LOST CITIES RIVALS GAME REVIEW

You know what, board and card games are great. Especially when they allow you to do all the crazy things which sound exciting but are terrifying and just end in death. For example, expeditions. They might sound funny but there are always things like Snakes, Poison Ivy, being cursed by trespassing on sacred land, and Airline food! So, Lost Cities Rivals allows you to complete expeditions for fame and glory, all in the safety of your living room (and at the time of writing this review, away from Covid!).

What is Lost Cities Rivals

Lost Cities Rivals is the latest instalment of the infamous series and largely inspired by the original and well-renowned title Lost Cities. From what I understand, Lost Cities is beloved by many and its follow-ups were not so much. So, Rivals takes a few beats and ideas from the original titles but adds in a mechanic here and there. The aim of the game is quite simple, lead successful expeditions and obtain enjoy fame and glory to be declared the winner. Simple.

In Rivals, Players will have to collect various cards and place them in ascending order to complete personal expeditions and earn enough victory points to be claimed the winner. But it is simply not about just collecting cards, as you can increase the value of your overall expedition by taking a few risks and playing the long game. But taking the safer option can also secure a nice victory if you take advantage of Rivals main gameplay feature.

What makes this title quite different from the others in the series is the introduction of a bidding mechanic, that allows players to place bids on a collection of cards dealt, meaning you could gather a number of useful cards, dispose of cards that might be useful to other players but also lose out on having the most gold at the end.

Gameplay

The setup for Lost Cities Rivals is extremely simple, as all players are given two Wager cards, which act as the start of their expeditions. The remaining cards will consist of numbered cards either 2 to 5 and 6-10 which must be shuffled and divided into four piles. One pile will be in play per round and a total of 36 gold coins will be separated and given to all players.

On a player’s turn, they can either reveal the top card from the current pile and thus adding it to the display for everyone to see. Or, they can call an auction for the cards on display. In the auction, players will bid for the cards on display, depending on what their worth is to you or others. All players must either place a bid, raise that bid, or pass thus placing them out of the auction. Only a single player can claim the cards on display by outbidding the others.

Once the bidding is over, the winning player pays their fee into the center of the table, and can then take any cards that they want to play in order to start or add to their existing expeditions.

However, the winner of the current auction can also dispose of other cards as they wish to place a disadvantage over other players. They can certainly take all cards or simply dispose of them.

The round ends when the final card of a pile is revealed. Once this happens, divide all the coins in the center of the table equally among all players, then bring in a new pile to continue to the next round. Once all piles have been played, the game is over.

To score each player’s expedition, you must count the number of footprints on the numbered cards. If they have a wager in that colour, they will double that value; if two wagers, they

triple it, and so on. But for players who might not have enough cards in their expedition, can also score 1 point for each gold coin they hold and 8 points for each expedition that contains at least four number cards.

What works well for Lost Cities Rivals?

I would say that Lost Cities Rivals is extremely easy to grasp and for such a simple game, there are plenty of elements that work well. While the bidding mechanic is nothing new, it certainly adds a layer to the competitive side of gameplay, making for some intense and compelling decision-making at times. It can lead to some spiteful competition as you can easily get rid of cards that might prove useful to others. So I would advise if you’re looking for a nice game to play with others, this might not be the best option. But its ruthlessness at times can be enthralling and each player will have a chance to get their own on another.

What I did like was the ability to call an auction at any time. So you could have multiple cards on display or simply a couple. Meaning you could clear out someone’s pot of coins, play the long game or spend fast and get a head start on your expeditions. But this is a game intended for long, thoughtful calculations and waiting to ensure you don’t blow your load of coins and get the best cards possible.

Plus, the means of increasing your total value by adding more wager cards was an interesting touch, adding further to the risk and reward style of decision making.

What did not work so well?

While Lost Cities Rivals can happily be played with two people, it is best experienced with at least three or four. The dynamics work better with more people, such as auctioning and having more threats to contend with. And while I love the simplicity, it can be a little simple at times, and thus not lending so much depth that repeated playthroughs are a must.

But I felt everything in Rivals worked extremely well and felt wholly balanced for what could be an intense and brutal competitive game.

Overall?

Lost Cities Rivals might not seem like the most engaging or expansive card game on the market. But it is certainly one that confident with it is easy to grasp concepts and rules. Where the real fun comes from is the bidding between players and trying to outsmart and obtain leverage over what is beneficial to you and others. I can highly recommend this to anyone, but with its simple setup and end goal, it might not lead to plentiful and substantial replays, unless you add another person into the mix and see how they react.

Rivals is plenty of fun but could have used another dynamic to expand upon its core gameplay and add more replay value.

++ Incredibly simple to understand and play

+ Neat dynamic with the bidding system

+ Visually pleasing cards and pieces

– Maybe a little too simple for multiple plays

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