Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Lost Cities: A review

Number of players: 2
Time: 10-30 minutes (depending how many hands you play)
Complexity: Low
Style of game: Hand management/Set collection/Press your luck

This is part of the Kosmos 2 player collection and is recently back in print.  It is designed by Dr. Reiner Knizia and is pretty addicting.  You and your opponent are going on adventures to have a profitable journey.  But be careful, each adventure that you seek costs you 20 points.

Each of the five colors on the board have cards numbered 2 - 10 with three handshakes of each color.  Each player is dealt 8 cards at the beginning of the game.  During your turn, you can either play a card under the journey color or discard a card by placing it in the card row.  After you played your card, you draw a card either from the deck or take a card from the card row (you can't take the card that you just placed there).  The game ends when there are no more cards in the deck.

Your goal is to score more than 20 points on each journey that you start.  You do this by playing cards under the journey color in ascending order, starting with the lowest number and going all the way up to 10.  At the end of the game, you add up the total of numbers in each journey you started.  You subtract 20 from your total in each journey you started.  Then you add up the total number of points for each card row.

The handshake cards allow you to gamble to earn even more points.  You can place the handshakes under the journey color before you place any numbers down there.  There are three handshakes for each color.  For each handshake you place, you can have a multiplier for your journey.  The first handshake will take your score (after you subtract 20) and multiply it by 2, two handshakes will multiply it by 3, and three handshakes will multiply it by 4.  Be careful, though, a handshake also indicates a journey starting so if you don't get up to 20, you have to minus points with the same multiplier.

There is one other bonus, if you are able to play 8 cards in one color (including handshakes) you receive n additional 20 points at the end.  I believe the rules call for a game to last three rounds with the highest total score winning but we usually best 2 out of 3.

Pros: The game is quick to setup and quick to play.  we typically get our best 2 out of 3 done in about 15-20 minutes.  The rules are very simple, as well.  It's really up to you as the player to decide when your journey should start, do you only start when you have 20+ or do you start with much lower numbers hoping you can work your way up to 20 by the end.  You also have a lot of say in how quickly the game goes.  If you don't have your 20 and the deck is getting smaller, you may want to take cards from the card row to slow it down.  Or if your opponent doesn't have his/her 20, you may want it to go quicker.  The cards for the game are fairly large and really easy to shuffle which is a huge positive compared to such games as Ticket to Ride (without the 1910 expansion) or Thebes: The Tomb Raiders.

Neutrals: The game can be a little confrontational, at times.  If you see your opponent struggling to get to 20 and you have the card that they need, you can hold onto while watching them suffer.  It can be a pro or con depending how you feel about that.

Cons: There is a lot of luck involved that you can work to negate as the game goes on but if you can't get the handshakes, your opponent can build a more profitable journey.  If you're really big into themes (which we're not), it may be knocked down a bit as it is not the most thematic game out there.
Overall: The game is fun, easy to learn, and just the right amount of strategy for a quick game.  Plus it is specially designed for 2 players.  After nearly 60 plays since we got it in April of this year, we still haven't gotten bored of it.  It is our favorite 2 player only game and is played all the time.

Final ranking: 97/100

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