Click here to see a "How to Solo" video on YouTube!
What is this game about?
To be totally honest, The Game isn't really about anything. It has a vaguely threatening skull/death theme going on, but the theme has absolutely no bearing on gameplay at all. (I described the theme as "badass" when I wrote about The Game in 2016—with the quotations.)
In The Game, one to five players will cooperate to lay down as many cards as possible before a someone is unable to make a legal play. You can play each card onto one of four stacks. Two start at 1 and go up to 100, and two start at 100 and go down to 1. Cards must be played in strict ascending or descending order, so if you aren't careful, you may lose your chance to play several cards in the deck. The one exception is the "backwards" rule, which allows you to play a card that is exactly ten numbers higher or lower on a stack. In other words, you can lay a card on an ascending pile that is 10 less than the top card on the pile (e.g. you can go from 57 to 47 on a 1—100 pile), or a card on a descending pile that is 10 greater than the top card on the pile (e.g. you can go from 20 to 30 on the 100 —1 pile). That's literally it. You can teach this game to anyone.
How does it play solo?
When you play this game cooperatively, you have imperfect information because you aren't supposed to discuss the numbers on your cards. In the solo version of the game, you lose that element of mystery/frustration, but The Game is so simple and highly engaging that it plays nicely as a solitaire card game. It also does scale for one player, so it's a breeze to solo.
The Game seems like such a goofy thing to spend your time with. The name alone is absurd—trying to Google it is a huge pain, and your friends will look at you like you're crazy if you open up a conversation with "Hey guys, want to play... The Game?" (In fact, its full English name is, The Game: Are you ready to play The Game?)
Its rules are almost ludicrously simple, and while you can play strategically to an extent, The Game is so luck-based that you will rarely win. You will often have games where you do terribly.
In spite of that, The Game is shockingly addictive. When I do pull it out to play, I find myself playing it 3–4 times in a row without giving it a second thought. There is an app that is even more addictive, and that comes with a HILARIOUS "scary dude" voiceover that makes me grin every time I hear it. Its irresistible simplicity captivated enough people to earn The Game a Spiel des Jahres nomination the year it was published, and that is nothing to sniff at. (For the record, it was nominated alongside Machi Koro and Colt Express.)
Do I recommend it?
If you're looking for a basic solo filler, or even a very easy solo gaming app, I think The Game is a good choice. It's not deep, it's not thematic, and to be brutally honest, it isn't all that strategic either. But you'll find yourself playing it again and again, trying to do a little better than you did the last time.
Overall Rating: 3 stars
5 stars — I love it!
4 stars — I really like it.
3 stars — I like it.
2 stars — It's ok.
1 star — Meh.