Thrift Scores : March 16 & 18 2016

Strap-in for a long post. This originally was just about a couple of games that I picked up on a fortuitous find, but I expanded it out to all of the games that I found on two trips that were a couple of days apart, totaling seventeen games.

The first trip started out looking like it was going to be a bust — two spots that had yielded o.k. results in the past came up completely dry for the second or third time running; a solid performer also only produced a copy of Blokus (though wonderfully complete). As I was lamenting my bad luck, I opted to add one more stop to my route just to possibly catch one more small thing — and then I hit a seasonal jackpot.  Five good titles from the late 1960s and early 1970s in excellent condition for reasonable prices.  I know Savers can go a little premium when they get a vintage item in, and while these were elevated in price somewhat, they were still a good value for what they were and their condition. My only regret was that another shopper snagged a vintage copy of Bas-KET before I spotted it, but I really would have had to see the price to determine if it was a worthwhile get.


Blokus ($3) – This was the first find of the afternoon, at the third store.  Somewhat of an unusual edition for the area, as this is a bi-lingual French-English edition which should be Canadian in origin (so probably not a Target pick-up).  Played, with a little shelf-wear, but complete. Since Blokus is generally available at Target and Wal-Mart, these pop up occasionally, but since there are 80 loose parts in the box, it is usually a gamble as to whether the game will be complete or not. I think my overall lifetime record is around five complete Blokuses (Blokai?), three complete Blokus Travel / Blokus to go, to two incomplete Blokus, and one incomplete Blokus Trigon.

Battling Tops

Battling Tops ($5) – At my final stop, this was the first thing that I spotted on the shelf.  Not only is it an old Ideal editon of Battling Tops with the wide parabolic arena, but it is also the edition with the fantastic classic cover art.  After inventory, I found it does have all four pullers (though only three have strings, and might be replacements, but also string is very replaceable), and six of the top discs with their original stickers, but there are only three top sticks.  I will dig into the parts box to see if my salvaged tops from a different Battling Tops game will be suitable replacements.


Detail of mother and daughter doing the dishes while father and son play Battleship
Detail of mother and daughter doing the dishes while father and son play Battleship

Battleship ($7) – The famed “Mom and daughter doing dishes while dad and son play” cover.  I had run across another one of these a couple of weeks ago, but I ultimately passed on it because it was in fair-to-poor shape, the cover had a big decades-old shipping sticker on it that I was unsure if I could remove without damage, and the store had priced it at $12(!).  I would have paid $12 for this one, though, as it is in excellent condition with very little wear.  From what I can tell, the only real mar to it other than a little shelf-wear is that a piece of cardboard from inside the box is missing, the one that kept the two clamshell boxes pushed to either end.  Nominal, to be sure, as the real jewel of this is the cover, and the contents are immaterial.  In fact, this cover is virtually the only reason I would pick up a copy of Battleship.

MB Jenga

Jenga ($3) – Jenga is usually on my “ignore” list, but I sold one in a flea market a couple of years back, and the buyer said that she and other buyers seek out and will pay a premium for the old Milton Bradley editions like this one because of the quality of wood that is used in the blocks.  This one is ultimately missing one block, but I should be able to find a replacement for it on the parts market.


Ploy ($5) – I would have had a harder decision to buy this if I had only come across it alone, but since it was along with the treasure trove, I added it as a “why not?”. Also, I have a soft spot for 3M bookshelf games, and I usually fall on the side of choosing to save one from the thrift store if it is a reasonable price (softness does not apply to Stocks & Bonds and Facts in Five, the former pops up too often and there is no market for it, and the latter is just on its own).  Complete and in pretty good condition, with the ersatz Leonard Nimoy on the cover.


