Saturday, February 08, 2014

Kosmos Two Player Game Series - Lost Cities by Reiner Knizia

Lost Cities is a pretty simple card game with lots of depth. The deck is comprised of 60 cards of 5 suits (representing five archaeological expeditions) with 12 cards in each suit. Each suit has three "Investment" cards and nine cards from 2-10 value. On your turn, you must play one card to one of the five expeditions on your side of the board or discard a card face up onto the center board. You must then draw into your hand one card from the deck or draw a previously discarded card from the center.

The Investment cards may only be played as the first cards to an expedition; once a number card is played, you may no longer play Investments. Afterwards, whenever you play to an expedition, you must play a card valued higher than the last card played. So if you've played down a 4, you may not play an Investment or the value 2 or 3 cards but may play anything higher than 4. 

When the cards run out, you score each of your expeditions by adding the value of all the cards you've played and subtracting 20. If you don't reach 20 points in an expedition, you get negative points. If you're over 20, you score positive points. Investment cards multiply the result by either 2, 3 or 4, depending on how many of them you played. You also get a 20 point bonus if you've managed to play eight cards in an expedition. For example, if in one expedition you played Investment, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, that would be worth 26 points (3 + 5 + 7 + 8 + 10 = 33 - 20 = 13 x 2 = 26). This sounds more complicated than it is.

The trick in Lost Cities is playing only to expeditions you can get above 20 points, so you don't lose points, and careful discarding is key. Sometimes your hand will consist of cards you don't want to play, either because they're high value and you want to play them later or because you don't have enough cards of that suit to make a successful expedition. So you discard and draw from the deck hoping you'll get a card you can play. But discarding makes that card available to the other player. You have to be careful not to give them something they can use and especially don't want to give them high value cards. Balancing these competing interests is what makes Lost Cities so challenging.

Unfortunately for me, this game was over after the first round.  Carol scored an astounding 181 points, scoring high in three expeditions plus getting the 20 point bonus for each. I had an average score and won the third round, but was so far behind I had little hope of catching up.  

Scores per round and final scores were:

          Carol:   181 + 52 +   68 = 301
          Bob:       36 + 35 + 103 = 174

Coming up: Influence in ancient Rome in Caesar & Cleopatra.

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