5 – Red7
It’s not flashy to look at, but then Red7 doesn’t need to be. A modern card game that feels like a classic, in Red7 your goal is simple: win! “But, Jeff …” I can hear you protest. “Isn’t winning the goal of every game?” Well, yes, but in Red7 this goal is much more pronounced. On the table in front of all the players is a draw deck and a discard pile. On top of that discard pile is a face up card. That card like every other in the game has printed on it: a number, a color, and a rule. Because this card is on the discard pile, all we care about is, “the rule.” That rule is the game’s current winning condition. It might say something on it like: highest card, most even numbers, or most of the same number … things like that. In front of you is a tableau of cards. You have been placing cards down in front of you during play or onto the discard pile (or both) in order to satisfy the game’s master rule. When you end your turn you must be winning according to the win condition on the card in the discard pile. So, let’s say that the card on the discard pile said, “most different colors.” Your opponent placed that card so that they would be winning. They have 4 different colors in front of them. You only have 3 different colors in front of you. By the end of your turn, you have to be winning, or you’re out. Let’s say it’s late in the game and you only have one card left in your hand. It’s a red card, and you don’t have any red cards in front of you. If you play it then you will also have 4 different colors in front of you. “Isn’t that a tie?” I hear you thinking. In Red7 there are no ties. The core rule of the game, the rule rule that starts every game, is highest card. Highest card is always the tie breaker. You lay down your card. It’s a 7. The highest numbered card in the game is 7. Great! But, you opponent also has a 7. The Red7 deck is made up of cards numbered 1-7 in 7 suits for a total of a 49 card deck. (There are 6 other “7’s” out there in addition to the one that you just played.) Remember that I said that there are no ties in Red7? When considering which card is high card, numbers are first in the hierarchy followed by suit. “But, with 7 different suits won’t it be really hard to remember which one is high?” Again, Red7 has got you covered. The suits are all colors and their heirarchy is based on a common mnemonic: ROY-G-BIV. (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet.) Red 7 is the highest ranked card in the deck. Violet 1 is lowest ranked card in the deck. No ties. In our example above, you just played the Red 7, the highest ranked card in the deck. You are winning. Game play is quick and easy to understand. If you can’t win by one rule you can play a card to the discard to change it. If nothing you can do will make you win, then you are eliminated. Normally, I hate player elimination, but Red7 is so quick and it plays so well at two and three players that I don’t mind it here. In fact, I love it. Which is why Red7 comes in at number 5 of my favorite games of all time.
4 – Istanbul
In Istanbul players are merchants traveling around selling goods for money, and ultimately rubies. The first player to get 5 rubies wins the game. Locations provide various actions like in a worker placement game, but Istanbul is more about worker “movement” as you have to walk your worker and their assistants around the board. There are many different locations and actions available, such as: warehouses where you can fill your wagon up to its maximum with a specified good, a wainwright where you can pay to increase your wagon’s capacity (which starts the game with a capacity of only two for each good,) markets where you can sell your goods for cash, various locations that allow you to acquire rubies (usually requiring cash, or goods, or both in trade,) and mosques where you can train to learn new skills that will help you during the game. There’s even a hidden gambling den in a tea house, a post office where you can get your mail, and a jail where you can bail your ingrate in-law out (again) in exchange for a favor. Movement is a big part of Istanbul’s game play. Players are represented by a chief merchant and their various assistants. This takes the form of a stack of discs. A thicker disk at the top of the stack has the merchant’s image silk screened on it. Discs under this are thinner and match the player color, but with no image. Every time that you take a step in Istanbul you must stop and take the action of the location where you find yourself if you can, (and you want to, because maximizing your action economy is important.) In addition, when you move, you must either pick up an assistant disc at your new location, or drop off an assistant disc at the location you just left. If you can’t do one of these things, then you can’t move to that location. This movement puzzle is interesting and a big part of the game. There’s a fountain location where if needed you can call all your assistants back to you, resetting your stack. If possible it’s best to try to plan a circular path that gives you an optimum selection of actions where you can drop off assistants and then pick them back up on your second trip around, but that’s easier said then done. Then there’s that no good low life in-law that I mentioned. When you go to the jail location, (provided your in-law is there) you can move the in-law anywhere on the board and take the action. Just don’t ask too many questions about how they managed to complete the requested task. The in-law piece stays at the work location where you sent it until another player’s pawn arrives at that location and sends them back to jail. (They are honor bound to do so, but this makes the piece available to you again.) Istanbul is a fantastic twist on worker placement! Both
Julieand I love it! As an added bonus, every time that you play, you have that song running through your head!