Manhunt ($8) – I was unfamilar with this game, but since it was with the others and is in great condition, I picked it up as well.  After going through it, this appears to be a detective deduction game similar to Clue.  Players are trying to solve a mystery that is generated by a punch-card that goes into the clue machine.  Players gather clues by sticking a probe into the machine, and find out if their assessment is correct (hole, probe shows nothing) or incorrect (no hole, proble shows a red mark). There is also a battery-operated “computer” that seems to consist of a small engine that causes some dials to spin.  There was still a 30+-year-old battery in the device that was very corroded, but I cleaned it up and I think the simplicity of the device means it should not have come to harm. Once I locate a D-cell battery and get this to the table, I’ll see if it is worthwhile to write up a review.


Tip-It ($8) – A classic Ideal game, though one that has been picked up and is currently available on the market.  This one is the old Ideal version — with the fantastic box graphics, and the game pieces that bridge the gap between “game” and “toy”, as so many Ideal games do.  Like the others from the haul, the box was in great shape despite its age, which was a real feat here because the box is very large and has a lot of hollow space inside, which usually leads to dishing and crushing.  One thing that had not fared well over time — part of the box insert made of thin vacu-form plastic was rather brittle.  Fortunately, the box doesn’t really rely on the insert to keep its shape either.  Though Tip-It might not be as impressive as Riff-Raff or any other large-form dexterity game when it is set up, the large form-factor of it is still pretty neat.

Almost like this one.
Almost like this one.

Chess^3 ($4) – I picked this one up mostly for the novelty.  I actually misunderstood from the outside of the box just what this is, which is remarkable because I once built a list of several dozen chess variants and re-implementations where I determined the distinctions between this chess game and others.  I thought this was the Star Trek set piece with the board separated out onto tiers, but it turns out that this is the variant that uses a single set of pieces but uses them across three stacked boards.  Visually interesting, though the components are a little cheaper than I would have expected, using injection-molded pieces that end up with clear mold lines and have some flash from misalignment.  Nevertheless, this will.probably make some chess enthusiast happy.

Water Works

Waterworks ($3) – This one was another grab in the excitement of finding a lot of quality items. Like Ploy, I would have passed this over if I found it on its own, as I don’t think it is a very good game, and the nostalgia aspect of it doesn’t do much to fetch a good price. But, I still picked it up.  This edition comes with the “bathtub” card tray, and the small metal wrenches.  Interestingly enough, while it was missing one wrench, two more missing wrenches had been replaced by other small metal tools that share the same brassy color and are the same size as the original wrenches.  Instead, the package has one small brassy hammer, and one of what appear to be a pair of pliers.  Regardless, I have another parts copy from which I can scavenge wrenches, so I’ll find a good home for this somewhere.

Cashflow for Kids

Cashflow for Kids ($3) – I’ve read Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and I get what the author is after, but I’m not sure to what extent that translates to kids, even if you do package it up in a board game.  At one time, Cashflow 101 used to fetch high prices on the resale market, mostly because the retail on it was around $200.  Now, it looks like Cashflow will top out around $35 for great condition for the right buyet, and Cashflow for Kids will maybe pull $20-25, but maybe that’s the real lesson I learned from the book — know your market, buy low, sell somewhat higher.

The thrift trip on March 18 started out differently than usual. I was originally going to stop at a couple of stores on the way home on March 17, but my work schedule changed for me to stay later, but then on March 18 is changed back to normal time and gave me most of the day off. I stopped into one of my usual Kansas City, Kansas thrift stores, and not only did I find a number of games, but the cashier was having a bad day / dispute with her manager, so she didn’t ring up half of my stuff. Since the pricing information in a store is not absolute, and taking goods to a counter to purchase is merely an invitation to offer, I accepted her unilateral offer to sell me goods for lower than their ticketed price, so each of these has the ticketed price, and what I ultimately paid for them

Pass the Pigs

Pass the Pigs ($1 $1) – I have a friend who loves Pass the Pigs, and she asked me to get her a set a little while back. I already found her one, but since this edition is compact and comes in a travel case, I figured I couldn’t go wrong for $1. But, outside of this reason, I probably would not have purchased Pass the Pigs, as I don’t really care for it as a game, and I don’t think it performs well on the sale / trade market.

