It’s been a month since I posted the first half of this top 10, so I thought I’d better get around to finishing it off. Unfortunately it’s an ever evolving subject, but I can say for sure that these great card games are all on my wishlist and are all ones I want to get hold of.
Looking back at my original list of five card games I was going to put here I’ve already bought one of them, while a few of the others may not now make it (I’ll do a little list at the end of other games close to the top). So many great games, so little time.
My top five card game wishlist
5) Tichu (3-6 players): Sitting pretty in the top 50 games of all time over at Board Game Geek, this 1991 game is best recommended for four players. It’s a hand management game with an oriental theme that’s played in partnerships (hence the four player recommendation, for pairs). It’s a trick taking game like Bridge but with a difference, as it’s more important to get rid of your cards than to win the most tricks. Plus it has a plethora of special cards and interesting combos that can have a devastating effect on each round, keeping up the tension (change order, wild card etc). Unfortunately I’ve never played the game, or even seen it played, but the pure amount of love it gets from the gaming community means I definitely want it in my collection – plus, Tichu is less than £10.
4) Haggis (2-3 players): Like Tichu, this is a game that has gotten a lot of love from people whose opinions I respect since its release in 2010. From what I can gather it is a similar game to Tichu, borrowing a lot of the same elements, but with a different theme and taking away the partnerships element. It’s also under £10 and plays in less than an hour.
3) Blood Bowl: Team Manager (2-4 players): I was a big fan of the miniatures game Blood Bowl when I was at school and sixth form college, back in the 80s. I’ve resisted rebuying it since I’ve gotten back into board games, but this new game has certainly got my attention. A hand management game that oozes the Blood Bowl theme (imagine American football, in a fantasy setting, and even more violent), Team Manager sees you drafting cards to add special players (with special abilities) to your roster as you compete with the other teams for glory, and the biggest fan base, by the end of the season. Great components at a good price (about £20) have put this on my list and seeing it played at a recent London On Board meet up pushed it higher up the list again. I’d like to try before I buy, but right now I’m incredibly tempted.
2) Jaipur (2 players): This one appeals as it is specifically designed for two players and is once again very highly regarded. It costs less than £20 and won a good few awards in 2010. Each player will either take or sell cards on their turn, using some interesting mechanisms to make sets of goods, sell those goods and push your luck as you try to beat your opponent. Jaipur has lovely components, nice art and everything I look fro in a card game. However it’s been on my wish list since being released and never quite made the top – it could easily stay the bridesmaid forever, the way the game industry is. So many games are coming out each year, it’s become impossible not to miss out on some you’d know you’d really enjoy.
1) Biblios (2-4 players): I got to play one game of this in November and it has jumped straight to the top of my card game wish list. Don’t worry, it’s not got anything to do with the Bible; its an abstract card game with a pasted on theme that packs in a whole bunch of interesting little quirks into a small box (that will set you back about £20) that plays out in about half an hour. It’s a really tough one to describe in just a few words, but the key mechanism that makes it interesting is this: In the main part of the game players take it in turns to turn over five cards (in a four player game), one of which will go to each player and one will go into an auction pile to be played out later – the twist is that as you turn over each of the five cards, you have to immediately decide where it will go; into a pile for the other players to choose, to you, or in the auction. So if you get a mediocre one first, will you keep it? You may draw all great cards after, or all rubbish ones – this gives it a real game show feel that is normally hard to emulate in a ‘proper’ game. There’s more to Biblios than this, but this is what really makes it sing.
Bonus game) For Sale (3-6 players): I felt I had to include this one, as I’ve actually picked it up since part one of my top 10 games was written and it would’ve sneaked into that top five list on merit. I’ve not got to play it yet (it’s being wrapped up as a Christmas gift), but I’ve sat in on a few games and can’t wait to crack it open. For Sale plays in 20-30 minutes and is incredibly simple; what’s great about it for me is that it’s quick and dirty and plays better with five or six – perfect for our group, which seems to have expanded beyond the four we’d got used to. For your £20 (there’s a cheaper version becoming available with slightly crappier components) you’ll get two different packs of cards (one with buildings, one with cash values) and a stack of bidding coins. The game plays in two distinct sections, where players will be bidding (first with the coins, then with the cards they won in the first round) to win cards that will be your bidding chips after the first round, then your final score after the second. Simple, elegant and fun, this has been a noisy game each time I’ve watched it and seems a great one to end any games night.
Just missing the list: I expect at some point these card games will make it into my collection (especially if I see them at bargain prices) but for now they’re just off the radar. No Thanks! came close, but it seems to fill a similar niche to For Sale so is now bubbling over until I feel I need another title in that area. Lost Cities is a two-player only card game that I’m not sure my girlfriend will like, which is putting me off purchasing it (as it’s really only her I get to play two player with). And finally Eminent Domain, a game described as a mix between three games I’ve already got (all on the previous list – Race for the Galaxy, Glory to Rome and Dominion) so one that I feel I can live without at the moment, as I’m still really enjoying the other three games.