By P. A. Wilson
Recently, I created a list of my top ten favorite board games, and I thought, why not one for card games? In general, I enjoy board games more than card games, but these five I enjoy every time they make it to the table.
Here is my list, and why each made the top five:
Coup is a bluffing and risk-taking game. Your objective is to manipulate others and take control of the court.
Each player has two cards that represent the influence of particular character types. For example, an assassin or a duke. Each character type has an advantage named at the bottom of the card, such as allowing you to draw three coins.
You can use the abilities on the cards in your hand, or pretend to have a card with a different ability. Other players may catch you if you are bluffing and force you to lose influence. If the other player is wrong, however, he or she is the one who will lose influence.
Once you reach 7 coins, you can launch an unblockable coup, forcing another player to lose influence.
Since each card in your hand represents influence, when you lose influence, you lose a card. You never draw another another card, so once you lose two cards, you are eliminated.
Even though I am not particularly skilled at bluffing, I enjoy playing this with family members who are good at it. I generally play it safe at the beginning, but some people start bluffing from the start.
It’s a simple game that is perfect as a warm-up for a lengthier board game, or for when you only have a short time to play.
#4 Sushi Go!/Sushi Go! Party
Sushi Go! is a drafting game. Each player starts with a hand, chooses a card, and passes their hand to the next player. All players then flip their chosen card and those cards take effect.
Some basic cards just score the points denoted on the card. Others require two or three in a matching set to score the point. Some are kept until the end of the round, and some until the end of the game, before scoring.
I like this game because of its cute theme and easy gameplay. After one game, players can easily become accustomed to the scoring system. It’s a great game to bust out when there is not much time to play.
The variant, Sushi Go! Party, provides an even greater variety of cards to make the game less repetitive. I fully recommend Sushi Go! Party if you can get it instead of Sushi Go!, but even the original simpler version will give you a good time.
I believe Dixit qualifies as a card game rather than a board game because the small board is only used for scoring purposes.
Dixit is a party game in which players take turns with the storyteller role. The storyteller looks at the cards in their hand, picks one, and without showing it to anyone else, uses a word or phrase that they hope will lead some players, but not all players, to guess it. For example, “Mirror, mirror.”
The goal for the other players is to guess the storyteller’s card.
Each other player uses the word or phrase to choose a card from their own hand, trying to trick the other players into falling for their card instead. For example, let’s say the storyteller’s card is of a woman who looks like an evil queen, and the storyteller is thinking of the classic Snow White.
Another player chooses a card with a literal mirror on it. A third, remembering that the queen asked for Snow White’s heart, uses a card with a picture of a heart on a platter. And so on.
These cards are mixed up randomly, and then players vote secretly using upside down numbered tokens on which one they think is the storyteller’s.
As explained before, the goal for the storyteller is to have some, but not all, of the players guess the storyteller’s card. The goal for everyone else is to choose the storyteller’s card.
If no one chooses the storyteller, or everyone chooses the storyteller, the storyteller gets zero points. This means the hint was either too vague or too obvious.
Players who are not the storyteller can gain bonus points if they trick someone else into voting for their card.
When my family plays, we have a rule that no one can comment after the storyteller chooses his or her word or phrase. This is to prevent players from accidentally giving further clues, such as by saying what the word or phrase reminds them of.
This is one of my favorite card games. It is a bit more complex than most party games, which I appreciate. I love the art on the cards, especially with the expansions. I think it is hilarious how two of my sisters use obscure anime references that they both understand to get ahead in the game.
Other relatives use references to sports, which they know that some players will get, but that my sisters and I will be clueless about.
One caution is that it is not good in groups where most people know each other really well, but there are some newcomers.
Dixit has artwork that is stunning and intriguing, which lends itself well to giving ambiguous hints. I like all of Dixit’s expansions, and while they do not change the rules, they provide more cards with new artwork and styles.
Dominion is a deck-building game. In it, you play as a monarch attempting to gain influence and expand your kingdom. You start out with a small deck and use treasure to buy cards to add to your deck.
The real goal is to gain victory points by buying victory cards, but these otherwise powerless cards clutter your deck and make it harder to take actions during your turn.
The base game has some variety in which cards you can create the store with, but the expansions greatly modify gameplay and what your decks will consist of.
One of my favorite cards is the Witch, which curses other players by giving them -1 victory point cards to clutter their deck.
This is a phenomenal introductory deck-building game that has dozens of variations. I would recommend any of the expansions to add on to the game, because all of the expansions I have played have changed the course of the game and made it very interesting.
Saboteur is my favorite card game. In it, you play a dwarf mining for treasure in caverns. The game is three rounds long. Each game, there is at least one, but usually two saboteurs.
The goal of the regular miners is to make a trail seven cards long to the treasure, which can be in one of three places. (Generally, they use maps to ascertain the location as soon as possible.)
The goal of the saboteur is to prevent the other miners from reaching the treasure. This can be done by placing dead ends, turns, and other unhelpful pieces. Saboteurs can also sabotage the tools of the other miners, breaking lanterns, pickaxes, and wheelbarrows.
When a dwarf has a broken tool, he or she cannot place anymore tunnel pieces until they are healed.
The dwarf that puts the finishing card on the tunnel gets to choose from the treasure first. For the Saboteur to win, the other miners must be unable to place more cards or obviously be unable to finish the tunnel to the gold. After winning, the Saboteur automatically gets three gold because it is harder to win as the Saboteur.
This game is so much fun, we have played several consecutive games in a row on some days. It doesn’t feel like simply a warm-up for a more complex board game – it’s more like the main event. This is one game that is simple enough to learn quickly and yet does not get boring. That is why it made #1 out of my favorite card games.