For those who don’t spend their time concerning themselves with international board game affairs, Rio Grande Games is a company who basically searches out some of the very best strategic board games around the globe, brings them to the United States, translates them into English then unleashes their addictive tendencies to a whole new unsuspecting civilization.
Keeping that in mind, Lost Cities is exactly one such game, written by the legendary Reiner Knizia. Made originally in Germany by a company called KOSMOS back in 1999, Rio Grande brought the game to North America shortly thereafter and has released subsequent identical new editions every few years since due to unwavering demand. The object of the game, in its very simplest terms, is to end up with the most points after as many rounds as you seem fit (a round takes between 20 and 40 minutes, although, I can attest that after several hundred of them, expect that time to decrease to around 12 minutes).
Lost Cities is perhaps the most addicting strategy game I’ve ever played and that’s saying a lot considering I frequent Rio Grande’s immense catalog very often! All the game consists of is a fairly small foldout board and 60 cards. The player is responsible for the pen, paper, and possibly calculator required to do battle. Like all Rio Grande games, the quality of the materials and detailed artwork are second to none, however, don’t expect to be spending much of your time studying the pictures because once you grasp the game’s mechanics, it’s quick and intense with good-decision making becoming the key to victory.
The game is structured to offer players 5 worldly locations (Egypt, Atlantis, a Volcanic Island, and the Himalayas) with which to attempt an expedition (which in this case means a sequential run of cards beginning with the lowest possible (2) and ending with the highest possible (10)). Additionally the player has the option of playing investor cards, which act as multipliers for the total points at the end of the round. The trouble is, fail to clear the investment of the expedition and these cards multiply your losses as well. It sounds rather simplistic in my summary but the game simply does everything right! It’s easy to learn, fun to play, and extremely addicting. The winner of each round isn’t often known until after all of the points are tallied, which undoubtedly adds to the tension of earlier decision making.
Perhaps the game’s greatest strength is the simple fact that like classics such as checkers and tic-tac-toe, it accomplishes an incredible amount of game play with minimal physical setup. There are no timers, dice, stats, or massive-choice options to consider. Rather the game is as simple as tossing and drawing cards while watching what your opponent is doing on the other side of the board. It has the charm of card games like Uno but with far more strategic and replay value.
It is designed only for 2 players and the recommended age requirement is 10 & up. I strongly recommend this game as a fantastic way to pass the hours of cold winter nights.