Reviewed by Herb Levy
TEN (AEG, 1 to 5 players, ages 10 and up, 15-30 minutes; $19.99)
Push-your-luck games have always found an audience and luck, nerve and a bit of skill get tested as players build runs in different colors to score the most points in this new release from the design team of Molly Johnson, Shawn Stankewich and Robert Melvin: TEN.
TEN is a card game using cards coming in four suits (blue, green, orange and red) with numbers ranging from 1 to 9 as well as “wild” cards (white) which may be used as a number in any suit or any suit of a particular number (or both)! There are also “currency” cards (from 1 to 5) and currency tokens. The deck is shuffled (the number of cards to be used determined by the number of players). Reference cards are dealt out to each player and whoever gets the starting player symbol begins.
The active player starts by drawing a card and calculating the total value shown. Cards with a number and suit count as positives. Currency cards act as negatives. So, for example, should a player reveal a green 4, then a currency card of 5, then a red 7, the total, at that point, is only 6! That player may continue to draw cards, one at a time or stop. If stopping – and NOT exceeding a value of 10 – it’s time to make a choice.
A player may claim ALL number cards and put them in his/her display. If that is done, then ALL other players receive currency chips in the amount of the currency cards revealed. Should the player decide to take currency instead, then ALL of the revealed number cards go into a “market” where they may be purchased at a later time. (Currency cards are discarded.) On a following turn, when a player has chosen to collect cards (not currency), he/she may purchase ONE card from the market at face value using currency. Of course, the more cards revealed, the more cards, potentially, can be claimed or currency collected. But should a player exceed a total of 10 (total card value or currency cards exceeding a value of 10), that’s a BUST! No cards may be bought from market but, as compensation, a white “currency” chip (which counts as 3) is given and does not count against a player’s currency limit of 10. But when a wild card appears, things happen a bit differently.
When a wild card is drawn, play pauses in favor of an auction. Starting with the player to the left of the active player, all can bid for possession of that card. This is a one bid auction that ends back with the player who drew the card. Players may bid currency on hand (including white chips) AND hand in cards from their display (presumably but not necessarily duplicates) which count as 1 currency each. High bidder wins control of the card (which does not have to be committed to a run until the end of the game). The active player resumes his/her turn.
Play continues until the entire deck runs out. When this happens, all players, starting with the player who drew the last card, may purchase ONE card from the market. Now we score.
Points are scored for the single longest run of consecutive numbers in EACH color. Manage to get a complete run from 1 to 9 and a bonus point is your reward: 10! The player who has the most points wins! Tied? Then having the most currency is the tie-breaker. Still tied? Then the player with the fewest total cards wins. Still tied? Then victory is shared!
It has been a running complaint in our game circle that games feature numbers too small or colors too similar. Fortunately, NOT here. Numbers are very big (you can see them from across the table) and the colors have different backgrounds which should help those with any color challenges.
TEN centers on two essential choices: whether to take the cards or the currency and how much do you bid. Since cards are NOT evenly distributed (there are fewer high numbered cards than lower ones), decisions can be difficult. By taking cards needed to create your scoring runs, you are arming your opponents with currency they need to outbid you for valuable wild cards when they appear and/or purchase higher level cards needed to stretch THEIR runs. It was an excellent design decision to allow cards to be used as currency too. This gives value to excess, low numbered cards that have no worth if they are doubles. While the game can be played with 2 (and a solo mode of play is provided too), the game is at its best with 4 or 5 as this amps up the competition for cards during auctions and market buys.
With the Holiday game buying season fast approaching, gift givers are always searching for something at a reasonable price point that can appeal to all ages. That’s a solid criteria. If that’s a criteria you share, the TEN just might be the Perfect TEN for you. – – – – – – – – -Herb Levy
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