Ninja Burger

Ninja Burger ($2.98 $1.98) – I do not generally enjoy Steve Jackson games when I am playing games but I do recognize that he has his fans and they enjoy the silly action of the games that he makes. I don’t know anything about Ninja Burger, but as much as I don’t like to play Steve Jackson games, I wouldn’t leave them behind at a thrift store if they are a reasonable price. I don’t really have a guiding principle here — it’s not like “rescuing” a 3M bookshelf title like Twixt, but I thought that I would be able to find a good home for this from someone who likes playing it. And, since the cards were in shrinkwrap, I was not concerned that there were lost parts.

Munchkin Fu

Munchkin Fu ($2.98 $1.98) – Same thing I said about Ninja Burger, except that the Munchkin franchise has far more adherents. This one did have one pack of cards in shrink but one pack of cards opened and were bagged up, and I had confidence that everything was included.


Bezzerwizzer ($1.98 $1.98) – I would have passed on this one, even at a price of $2, just because I don’t play much trivia, and I’ve never had much luck in trying to sell trivia games in the secondary market. While I appreciate trivia for what it is and how it operates in an environment where you can sit down and play a game with friends, I generally find that trivia is too all-over-the map for my taste, or you are invariably saddled with a category in which you have very little information (for me, sports) and it will be an albatross around your neck toward game completion. To go a little further off the rails on trivia with an personal anecdote — I played in a trivia tournament among friends back in law school. There were eight or twelve of us (I don’t recall some of the details) and we were each playing Trivial Pursuit, and the top two finishers from each table would face off at a later date for the Ultimate Trivia Challenge. I did very well at my table, filled up my pie wedges (even in the dreaded sports category), and then could not roll the right number to hit the center space for 20+ consecutive turns. I did end up finishing in the top two for my table, as I had picked up the pie wedges pretty quickly, but I was completely soured on the whole affair because the whole game hinged on the arbitrary die roll.

Anyway, Bezzerwizzer is actually a trivia game I would play. The whole of the game is about progressing linearly around a track, so you don’t have to deal with any silly die rolls. What I really like about it is that each trivia card has 20 categories, and before each round you pull three category tiles from a bag, and those are the categories you will answer for the turn. I think there is some jockeying where you can say what category you think you will perform best in. Also, as an added bonus, each player has tiles that they can use as side bets when they think they will know the category better than the person being asked the question, and they can jump in and answer the question if the original person gets it wrong. I think that this twists up the traditional action of trivia games and makes them a bit more dynamic and interesting. Bezzerwizzer actually comes from Denmark, though Mattel picked up the production / distribution rights for North America. In Denmark and other Scandinavian countries, Bezzerwizzer (which roughly means “better knower”) is similar to Trivial Pursuit in the number of editions and expansions. But, Bezzerwizzer didn’t seem to catch as much fire here in the US (despite at least two television commercials) so this is the only package available in English.

Risk 2210

Risk 2210 ($2.98 $1.98) – This was a bit of a nostalgic score, as my roommate and I bought a copy of this back in 2001 (for $50 retail!), and before I discovered a wider world of games, this was the only board game that I played often for a couple of years. I revisited it a couple of years ago and I don’t really care for the “take that” actions of the game and the tremendous per-player downtime (10 minutes on, 40 minutes off), but I know it has a following, and would also probably be a hit with my young nephews. When I opened the package, most everything seemed complete, except that the game was missing the moon playing board, the score and turn table, and the instructions. Fortunately for me, I had thrifted a different copy of Risk 2210 a couple of years ago that was missing a lot of parts, but it did have these. So, with a little bit of scavenging in my own parts department, I turned this into a complete copy.

