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FLASHBACK: LOST CITIES

(In this issue, we feature Keltis, this year’s winner of the Spiel des Jahres, and a re-working of Lost Cities, the popular two player card game from the prolific designer Reiner Knizia. still in print and available So we thought a quick look at the inspiration for his SdJ winner was in order. So here, from the Summer 1999 issue of Gamers Alliance Report, is how Contributing Editor Kban saw the game that planted the seed for Knizia’s first SdJ win.)

LOST CITIES (Kosmos/Rio Grande Games, 2 players, ages10 and up, 20-40 minutes; $24.95)

 

The German game company Kosmos has been hugely successful since the 1995 release of its 3 million copy selling flagship The Settler of Catan (Fall 1996 GA REPORT). and the expansions it spawned. Gathering lesser attention has been the release of a string of 2 player card games packaged in distinctive 6 inch square boxes. Titles for this series include Caesar & Cleopatra (Summer 1998 GA REPORT), Kahuna (Winter 1999 GA REPORT) and The Settlers of Catan Card Game (featured last issue) [Ed. Note: “last issue” is the Spring 1999 GA REPORT]. The latest addition to the line is Reiner Knizia’s Lost Cities.lostcitiespcs

Lost Cities consists of 60 oversized cards and a rectangular game board. The cards are distributed equally in 5 colors with illustrations that represent different expeditions ranging from the Brazilian rainforest to the desert sands. Each of the 5 expeditions has 12 cards: 3 investment cards with a pair of hands shaking and expeditions cards numbered consecutively from 2 to 10.

Players are dealt 8 cards from the shuffled deck to form their hands./ Each turn, a player may play a card to an expedition pile or discard a card. A player’s hand is then replenished to 8 cards by drawing the top card from the deck or drawing the top card from any of the five discard piles on the board.

Starting or adding a card to an expedition involves a player placing either an investment card or an expedition card to the corresponding expedition on his side of the board. An investment card can only be played at the start of an expedition and naturally represents the investment of more time and effort in that expedition.

The numbered cards played most be of higher rank than those previously played. For example, if an expedition starts with a “2” and later adds a “5”, the “3” and “4” cards cannot be used by that player (but can be used by his opponent). Play continues with the colorful tableau building on both sides of the board until the last card has been played from the draw pile. Now it’s time to score.

Players add up their points for each expedition and then subtract 20 (the starting cost for any expedition). The remaining total is then multiplied by 2 if there was one investment card, tripled if there were 2 investment cards and quadrupled if all 3 were played. The resulting points can be positive or negative. A match is usually 3 complete rounds with scores added at the conclusion. As is all games of this series, the game components are of the highest quality. The Rio Grande edition is completely in English. from the clear concise rules to the box art. The cards are language neutral and very colorful, depicting various stages of the completion of an expedition.

As with most card games, the obvious strategies apply, playing your hand to your scoring advantage while trying to deprive your opponent of cards that will prove to his benefit. Despite the fact that you’re at the whim of the “luck of the draw”, there is a subtle element of control. Basic tips include being cautious when starting an expedition unless you have means of achieving a positive score and keeping track of the number of cards remaining in the draw pile.

Since 3 rounds seldom take more than a half hour, Lost Cities is likely to be taken off the shelf often. Make no mistake – this is far from a chess match. There are few defensive plays to be made here. Despite its lightweight status, Lost Cities is a surprisingly satisfying diversion for those occasions when you can’t round up the entire game crew. – – – – – – – – – – Kban

Copyright © 1999, all rights reserved.


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