything down at the beginning and rely on luck for the rest of the round.

If you can consistently get scores of over 600 for a 3player you are doing pretty well.
 
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