Thursday, 3 September 2015

Review of "The Game" game. Erm...

Back from a great holiday to Paris and Amsterdam. While I was there I randomly came upon an excellent board gaming shop, Descartes. Of course, it wasn't ideal for me personally, as most of the games were in French and my French is somewhat sub-par. However I did pick up a copy of a great little card game called, rather unimaginatively, "The Game". Or to give it its full title: "The Game": Spiel... so lange du kannst". It has no in game text, so is language independent apart from the rules which I already knew, so snapped it up.

In case you are wondering, Spiel... so lange du kannst is German and translates as 'Game... as long as you can'. Though my copy says "le jeu n'est pas votre ami!" which I think translates as "The Game is not your friend". Which is somewhat different. Anyway...

Type of game: Co-operative card game
No. of players: 1-5
Age: 8+
Difficulty: really easy
Length of play: 20 minutes

"The Game" BGG link (you need the link otherwise you'll never find it)

This is a really simple game to play, one of those 'why didn't I think of that' games. It's also a co-op game which is interesting for a simple little card game like this. It reminds me a bit of Hanabi, purely because you are working together to put numbered cards on piles in some kind of order. It doesn't have Hanabi's twist though - in The Game you can see your own cards and no-one elses.

How to Play

The game consists of 98 numbered cards, going from 2 to 99, and four base cards. Two of the base cards start at 1 and cards played increase in number each time. The other two base cards start at 100 and you play cards in reverse numerical order. Each player gets a hand of cards, 7 with two players, 6 cards with 3+ players, and this hand gets replenished every turn.

On a players turn they have to play at least two cards, but can play more if they like (note however - when the draw deck runs out they only need to play one card)They can play on any of the piles they want, and can play on multiple piles in a turn. Each card they play must be bigger than the last card played for the piles going in ascending order, or smaller than the last card on the piles going in descending order. The only exception to this is that if you are able to you can play a card different by exactly 10 on a card to go back. For example on the ascending pile, if the last card played was 37, you either play a card greater than 37, or you can play a 27 card. Similarly, if playing on a descending pile and the last card played was 37, you would have to either play a card less than 37, or you can play a 47. This is really useful as it allows more cards to get played on a pile.

Playing the Game on the train to Amsterdam
The aim of the game is for everyone to successfully get rid of all of their cards (once the draw pile is empty your hand doesn't get replenished). Often this doesn't happen, as once someone can't play, the game ends, and then everyone adds up the number of cards in their hands, and the number of cards (if any) left in the draw pile. A score of less than 10 is good.

The trick to this game is getting the right amount of communication between players. You have to communicate with other players to co-operate in what cards to play, otherwise you'll lose badly. However too much communication will ruin the game by making it too easy. The rule is you can't mention numbers at all, but you can say things like "please don't play on that pile as I've got a good card for it", or "only go up a little bit on this pile if you can" but can't be more specific than that.

The Verdict

I really like this game. It is so simple to learn and play (after much pleading with us, we relented and taught my six year old daughter the game and she keeps asking to play it), but playing it well and winning can be really challenging especially if you stick to the minimal communication rules. If you are finding it too easy and you are winning too often, there are ways to make it harder too. It's good value for money (mine cost 12 euros), and has lots of replay value.

I've played this game with two, three and four players and it plays well with all player counts. It is an easier game with two players, communication is more complicated and with four players you can't as easily ensure no one plays on the pile you want to play on (sometimes they just have to, or ruin another pile completely). But even with two players it is a good, fun challenge.