Trains and Stations

Trains and Stations ($2.98 $0.00) – This was a game that I had never heard of, but since it came in a nice linen-finished box, was produced by WizKids!, and had a train theme with dice, I figured that I would probably be o.k. to buy it for $3 (and even better that I apparently got it for $0). The components look good, and the game appears to have been played once or only a few times. The reviews on it are middle-of-the-road, but I figured that this could be something I can play a couple of times, or I’ll just add it to the sale pile and see what I can get on the secondary market. What also catches me on this one was that this was just a 2013 release, so whomever donated it to the thrift store either received it from a friend who plays hobby games but missed the mark on what a friend would like a gift, or someone decided to winnow their collection but went for the donate-to-thrift route rather than trying to sell or trade.

Five Finger

Five Finger Severance ($4.98 $0.00) – This one was an odd find, partly because it fits squarely in the hobby genre like Trains and Stations, and I don’t think Minion Games has very wide distribution, but also because this is still in shrinkwrap. I don’t know much about this game, and the reviews of it say that it’s a bit crass and doesn’t use a lot of finesse in its mechanisms, but I figured that a $5 mid-sized box game can usually sell for $10 as long as it isn’t total trash, but since this one ended up at $0, whatever I get for it is gravy money.

Review: Condottiere – Eurogames vs. Fantasy Flight


Condottiere is an abstracted war-type card game where players are attempting to gain control of regions on the board through tactical card play by besting opponents in match-ups. There are two different versions of the game that differ in contents as well as game-play. The first editions of Condottiere were made by Descartes and Eurogames, and the most-recent edition is made by Fantasy Flight. The Fantasy Flight edition adds some cards, changes some rules and goals, and I will discuss and contrast those changes in this review.

The goal of both games is very similar, but the Fantasy Flight edition changed somewhat from the Eurogames edition. In the Eurogames edition, players win when they gain control of 3 adjoining regions; in the 2-3 player game, when they gain control of 4 adjoining regions. If no player reaches the goal, the player who has gained control of the most regions wins. In the Fantasy Flight edition, players also win when they gain control of 3 adjoining regions (4 regions in the 2-3 player game), or gain control of 5 regions total (6 in a 2-3 player game). In both editions, the gameboard is a map of Italy, broken into 17 regions, each with a capital city. Between the two editions, the Eurogames version has a bi-fold board ~ 18″ x 12″; the Fantasy flight version has a tri-fold board ~ 11″ x 9″. The maps and regions are the same, except for artwork differences.

The editions differ on components, as the Fantasy Flight has a different card-deck than the Eurogames version because of changes in the later edition. The Eurogames edition has six sets of colored cylinders which serve as city-control markers, a deck of 96 cards measuring ~ 6″ x 2″, a wooden block depicting the Condottiere mounted on horseback, rule book. Game box is a bookshelf-size box approximately the size of Puerto Rico.

Card breakdown
*63 Mercenary cards (15 x 1 strength, and 8 x each of 2,3,4,5,6, and 10 strength)
*15 Scarecrow cards
*6 Drum Cards
*3 Bishop Cards
*3 Surrender Cards
*3 Winter Cards
*3 Heroine Cards

The Fantasy Flight edition has six sets of wooden cubes which serve as city-control markers, a deck of 110 cards, close to standard playing card size, a black pawn for the Condottiere, a white pawn for the Pope, rule book. The Game box is a small box, approximately the size of a VHS cassette tape (Fantasy Flight Silver Line Box).

Card breakdown
*58 Mercenary cards (10 x 1 strength, and 8 x each of 2,3,4,5,6, and 10 strength)
*16 Scarecrow cards
*6 Drum Cards
*6 Bishop Cards
*3 Surrender Cards
*3 Winter Cards
*3 Spring Cards
*3 Heroine Cards
*12 Courtesan Cards

The game begins by dealing 10 cards to each player. A start player is chosen (youngest player in both rule sets) to place the Condottiere for the first round.

