Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Abluxxen : No I don't want your cards....

Eric Martin had been raving about Abluxxen for some time now and I was fortunate enough that even though it is in german, a few of the London gamers had already gotten a copy and I have played it a few times now.

Abluxxen, designed by the famous pair of Kiesling and Kramer who brought you other games like their recent release, Coal Baron, is a set collecting style card game for 2-5 players and can be played as fast as 25 minutes. I will not go into the rules of the games but go straight into my thoughts about the game.

Component wise it is just cards. You could feasibly combine 2 sets of poker decks and have your own version of Abluxxen. That said, the box is a whee bit too big for just cards.

Rules wise, this can be a little tricky to get into. Mostly because the flow of the game may not be intuitive. When I first learnt it, I had one or two rules wrongly taught. When I tried to teach it, there was a player who just did not get the game even though we played about 2 rounds and others were helping him. The key point to explain will be whatever you play, you will always need to look at what others have played; if someone has the same number of cards as you just played, then you need to look at the number on the card to see if they are impacted. But when you are explaining number of cards and number ON the cards, using "numbers" may become confusing for some.

Game length wise, it is usually about 30 minutes. People can start to overthink a bit but rarely does it stretch beyond 30 minutes. Some people do play a few times with the player being first to reach X points winning the game. I think if you set the goal of 40 points, that will translate to roughly 2-3 rounds.

Replayability is very high because of what other players will do and the strategy you want to use. Do you want to just finish up your hand as fast as you can so you can cause your opponents to get loads of negative points OR do you want to grab as many cards as you can to have a big score at the end of the round? The biggest so far I have seen is 29 points in 1 round which was quite amazing to us (prior to this usually we are scoring 15-20 points per round). Furthermore, this game gets better with experienced players as they start to remember what you have played and try to form sets to sabotage you or just to grab your cards for themselves.

I have already started to see standard strategies from my various plays. Usually the first few rounds, players will play a single "1" card in hopes that others will be forced to grab their card and they can grab nicer cards from the middle. Players sometimes also wait for a few same number cards to be played before playing a higher one to grab all of them to form a bigger set. For a simple card game, it is quite cool to watch all these strategies develop.

There are many games that often do not live up to the hype but Abluxxen for me did. It plays fast, is fun, can be quite thinky. I think it works best with 4 or 5 but I have not tried the 2 player variant. Only downside I can think of is the card that indicates who is the active player. More often than not people will forget to pass it along and it can be tedious to do so. Someone replaced it with a small cat figurine and I think that works best as its easy to grab off the table. Abluxxen will not appeal to everyone (indeed I have heard some people thinking its just average) but so far I have not met anyone that think it is a dud.