Lost Cities

Publisher: Kosmos

Designer: Reiner Inizia

Players: 2

Ages: 10+

Duration: 20-40 min

*For the review, I will be using the older edition of the game. The only differences are the box art and the cards have a slightly different dimension (about 1mm) but otherwise the gameplay and art hasn’t changed*

Starting out your expedition can be hard. You need to raise your funding, and then you’re already in debt by the time you even get there. And just when you show up for your site, there’s your rival. Always there one step ahead for you. You’re hoping he hasn’t gone into that catacomb that the locals have told you about that may house the treasure you seek…

I can’t believe this game is 18 years old… it was first released in 1999, and while it wasn’t the first 2 player game, it really was the one that started the whole “small square box” 2 player games that we see nowadays (like 7 Wonders Duel and Akrotiri) and everyone always recommended it as a great game for couples. But the question is, does it still hold up after almost 2 decades?

I also need to add in that I had a guest helping me review this game. His thoughts were “This game doesn’t make a lot of noise, but the cards taste really good.”

Whats in the box?

IMG_3253
5 expeditions in a very short time

Inside the box you’ll find one game board and 60 oversized cards… and thats all you need for this game. There are 9 cards for each of the 5 expeditions (numbers 2-10) and 3 investment cards for each expedition.

IMG_3251
Braving the Tibetan snow for glory!

The art on the cards is really well done, I love how each of the expedition cards has slightly different artwork. The theme here… well, its a little pasted on, but it works for the most part. As I said the cards are pretty big (even the box says oversized cards on the back) but they feel good and work well with the game.

So how do you play?

This game is played over a series of rounds. Most games are usually 3 rounds, but you can go as long as you want. To set up the game set up the board between the players,  shuffle the deck (really well) and deal out 8 cards to each players. Then you’re ready to start!

So how do you play? Well, during your turn, you have 2 things you must do (in order) first is, you will play a card from your hand, whether in front of you (your expedition) or on the board (discard pile). After you played your card, you will either draw from the deck or take a face up card from the board (discard pile). That means that you will always have 8 cards in your hand at the end of your turn.

So let’s go back to playing a card. Playing a card means you have started an expedition. Every expedition will be worth 0 points until you have played a card in it… as soon as you play a card, you start at -20 points (what, you think its free to fly across the world and start exploring ruins?) and as you play cards, you will start to mitigate that negative score to positive and score points.

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Man, looking for treasure is hard work when your budget is limited

But there are rules on how you play those cards. You have to play them in ascending order. So example, if you have played down a 4 for an expedition, you can’t put down a 3 as you can’t go down. And those investment cards I mentioned… they are multiplier cards. At the end of the round they will multiply your points, but there are 2 things you should know about them. They MUST be placed down before you place down any expedition (number) cards, and if you end up with negative points, they will multiply your negative points!

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Just a little math to brighten up your day.

 

I’ll give you some examples of scoring here from the image above:

  • The yellow expedition has 25 total points. So as we started with -20, We subtract 25-20 to get a total of 5 points.
  • The blue expedition has 31 points… but we have 2 investment cards. So we take 31 and take away our -20 investment points, and we have 11. And then we take those investment cards (1 cards would be 2x the points, 2 cards are 3x and 3 cards 4x the points) and multiply it by 3 and get a total of 33 points.
  • The white expedition has 19 points (39 total -20) and has a multiplier of 2x because of one investment card, so we have 38 points. But there is one other rule… if you have played 8 cards or more for your expedition, you will score an extra 20 points (those points are added after the multiplier). So 38+20 is 58 points.
  • The green expedition only has 16 points… so we take -20 and take away 16 and we are left with -4 points (man, your investors are not gonna be happy)
  • The red expedition only got 12 points… even worse! so we take -20 and take away 12, and get -8. But wait… you invested into it… so we have to take that -8 and multiply it by 2, so we end up with -16 points! Oops…

The round will end as soon as the last card is drawn from the deck. Then all the cards in your hand are out of play and don’t count for anything. Take all your expeditions, and add up the totals. For the above, you would add 5+33+58+(-4)+(-16) for a total of 76 points (not too bad there considering you had 2 bad expeditions). Then you record your totals, and after you have finished your rounds you add up the totals and whoever has the highest score wins the game!

Is it any good?

There are some things I want to touch on that I love about this game. First is… I love that the board is there… it serves as a great place to not only dump cards you don’t need in your hand, but also to take cards your opponent drops unknowingly, or to actually control the end of the game. Let’s say you have 6 cards in your hand that you want to play and there are only 6 cards left in the deck. If you and your opponent each took a card after your turn, you would only be able to play 3 cards because as soon as the 6th card was drawn, the game would end. But… if you took cards from the board (discard) you would be able to play at least 5 cards from your hand (assuming your opponent doesn’t do the same, which will let you play even more cards). Its a great mechanic that really makes this game way more deep and strategic.

The gameplay is really great, a mix of press your luck (I really hope I’m drawing the card I need!) and gambling… err… investing (I’m really gonna invest in the red expedition because I have some good cards and hope I draw more). Its a tense and exciting game and I love how it plays out. I also love how you usually don’t feel like you’re out of it. You can lose your first 2 rounds out of a 3 round game, come out strong in your 3rd round and still win the game.

The reason I’m rewiring this game is because a few nights ago my wifewanted to play a game, and she said “What about Lost Cities?”. This game is almost 20 years old, and still comes out to our table every once in a while. Its been played countless times and still works, because it’s a timeless design. Sure, the theme feels a little tacked on and it can be a little mathy (is that a word?), but it doesn’t matter. It has the right balance between luck and strategy, and plays well. It was regarded as the ultimate couples game back when it was released, and I feel that it still is today (but you don’t have to be a couple to play it… don’t make your friends feel awkward). If you are looking for something fun to play with your significant other, your best bud, or anyone in between, this is a great way to do it. Date night anyone?

Pros:

  • Classic gameplay
  • A perfect balance between luck and strategy
  • Nice artwork

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Lost Cities

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