Every round begins with a player choosing a region and placing the Condottiere marker in it. Play moves around the table and each player has the option of playing a cards from his hand or passing. When a player passes, that player may not play any more cards for the round, but it does not necessitate that the player will lose the round. The round ends when all players have passed. When the round is ended, the player who has played the highest combined value of cards wins the round, and places one of his markers in the region’s city. Afterward, all played army cards are discarded. The round-winning player then receives the Condottiere marker and may select the next region to contest (unless another player has played Courtesan cards in the Fantasy Flight edition, see version differences below).

If no players participate in a battle, or if two or more players tie for the victory in a battle for a city, or if the Eurogames version’s Bishop is played, the contest ends in a draw, and the Condottiere piece is removed from the board and passed to the player to the left of the player who last had control of it.

Players do not draw cards between rounds, but instead play continues until all players’ hands but one are completely depleted of cards. At the end of a round when all hands have been depleted, players receive a new hand of 10 or more cards from the deck (see version differences below). At the end of a round, a player may also discard his entire hand if he has no Mercenary cards in it, which can be used tactically to bring about the end of a round and a re-deal.

The game ends when one player has gained control of 3 adjoining regions (4 in 2-3 player game).

Card Functions

*Mercenaries (both versions) — Basic unit of the game. The strength of the army is the sum of the mercenary cards played, modified by other cards.

*Scarecrow (both versions) — when played, allows a player to return a played mercenary card to his hand. Scarecrows cannot be used on special cards (i.e. all non-Mercenary cards).

*Drum (both versions) — Doubles the strength of all of that player’s Mercenary cards in play. The effects of multiple Drums do not stack, i.e. 2+ drums has the same effect as 1 Drum.

*Surrender (both versions) — Ends the battle immediately, and the player with the current highest army strength takes the region.

*Winter (both versions) — Reduces the strength of all Mercenaries in play to 1. If a player has a Drum in play along with his Mercenaries, his Mercenaries have strength 2. Winter does not affect the Heroine. In the Fantasy Flight version, if Spring is in play when Winter is played, Spring is discarded.

*Heroine (both versions) — A 10 strength army card. Is not a Mercenary card, and therefore is not affected by Winter (or Spring), not doubled by a Drum, cannot be pulled back into the hand with a Scarecrow, and is not discarded by the (Fantasy Flight) Bishop.

*Bishop / Sue For Peace (Eurogames version) — When played, the Bishop immediately ends the round, and there is no victor. The Condottiere marker is passed to the left player of the player who last controlled it.

*Bishop (Fantasy Flight version) — When the Bishop is played, the highest-valued Mercenary card in play is discarded. If there are multiple Mercenary cards that are of the highest value in play, they are all discarded. The player who played the Bishop card may take the Pope marker and place it on any region’s city — that city cannot be contested by the Condottiere so long as the Pope marker remains there.

*Courtesan (Fantasy Flight version) — A 1 strength army card. Is not a Mercenary card, and therefore is not affected by Winter (or Spring), not doubled by a Drum, cannot be pulled back into the hand with a Scarecrow, and is not discarded by the (Fantasy Flight) Bishop. The player who finishes the round with the most Courtesans in play takes control of the Condottiere marker instead of the player who won the round, though the player who won the round still places his marker on the contested city.

*Spring (Fantasy Flight version) — Adds 3 to the strength to the highest-valued Mercenary in play. If multiple Mercenaries are tied for the highest value, all receive the 3-strength bonus. If Winter is in play when Spring is played, Winter is discarded. In the case of a player with a Drum in play, the 3 bonus is added after the doubling effect.

Play Differences Between Editions

By far, the biggest play difference between the editions is the change in the function of the Bishop card. The Eurogames’s Bishop card is a very powerful and useful card. This version allowed a player to counter another player who was working a Heroine-Winter strategy to strongarm a territory, as declaring the round null would remove those cards with no victor. Additionally, the Bishop had great tactical use in a heavily-contested territory, as a player could “string-along” forces and wait to see what big Mercenary cards would come out, and then just nix the whole round. It also functioned well as a bail-out strategy in a head-to-head contest where another player is bringing out high-value Mercenaries, and works as a means to cut losses and cut down the opponent’s troops.

