Review: The Game: Spiel…so lange du kannst

Two weeks ago, unbeknownst to me, I began a series of reviews of the Spiel des Jahres nominees with my review of Colt Express. Since the nominees were revealed just a few days ago and i happen to own all of them, I decided to continue reviewing the nominees with this weeks look at the game that caused most people to raise their eyebrows: The Game: Spiel…so lange du kannst. First let me cover a few things before we get into the review. The name of the game is not the best, in fact it makes it difficult to find on BGG (search for The Game: Spiel or kannst on BGG to find it) and sure, the artwork and theme are lacking (or non-existent where theme is concerned), but that is not what I will be looking at in my review. I want to let you know how good of a game, The Game is.

The Game is a co-op game for 1-5 players designed by Steffen Benndorf. It consists 100% of cards, 102 of them to be exact. There are 4 cards that start off the stacks to which you will play the rest of the cards; 2 ascending from 1 to 100 and 2 descending from 100 to 1. The other 98 cards are one each of the numbers 2-98.

courtesy of BGG
courtesy of BGG

Each turn the player must play at least two cards into one or more of the piles. Then the player draws as many cards as they played. Then the next player takes their turn and play continues until one of the players cannot play the requisite two cards (or one card if the draw pile has been depleted). The rules state that finishing with under 10 cards is an excellent result, but you only technically win the game if you have played all 98 cards.

There is one additional rule that I have not mentioned without which there wouldn’t be much of a game. They call it the “backwards” rule. At any time you can play a card that is 10 higher or lower than the top card on the stack. Obviously on the ascending  pile you would play a card 10 lower and on the descending pile 10 higher. These moves are where the strategy in this game come in. You have to plan on what cards to hold onto in hopes that you will get the card you need that allows you to jump up or down giving you a little more time to get rid of as many cards as possible.

Normally in my reviews I highlight the good, the not so good and the best parts of the game. This review will still do that, not once, but twice. I want to highlight both the solo and multi-player aspects of the game since they play so differently.

Solo
The Good

  • It’s a quick and portable game that can be taken almost anywhere and played on almost any surface since you only need an area to have five cards laid down.
  • The rules are simple and could be taught to anyone even if they haven’t played many board or card games before (probably one of the main reasons why it was nominated).

The Not So Good

  • There is a good amount of luck because you get the cards that you get and if you happen to not get anything particularly useful then there isn’t much you can do about it. Since the game plays quickly it really isn’t a major detractor, but it is something to keep in mind.
  • The replay-ability is lacking. In my third solo play I got it down to two cards remaining. That technically isn’t a win, but I’m not sure if it is engaging enough to get me to try to get a “win.”

The Best Part

  • The tension is high considering the fact that it is a lighter game. When trying to set up a backward move combo that might let you jump back or ahead 10-20. For instance you have the 77 and 97 card in your hand and you just need to draw the 87. You play two cards from your hand and hope and maybe even utter a small prayer for the 87 to be pulled from the deck. Maybe those two cards that you played weren’t the best to play, but if you get the 87 it will all be worth it. That provides a good amount of tension.
courtesy of BGG
courtesy of BGG

Multi-player
The Good

  • You are allowed to communicate during the game, saying pretty much anything you want as long as you don’t provide concrete information. This provides a very unique situation where you have to say something without saying something. For instance in the picture above the player (whose hand is shown) might want to communicate to people that they can play up to 48 on the second ascending pile so he can then play the 49 and subsequently the 39, but he has to communicate that without saying that. That is the game within the game and it’s fun.
  • It’s tough, but not terribly tough at two players. I plan on playing a larger group to see how that works, but it makes for a solid two player experience unlike a lot of other co-ops.

The Not So Good

  • Honestly for what this game is, there aren’t many negatives. Beyond the art, the theme and the font (not the easiest to differentiate the 6’s and 9’s for some reason even though they try.) the biggest complaint I have is aligned with my positive from above. The “open” communication is nice, but if you play with people repeatedly you probably will develop a language where saying, “This pile can go up a bit” means 1-3 numbers above/below and “This pile can go up a lot” means 15+ above/below. This makes the game less of a game and more of a communication exercise.

The Best Part

  • Winning…yup, that might be obvious, but when you win this game you actually feel like you accomplished something. My friend and I won once and we literally got excited and I almost don’t want to play it again anytime soon so I can relish that moment a bit longer.

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