Lost Cities: Daring Adventure for Two Simple Rules and Depth of Play Make for a Great Family Game

Geek Culture

Image:Rio Grande GamesImage:Rio Grande Games

Image:Rio Grande Games

We received the game, Lost Cities: Daring Adventure for Two by Rio Grande Games, as a gift a few years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. We packed it up during our move and somehow forgot about it. It came back out of the game cabinet this weekend when our 6-year-old geeklet found it and wanted to play. The box claims it’s for 10+, but as we all know, game developers never seem to actually play the game with youngsters. A round takes ten minutes or so, and N rounds make a game.

Game Concept

The story is that the two players are competing expedition leaders trying to invest in and complete (or at least make progress on) more expeditions than the other. There are five possible expeditions, each of which has its own little adventure story played out in pictures on the game cards. Each player has the option to take up any number of the five expeditions, which allows for competition on expeditions.

Playing the Game

There is a deck of 60 cards, 12 for each of the five possible expeditions. Each expedition has three investment cards and nine progress cards (numbered 2-10). The deck is shuffled and 8 cards are dealt to each player. Thus the distribution of expedition cards is randomly decided each round.

To begin an expedition a player may start it immediately, with any numbered card, or they may choose to wait until they have investment cards. Investment cards increase the rewards during scoring (as multipliers), but if sufficient progress isn’t made on the expedition, investment cards will increase the loss.

Once a player has made progress on an expedition, they may not backtrack (but the other player may play that step of the expedition for themselves).

If a player does not make sufficient progress on an expedition, that is have at least a sum of 20 on that expedition’s played cards, they receive negative points during scoring.

These three rules (there are others) encourage the player to think about number sequences and summation and to make decisions based on risk and reward (“Should I play the five after the three or wait for the four?” or “I have the first three cards and the final card, should I wait for an investment card or just start the expedition?”). They also allow devious players (see: spouse) to stop an opposing player’s progress in subtle but devastating ways.

Because there are only 60 cards, there is a fairly well-defined time limit on the length of the game, which is nice for a just-before-bed game.

Family Enjoyment

My six-year-old does not yet grasp all of the “story” to the game (mostly because we’ve only played twice, just before bedtime), but the rules and basic strategy are easy and the game is pleasant enough without knowing the “story”. As an additional bonus, my wife claims, “it’s a great game to play with an overly competitive spouse because it’s not only possible but relatively easy to beat him.”

Wired:Rules are simple enough to be grasped by a six-year-old. Game can be as simple or as complex as you make it; devious tactics can be employed. Each round is very quick. Rules include modifications for 4 players.
Tired:Claim for ages 10+ is silly. I lose to my wife on a regular basis. 😉

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