The revised version of the Bishop in the Fantasy Flight game has had all of its power removed, and has a devastating and random effect that tends to foul up the round by removing cards from other players’ play areas. For example, if two players were contesting an area, and player A has two 5-strength Mercenaries and a Drum, and player B has two 6-strength Mercenaries, playing the Bishop would have the effect of knocking out the player who is already losing the battle (20 v. 12). Likewise, if in a tactical move one might play the Bishop to take out a player that is leading the round with a some 6-strength Mercenaries, and another player plays a single 10-strength Mercenary, then the intended target is completely lost, and only the 10-strength will be removed. And finally, the change in the effect of the Bishop seems to slant more power of the game into the favor of the Heroine, which is un-removable, and unaffected by Winter.

The last of the Fantasy Flight Bishop’s abilities is very minor, and almost does not seem worthwhile. The player playing the Bishop may move the Pope token to a region, and while the Pope remains there, the region cannot be contested by the Condottiere. This does have the minor effect of blocking a player from a critical third region, but the effect still seems very under-powered.

The Courtesan has a minor effect on the game, and seems to take away some of the incentive for attempting to win a battle, as the Courtesan snatches away the Condottiere marker. But the heavy mix (12!) of Courtesans seems to just make the Courtesan contests flaccid affairs, as it only takes two players to have played a Courtesan to call that portion of the contest a draw, or turns it into a very small-scale arms race for the power to choose the next contested territory. The Courtesans also add seven more 1-strength cards into the game than were previously present and replace five of the 1-strength mercenaries, but since the Courtesans are special cards they are not doubled by a drum and cannot be pulled back by a scarecrow.

Spring is an interesting addition to the mix, as it allows for a counter to Winter, though the addition to all the highest-numbered Mercenaries in play also seems a fundamental change from the Eurogames’s version. In perspective, in the Eurogames version, a player could only affect his own battle line’s strength himself, except when the Winter card came into play, which affected all players. Both the Spring and the Bishop cards have wider-reaching effects which impact all players’ armies, both good and bad, but also somewhat randomly.

The last item that changed between editions is a minor change in card-draw. In the Eurogames version, when all but one player is out of cards at the end of the round, that player shuffles all 96 cards and all players would receive a new hand of 10 cards, plus two additional cards for every region controlled. In the Fantasy Flight version, the player who is left with cards may select two cards from his hand to keep over into the next deal, all of the other cards are shuffled, and players receive a new hand of 10 cards, plus 1 card for each region controlled.

My Opinion

I enjoy Condottiere as a relatively short, tactical card game. The interesting mix of cards and play decisions make for a compelling and quick game. The bluff tactics of playing large-value cards and then snatching them back with Scarecrows, coupled with other modifiers and the mystery of what cards are in play make for a fun game.

After playing the Fantasy Flight version, I’m not on board with their changes. The re-work of the Bishop card has made the Heroine far too powerful, as a player who has both Winter and a Heroine can only be stopped if someone has Spring, or can get in a pre-emptive strike with a Surrender. With the functionality of the original Bishop, a player could short-cut this strategy by declaring the round void. I think that the Spring card is an interesting addition, as it allows a counter for Winter, but I think that the effect of boosting some troops that might not be yours is a little random — Spring is great to boost your 6-troops, but you lose the effect for yourself if someone plays a 10. I feel that the Courtesan is clunky, as it is only a 1-strength army, which and has replaced 5 of the removed 1-strength Mercenaries, but added an additional seven 1-strength cards into the mix. Also, its non-interaction with Drums, and effects of taking control of the Condottiere marker seem to make it an artificial add-on that conflicts with the focus of the game about winning battles for cities.

My suggestion and recommendation would be to get the Fantasy Flight version (for availability and price), dump the Courtesans (despite that it throws off the 1-strength Mercenary mix), and use 3 of the 6 Bishops and play with them with the Eurogames rules.

