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Subject: Multiple Player Review: Lost Cities rss

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Choubi Gogs
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(photo by SpiderOne)

Disclaimer

Ok, just so you know where I come from and how the review will go. I'll start by an introduction so you know how I came to know the game and what my expectations of it were, then a little summary of how the game plays and what it looks like, you can skip that part if you're already familiar with it and the rules as I won't go much into detail here. I'll finish by my own opinion and my rating of the game. After that, I'll summarize what my playing group feels about the game.

About me, I started playing and fell in love with heavy games (Serenissima and Caylus). I began to play lighter games later like Odin's Ravens and Kahuna. I like mostly all types of games though I like when these are tense. I also usually don't like heavily luck-dependent games.
My favourites are Through The Ages, Race For The Galaxy, Imperial, Caylus, Dungeon Twister, Monster Mash.
Games I didn't like: Pillars of the Earth, Mykerinos, Caylus Magna Carta, Aton.


Introduction

I bought this game for my parents. My dad, who's a recent retired (although he still works part time for his old firm) told me one day he and my mum played rummikub from time to time in the evening and that they enjoyed playing together. Since they both played a lot of card games, I thought perhaps Lost Cities could appeal to them. On the other hand, I was afraid the game might not be too much of my type.


What is the game about

The game is a simple card game for 2 players designed by Reiner Knizia. Both players are archeologists trying to go on expeditions to find lost cities or some other artefacts. Of course, as with most Knizias, the theme is pretty much absent here.

The game is composed of a deck of oversized cards in six five different suits (the fact that there are 5 suits is pretty much the only thing that would make it bothersome to use a standard deck of cards!). Each suit represents a location to search (the players will refer to them as colours). The suits are composed of cards going from 1 2 to 10 + 3 bonus cards.


Two cards from the green suit (Maya temple?). The left card is on of the bonus cards.
(photo by EndersGame)

Players will play cards one after another. There are mainly two things you can do with your cards. Either start or continue an expedition, or you can get rid of a card in the middle of the board.


Cards on both parts of the board are expeditions started by the players, cards on the middle are cards that the players got rid of at one point or another.
(photo by dwsparks)

After having played a card, players can either draw a card from the draw deck or take one of the cards in the middle.

There are basically two important rules. First, you need to play your cards in increasing order in the expeditions, which means you have to pace yourself when building one. Second, since the cards in the middle are free for all, you have to be careful and not put cards that would advantage the other player. Of course, since you can't just start expeditions too fast or you'll get blocked very early (increasing order, remeber!), you have to play cards in the middle very often. This is where most of the interaction lies.

At the end, players will score points depending on their expeditions. Basically, you just add up the cards in each started expedtion and here is the catch, if one expedition has total less than 20, you'll lose points. This is another mechanism that forces players to get rid of cards and prevens them from just starting any expeditions.


Random Musings

While I bought this game mainly for my parents, I was very impressed by how tight and tense the game actually is.

As usual for a Knizia, the game is very clever, both players need to be careful not to start expeditions too early and are therefore forced to play cards in the middle which could pretty much give the game away there is a big bonus for expeditions that reach 8 cards, you might have just given the eighth card your opponent needed!).

The game plays very quickly and keeps the tension high all along. Of course, it's not the same kind of tension that a game like Caylus or Ghost Stories provide but there are lots of difficult decisions crammed in such a small package. Should I start this expedition with my 6 or should I wait a little bit more? Should I give him this 3 green when he's just played one bonus card in the green expedition? The tension stems from the fact that you pretty much want to wait as much as you can, but there is only so many cards that can fit in your hand and at on point or another, you'll have to start getting expeditions down.

The endgame can also be tampered with, you can pretty much slow down the game to try and finish an expedition just before the end (the game ends when the draw deck is empty, which means that if you take your cards from the middle, you're effectively postponing the end). Out of my 15 plays (so actually 45 rounds of what I've presented here), controlling the end is not that often important, but it can sometimes be a real game changer.

A word about luck: this is a card game so obviously, luck is a factor. I can't say that the player who draws most big cards (9s and 10s) won't be advantaged but I found that this rarely matters. I have seen games where it really made the difference but overall, the best player wins (As proof, I'll say that I almost always get crushed). Moreover, it is important to notice that in order to get the fatidic 20 points in an expedition, you'll need some small cards... And since you have to play them in increasing order, having too many high cards too soon can really be damaging. Most of the strategy however lies one when to start an expedition, when to try and go for the 8-card bonus, knowing when to drop this objective, when and what cards to put in the centre to gain time, or when to start a short expedition just to bid some more time.

The interaction, altough it isn't one of the most interactive game I know of, I can say interaction is present. Of course through the cards you'll give to the other or not, but there is also a slight element of bluff where you can, say, put off a green expedition to wait for the other player to discard his green cards. Even worse, you culd directly discard a green card to let him discard his, thinking it isn't an interesting colour to you!

