You would think that, when naming a new game, you would at least choose a title that is easy to Google. That clearly did not occur to whoever localized The Game: Are You Ready to Play The Game? Not only is the name pretty unwieldy, but its "badass" skull theme is goofy and has nothing to do with the actual gameplay.
That said, the fact of the matter is that this game is addictive. Seriously, I can't quit playing it. The Game's German name is Spiel...so lange du kannst! This translates to "Play... as long as you can!" And believe me, you will. There is a reason this game was a 2015 Spiel des Jahres nominee.
The rules of The Game are simple, and so is its overall concept. There are 102 cards in the game. Four them are used to start off the stacks on which the rest of the cards are played. Two of the stacks ascend from 1 to 99, while the other two descend from 100 to 2. The remaining cards are the numbers 2–98. Each player draws a starting hand of 6–8 cards, depending on the number of players (The Game is a co-op that can accommodate 1–5). Every turn, each player must play at least two of his or her cards before drawing back up to the hand limit. If you can lay every single card on a pile, you win. If you don't win—this will usually be the case—you judge yourself by how few cards were still left at the end. If there are fewer than ten cards remaining, you had a pretty good run.
To add some strategic depth to the game, there is also the "backwards" rule. This means that you can lay a card on an ascending pile that is 10 less than the top card on the pile (e.g. a 29 to a 19 on a 1 to 99 pile), or a card on a descending pile that is 10 greater than the top card on the pile (e.g. a 79 to an 89 on the 100 to 2 pile). This helps you to buy yourself some more breathing room as you try to get rid of more cards.
Although it is not a perfect game—luck has a lot to do with your final results--The Game is highly addictive and remarkably tense for a game that is about stacking some number cards. I have played it solo and in a group of three, and it was a lot of fun in both cases. My friends kept saying, "Let's try that one more time. I'm sure we can do better this time!" Sometimes I pull it out as a warmup for a longer gaming session, but end up spending an hour just playing The Game. I actually told my boyfriend that it was like an analog cell phone game because it is quick and you'll play over and over again.
Then I checked the iOS Store: There IS an app! And, rather than tone down the whole skull theme, it appears that the app developers have doubled down. Have a listen, because that voiceover is AMAZING. I start laughing every time I hear it. I keep thinking I'm actually about to play Mortal Kombat.
If you're looking for something deep and complicated, look elsewhere. But if you want a simple, inexpensive card game with a lot of replayability, I highly recommend The Game. I'm honestly glad it is in my collection, even with the skull art and ridiculous name.
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My name is Liz Davidson, and I play solo board games. A lot of solo board games...