The Fantasy Flight edition of Condotteire had a retail price of $25, but has apparently gone out-of-print since I originally wrote this article. The Eurogames version of Condottiere was last produced in the early 2000s.

Review: Sushi Go

Sushi Go

Sushi Go is an exceedingly cute card game in which players use card drafting to select a set of cards in order to try to get the high score and win. The basics of Sushi Go are easy enough that a child can understand them, but the real strategy of the game appeals to adults and young adults. The basic action of the game, choosing a card from a hand of cards and then passing the rest to a neighbor, is also the basic mechanism that is used in the award-winning game 7 Wonders.

Sushi Go is made of a fat deck of 108 cards of several different types. All of the cards have very cute, kawaii, depictions of sushi and other foods. Three of the card types are nigiri, and each is worth points. One card type is wasabi, and triples the value of nigiri that is played on it — so you have to play the wasabi on a turn before you play the nigiri on it. Roll cards show one, two, or three rolls on them, and the two player that have the most total rolls in front of them score points at the end of the round. There are four types of collection cards; sashimi and tempura only earn points if you get enough of them — two tempura and three sashimi to score. Dumplings are also scored by collecting, except their score grows the more dumplings you have. Finally, there are puddings — puddings operate a little different from the other collection pieces. With puddings, the player with the most puddings at the end of the game scores bonus points, but the player with the fewest puddings loses points. Finally, there is one card type that is not food. The chopsticks go down in front of a player and the player can use then on a later turn to exchange them for second card in the passed set of cards.

In each round, players are dealt a hand of cards, choose one, and pass the remaining hand to the next player. Once all the players have selected a card, they reveal them simultaneously. Players continue to this for the course of the round, selecting one card, passing the hand, and adding the new card to their play area. At the end of the round, players will have their selected cards and score them. After scoring, all the cards are cleared away (except for pudding, which hangs out until the end of the game). Players play three rounds, and the winner is the player with the highest points.

Sushi Go strategy uses elements of risk assessment and memory. While the cards pass around the table, players will have some information about what cards are available in the round, and players can use this knowledge to determine what cards would make the best selections, e.g. that there is enough sashimi in the round to give it a shot, or that grabbing dumplings will pay off with a good score. In addition, there is an element to the game of denying cards to opponents, for example you might choose to take a piece of nigiri to keep the next player from getting it to play on wasabi for triple points. Overall, Sushi Go is a fast and light game that

Sushi Go retails for $15.00 and is available at Target, and from online sources.

Review: Lost Cities

Lost Cities

Lost Cities is an interesting game for two that makes good use of risk-assessment, planning, and memory. Lost Cities is a card game by Reiner Knizia, and features his taste for simplicity in numbers. A game of Lost Cities is three rounds, and generally takes twenty-five to forty minutes. The game is themed on exploring to find the ruins of ancient civilizations, e.g. Machu Picchu, Atlantis, and the Egypitan pyramids.

Lost Cities consists of a sixty card deck in five suits. Each suit has the numbers 2-10 as well as three “handshake” cards. In addition to the deck of cards, there is a board that serves as a placeholder for discarded cards and also helps players to organize their expeditions. To start the round, players are dealt eight cards. On a player’s turn, the placer has two options — play a card to an expedition (one of the five suits of cards in an ascending pile) or discard a card to one of the piles on the board. Then the player draws a card to bring his or her hand back to eight cards, but the player can either draw from the draw pile, or take the top card from one of the discard piles on the game board. The key to the game is that when a player plays a card to an expedition, he or she has to play cards in an ascending order; thus, once a player has played a six to an expedition, the two-through-five can no longer be played to that expedition and only the seven-through-ten could potentially be played there. Handshakes are considered 0 points, and must be played before playing any numbers in the expedition, but they will multiply the score of the expedition at the end of the round. Choosing to start an expedition is a tough decision, as the score for an expedition at the end of the round will be the sum of the cards in the expedition, but less twenty points, so getting into an expedition where you can’t get many points on the table will ultimately lose you points.