A word on BattleLine: I've enjoyed the game so much when I went to my parents that I bought BattleLine back home as most people here tend to believe it is a superior version to Lost Cities. I'd like to disagree with this and say that I Lost Cities is much more fun to me. Moreover, I don't like the tactic cards in BattleLine. I love the fact that in Lost Cities there is an added interaction component with the discarding of cards in the centre of the board.

Overall, this is a very short, tense and therefore addictive game. If you like 2p card games, I'd say this is a must have.


What my game group thinks

Cath
That's my mother. Has always been a gamer, though she has always stuck to traditional games: tarot, mah-jong, belotte... I've tried to introduce her and my dad to boardgames through Lost Cities (a hit!) and Kahuna (same). She is a very competitive player which also makes it hard to introduce her to new games (she's afraid of not playing well!)
Well Lost Cities has been an immediate hit with her and my dad and it has aparently replaced Rummikub in their gaming time. She enjoyed it so much that I introduced her to other card games like Kahuna, Traders of Carthage and Carcassonne. The fact that she apparently kicks my father's ass at Lost Cities probably helped her in loving the game!

Dan
That's my dad. I remember he always played with me and my sister when we were kids (and still now). Mostly to abstract games such as Connection, Quarto, Quoridor. I suspect he mostly plays to spend some quality time with the family than because he is a gamer at heart. He has also always played traditional games like tarot, which he got introduced through my mother. Anyway, he is always up to try new games to spend some time with me. I had a major hit with Lost Cities with him and my mother that they often play together.
Like I said in his disclaimer, my father plays more for the quality time with us than for a real passion with games. However, from what I can see, he really enjoys this game a lot. When I go and see him at Montpellier, he often suggests we play this.

Laurène
Laurène is my girlfriend and was initiated to gaming by me, her first hit was Race For The Galaxy, she loves card games like Dominion, Lost Cities, Court of The Medici, as well as real brain burners like Caylus, Dungeon Twister, Through The Ages and Imperial. She also likes Galaxy Trucker, Princes of Florence and Agricola.
Laurène has fallen deeply in love for this game. My guess this game is the only reason she would accept going at my parents for the weekend! She was the one pushing me to buy BattleLine afterwards too. However, I think she agrees with me on the fact that she prefers Lost Cities to its brother.

Matthieu
Matthieu likes mostly any kind of game, except the really heavy ones. His favourites are Settlers, Puerto Rico, Lost Cities, Serenissima, Agricola and Princes of Florence but isn't keen on games like Caylus or Imperial.
Typically the kind of game that Matthieu adores. It didn't miss, he loved it.


Thanks to SpiderOne, EndersGame and dwsparks for the photos

edit: I've created a geeklist for those interested in following my reviews here
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Jeffrey Nolin
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Choubi wrote:
The tension stems from the fact that you pretty much want to wait as much as you can, but there is only so many cards that can fit in your hand and at on point or another, you'll have to start getting expeditions down.


I think what you're trying to say here is six cards.
 
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Vinicius Yuiti Takaki
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Choubi wrote:

The game is composed of a deck of oversized cards in six different suits (the fact that there are 5 suits is pretty much the only thing that would make it bothersome to use a standard deck of cards!). Each suit represents a location to search (the players will refer to them as colours). The suits are composed of cards going from 1 to 10 + 3 bonus cards.

Just a quick corretion, you meant "five" different suits, right?
And also the cards go from 2 to 10 (and not 1 to 10).

Great review, btw.
I like this game very much too.
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Vinicius Yuiti Takaki
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longagoigo wrote:
Choubi wrote:
The tension stems from the fact that you pretty much want to wait as much as you can, but there is only so many cards that can fit in your hand and at on point or another, you'll have to start getting expeditions down.


I think what you're trying to say here is six cards.


And I think you mean EIGHT CARDS (the same number of cards you start the game with).
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Choubi Gogs
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Jackshoku wrote:
Choubi wrote:

The game is composed of a deck of oversized cards in six different suits (the fact that there are 5 suits is pretty much the only thing that would make it bothersome to use a standard deck of cards!). Each suit represents a location to search (the players will refer to them as colours). The suits are composed of cards going from 1 to 10 + 3 bonus cards.

Just a quick corretion, you meant "five" different suits, right?
And also the cards go from 2 to 10 (and not 1 to 10).



Yes, I meant five suits, I got confused with BattleLine at first then remmebered and even corrected in the parenthesis but apparently I forgot to correct myself just before! Ans yes, the cards go from 2 to 10, sorry for the mistakes, I corrected that!

Jackshoku wrote:

Great review, btw.
I like this game very much too.


Tanks!
 
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