I'm always on the hunt for games that are good for two players, that my husband and I can play together after the kid goes to bed. I'm more into games than my husband is, so I'm always looking for games that I hope he will particularly enjoy, to get him to play more with me. This game is part of the Kosmos 2 Player Card Games Series from Rio Grande. I had high hopes for it because we have another in that series that we really like called [geekurl=http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/325546/race-over-the-mountains-and-plains-in-your-balloon]Balloon Cup[/geekurl]. The game is also designed Reiner Knizia, who designed several other games we enjoy, namely [geekurl=http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/319047/collecting-artifacts-on-the-trail-to-tutankhamens]Tutankhamen[/geekurl], [geekurl=http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/159748/another-unique-game-from-out-of-the-box]Fish Eat Fish[/geekurl] , Through the Desert, and Loot. After reading some very positive comments about the game from others, I decided to order it from the book and toystore where I work.
What You Get
Lost Cities comes in a smallish square flat box. Inside you will find a catalog advertising other Rio Grande games, a colorful fold out board, a rulebook, and 60 largish playing cards.
How to Play
Unfold the board and lay it out on the table. One player should sit on either side of the board. Shuffle all of the cards and deal eight to each player. The remaining cards are placed within reach of both players as the draw pile. Decide how many rounds will be played, and decide who should go first (The rulebook says the oldest player goes first, but we usually take turns at our house). Players now look at their cards.
On each turn, each player first plays a card, then draws a card. Play alternates in exactly this way, until the final card is drawn from the draw pile, at which time the round ends immediately and scoring begins.
This game is all about building expeditions to far off and exotic lands. There are 5 possible expeditions to embark on during any given round for each player. You can go to the Himalayas, the deep sea, the desert, the Brazilian rain forest, and to ancient volcanoes. During any round, each player can embark on anywhere from just one expedition to all 5. There are nine cards for each expedition, one each numbered from 2 to 10, representing progress on the expedition. There are also 3 color-coded "investment" cards for each expedition. The goal is to build one or more successful expedition. Any expedition costs points to embark on, and risks points if you "invest" in it. But, the potential reward in points is greater the more you "invest" in it. There are no points risked on expeditions you don't either invest in or embark on.
During your turn at play, you either play cards onto any of your expeditions, or discard a card onto the board in the space that represents that expedition. During the draw phase of your turn, you may either draw the top card from the draw pile, or draw the top card from any of the expedition discard piles.
A given round ends the moment the last card is drawn from the draw pile. At this point each player scores each of their expeditions. The formula for this is ingenious, but rather math intensive and cumbersome. Each player needs to calculate the loss or gain on any expedition he has played any cards at all too, even if those cards are only investment cards. First, add up the value of the numbered cards played to that expedition. This number can be anything from 0 (if only investment cards and no number cards were played) to 47 if you manage to play all numbered cards. Then, subtract 20 points from this total, representing the cost of any expedition. Take this number (even if it is negative), and multiply it by the value of any additional investment you have made to that expedition. You will either be multiplying by 2, 3, or 4, depending on the number of investment cards played. If you played no investment cards, then you don't multiply the number at all. If you did not play any cards at all (investment or numerical), then your score for that expedition is zero. If you played only investment cards and no numerical cards, you must subtract the 20 cost points, then multiply that by the value of the investment (2,3, or 4). In this way, any given expedition can range from a point value of -80 to +156.
Play as many rounds as you agreed upon at the beginning of the game (we play the suggested 3 in the rulebook). Then, add up the score. The player with the highest cumulative score at the end of all rounds wins.
What We Like
If you've read any of my other board game reviews, you might recall that I often gripe about rulebooks. They are often the worst part of a game. In this case, the rulebook is straightforward and simply and logically laid out. I understood it all on the first read-through, and had no trouble explaining it to my husband, who normally has a great deal of trouble following rules explanations.
The artwork on these cards is awesome. Not only is it pretty, but if you lay out the cards for each expedition in numerical order, they make a pretty picture that represents the expedition.
If there's anything my husband dislikes in a game it's when you have multiple steps to your turn. You can't get much simpler than play one draw one.
Lots of Strategy
It's always amazing to me when a game can be so simple to play and yet have a great depth of strategy. This is one of those games. You have to play defensively and offensively at the same time. There is some luck of the draw certainly, but lots of choices to be made.
Length of Play
This game takes about 30 minutes to play, depending on how many rounds you play. This makes it a perfect evening game for the two of us after the kid goes to bed.
Anything We Don't Like?
Size of the Cards
These cards are just a little too big for my hands to shuffle comfortably. Really, I'd like this game a heck of a lot more if the cards were small.
The board is pretty, but totally unnecessary to the game. Since the cards are color-coded, you could easily just make the expeditions without the aid of the board, and the same for discarding. The game would probably be less expensive if it didn't come with the board, and I almost feel like they just put the board in there to up the price.
Scoring at the End
The scoring at the end is ingenious, really. But, it's a giant pain! Adding, subtracting, multiplying, negatives. It's a mess, really. However, it makes great sense at the same time!
Who Can Play?
As is, this game is strictly for 2 players. In the rulebook, you will find a variation for 4 players, but that requires you to buy a second copy of the game. We have such fun playing as a couple I don't think I'd bother to do that, but it might be fun to try if we ran across another couple who also had this game. The box recommends this game for ages 10 and up, and I think that's pretty accurate. Although the mechanics of the game are very simple, the strategy is fairly deep and probably too much for small children to grasp and enjoy. Furthermore, the scoring at the end is difficult even for adults! And, without a full understanding of the scoring, it's tough to make the right decisions while you play.
This game retails for between $25 and $30. Kind of expensive as card games go (although you do get the little board). However, the quality of the game play makes it well worth the money.
This is an absolutely awesome game. It's very simple to learn, and yet there's plenty of strategy and challenge to keep you interested and coming back to play again.
If you've read any of my other board game reviews, you might recall that I often gripe about rulebooks. They are often the worst part of a game. In this case, the rulebook is straightforward and simply and logically laid out.
Thank you so much, This plays a big factor in a purchase for me, And i have had my eye on this (going through a bit of a knizia phase at the moment). Thanks.
Great review. (Have a thumb.)
This is a popular game in my house too. You also might consider Lost Cities: The Board Game. We were given this a Yule present last year and although it has the same theme, there are a few more strategy choices to make. It's certainly different enough to warrant the purchase. And, of course, you can have up to 4 players, which is perfect for hooking newcomers.
I'm seeing 'simple rules and great depth' as recurring themes in your reviews. I suggest you try a game or two from the GIPF series if you haven't already. I recommend starting with YINSH.
It's not a damn moped!
I would also recommend you consider Lost Cities: The Board Game.
It has pretty much the same, very simple card game rules (play 1, draw 1, up to 5 expeditions, discard piles, etc.)
But the cards are smaller
It allows up to 4 players.
It has a few added rules / strategies on the board to give it slightly more depth.
The BEST part: No longer do you need to worry about adding up your card numbers to determine your score. Instead, every time you play a color card, you move your pawn on that color coded track on the board. And the track tells you exactly what your score is in that color (or, you multiply that number by 2 if you chose to take that expedition with your one and only GIANT meeple).
Well but the cousin of Lost Cities the board game - Keltis and its expansion Keltis Neue Wege Neue Ziele - is said to be better produced and to work better. Of course having an expansion ready is well worth it. I have seen it on sale too. Both together run around € 20 on sale if You are lucky...
Thanks. I've been kinda wanting it, but I thought it might not be worth having both.