The round proceeds with players playing-or-discarding cards and then drawing back up to eight, and the round is over when the last card is taken from the draw deck. Since players can draw from the draw deck and the discard piles, this has an important impact on the game in two ways. First, there may be cards in the discard pile that a player can still use in an expedition; a card discarded early in the round may become valuable later in the round for some easily-gained points. Second, since drawing from the discard piles does not deplete the draw deck, drawing discards can help delay the end of the round, giving an opportunity to get some needed points on the table.

At the end of the round, players score for each of their expeditions. In expeditions where a player hasn’t put any cards, there is no score. In an expedition where the player has played any cards, the numbers on the cards is summed, and then twenty is subtracted, leaving a positive or negative score. If the player has played one or more handshakes to that expedition, the score is multiplied by 2, 3, or 4 for 1, 2, or 3 handshakes. Finally, if a player has played eight or more cards in an expedition (of the 12 available), twenty points is added back to the score after multiplying. After tallying scores, players play another round toward a total of three rounds. High score at the end is the winner.

Lost Cities has great head-to-head action that includes assessments of risk management and memory. For example, if you start the game with a couple of cards in a suit, you might choose to start an expedition with the hope that you’ll see a couple more cards pop into your hand over the course of the round. Or, if you see that your opponent has already played the seven in a color, you know you can safely discard lower cards of that suit without fear that your opponent can turn them into additional points. There’s also a little bit of a memory element on the discard piles, since only the top card is visible; you might be able to remember that there are valuable points buried in the discards that you can turn into a viable expedition if you draw them back out.

Lost Cities is popular enough that it spawned a similar spin-off game called Keltis that took the same core game and added a board, some extra stuff, and a Celtic theme, and it also won Germany’s Game of the Year (Spiel des Jahres). Keltis then spun off a card game (so Lost Cities card game became Keltis the board game became Keltis the card game) and then Lost Cities was also reformulated into Lost Cities the boardgame. I think there might have also been a Keltis dice game, but I really stopped keeping track a long time ago. I’ve played Lost Cities lots of times, and I’ve played Keltis once, and I really don’t need to get any deeper into playing anything other than Lost Cities, card game.

Lost Cities is available from hobby stores and retails for $19.95, but it can be found for less from online sources.

Thrift Scores Feb. 26

Another afternoon run to thrift stores, and here are my finds.


Rebound ($2) — I had played the old Ideal version of this a couple of weeks ago, so this was an easy choice of a get at that price. It’s a scaled-down version of table shuffleboard with steel ball bearing pucks, and while there isn’t too much substance to the game, it’s rather quick. As it turned out, this one was virtually new in box despite its 20-year-age.


Timeline: Inventions ($2) — This was a hell of a get! I love the Timeline games, and this one was still in shrinkwrap. I already have a copy of Inventions, but this will either be great flea market fodder or a gift for someone who also likes Timeline.

1000 Bornes

Mille Bornes ($1) – I picked up a copy of Mille Bornes a couple of weeks ago, and at the time I thought that it was a ridiculously-sized box for what is essentially a deck of cards. Boy was I wrong — this version takes the over-large production of that previous version and then adds a completely unnecessary board, player tokens, and hazard markers. It’s an abomination of additional parts for what should be a simple card game, but apparently someone thought that the game needed something new.


Rook ($1) – I’ve never actually played this classic Parker Brothers card game, but my mother mentioned that she hadn’t played it in a long time. Added bonus — cards are still in shrinkwrap.

Take the Train

Take the Train ($1) – I’d never heard of this one, but I figured I couldn’t go wrong for a buck. After giving it a once-over, it looks like its somewhere between UNO and Skip-Bo, where players are trying to play sequences of cards, but can bridge from one train “line” to another through the use of transfers. It’s a little uninspiring, but someone might enjoy it.