Some time ago, when we first started to collect games and were looking for some variety, an opportunity to purchase Lost Cities came about. We looked into it and discovered that this game could be a real gem. A simple card game with a small board (almost surplus to requirements), it is an elegant 2-player card strategy game that has elements of bluffing with set collection and more. Fast playing, it is a great little game for a night in for just two.
The game is themed around adventurous expeditions, it is very thin, players should really view this as a very slick and strategy filled game.
Aim of the Game
In Lost Cities players try and collect a series of card suits/colours, each set ideally totaling greater than 20 points, to score the highest points for all sets in their tableau. Incomplete sets or sets not large enough will incur negative points. Players need to carefully select what cards they will collect and bluff and gamble what cards they are going to hold or discard.
This is a very simple game, yet it really is one of the great 2-player games out there. It is portable and can be played almost anywhere as the board is not essential.
What is in the Box?
The game is based around a set of 60 large playing cards in 5 colour suits. There is also a small fold-out board and a small rule set.
To actually play the game you can do so without the board, this makes it very portable and easy to setup almost anywhere.
Setup is quick and easy. Shuffle all the cards, deal 8 to each player and place the remainder face down beside the board in easy reach.
Now start playing.
Playing the Game
The basic play of this game is very simple, you must first play a card out of your hand, then, you may collect a card to return your hand to 8 cards.
Cards may be played either into your tabeau as a set you are collecting or into a discard pile for that suit/colour as denoted by the board.
The card gained may be from the top of a discard pile on the board or from the top of the deck.
So far this is very easy. Now for the two twists.
Any card you play into your tableau (the tableau area for each player is their side of the board) is now a set you are collecting. Cards must be played in increasing numerical order only. To score positively at the games end the set needs to total 21+, 20 will break even and under 20 scores negative points.
The card you pick up is either from the top of any discard pile on the board or from the deck. Drawing from the discard gives away what you are after early in the game, while later on it slows down the finish allowing you more time to play out of your hand. Drawing from the deck hides what you are after, yet it shortens the length of the game and how long you have to play out of your hand.
So what are the cards?
The 60 cards are made up of 5 colour suits, each suit has 12 cards numbered 2-10 plus 3 multiplier cards. The Multilier cards are there to increse the score, either posative improvement if the played suit scores over 20pts, or negatively if under 20 pts.
To play cards into your tableau, you must place cards in ascending order, the multiplier cards count as ‘0’, so to use these they must be placed before numbered cards. A numbered card can not be played if a smaller denomination than the last played card of that suit, so initially you don’t want to over commit and play lots of bigger cards as you will not be able to play smaller ones. Multipliers really commit you to trying to make a suit score 20pts or more as failure will give you a larger negative score. Multiplier cards may be placed on each other up to a maximum of 3.
To understand how it all works lets look at scoring and you will grasp the importance of all of this. At games end each player adds up the score of each of his suits, deducting 20 from each total, the result is the base points scored for that suit which may be positive or negative or zero. Each multiplier that was played into the suit modifies this, one modifier doubles the score, 2 modifier cards triples the score and 3 multiplies it by four. This then gives the final score for that suit. Add all the final totals for each suit together to get your score.
Play continues until all cards from the deck are drawn.
With the scoring in mind many game strategy concepts such as bluffing, careful discarding of cards your opponent might want, the gamble of starting any suit searching for cards, when to pick up discards, and so on. This reminds me of a gambling game, as good as your card counting and memory are, there is a luck element, and you have to know when to push it and when to play safe.
This is a game we like to play, and because it is so portable we have been known to take it to cafes and restaurant to play over dinner (between courses). It has great speed, each action the other player makes has an effect on your next turn, you are watching their every move, figuring out what they have and where they are going, and having done that you have to decide to slow things down or speed things up. It is intense. It is quick. It is fun.
Game type: Card strategy
Mechanism / Skill: Card drafting & set collection
Number of Players: 2
Playing Time: 10-15 minutes
Ease of Play: 5 / 5
Ease of Setup: 5 / 5
Ease of Learning: 4 / 5
Fun Factor: 4 / 5
Replay-ability: 5 / 5
Strategy Rating: 4 / 5