“You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do you, punk?”. Why yes, yes I do Harry Callahan. It’s a good thing too, as push-your-luck is one of my favourite things in a game. It appeals to that little bit of our brain that likes the excitement of seeing whether a gamble pays off or not. TEN, a new card game from AEG, is built on the back of push-your-luck and another card game favourite, set collection.
Go on then, one more
When it comes to card games, you’re spoilt for choice now. It doesn’t matter if you’re into trick-taking, take-that, set-collection, or even making buildings out of them – there’s something for everyone. Set-collection is one of my favourites, so I was excited to see what Alderac have done with TEN. Yeah, I know, the capitalisation makes it looks like I’m shouting (PARKS did the same thing), but I guess if I had a game published I’d get to choose how it’s written too.
TEN is a simple game at its core. Flip cards over one at a time, with the aim of collecting runs of consecutive numbers in each of the four coloured suits. Each time you flip a card you get the choice of stopping where you are, and claiming either the currency or number cards on show, or carrying on, and flipping another card. If you’re wondering why you wouldn’t just keep flipping cards, it’s because from the first card onward, there’s a running total. If that total ever goes over – you guessed it – ten, you bust.
This is all made more interesting by the currency cards I mentioned. Some of the cards have a number of pips on them, like dice. Currency cards reduce the running total by their value, so you can take the chance of flipping more cards if you can keep that total low enough. If the currency card total goes over ten though, you bust as well. Hmmm, this game is getting pretty tasty, right?
Making a bid
What raises TEN above other games of its ilk, is the inclusion of a market of cards. During the course of the game, various things will cause number cards to get added to the market. If you don’t bust on your turn, you can spend any of your collected currency tokens on buying a card of the same value from the market. Wildcards though, we haven’t touched on wildcards yet, and they add a really nice part to the game – auctions.
Wildcards might be any number of a coloured suit, a number in any colour, or even both at once. You don’t need me to tell you that these cards are really powerful, and so, players get to fight it out for them in an auction. When one is revealed in a turn, everything else stops, and the auction happens. It’s a simple auction, where each player in turn can bid only once, and has to beat the previous highest bid. Wildcards can change the course of a game quite easily, so the auctions can get really interesting.
One of the things I really like about TEN is that there’s no such thing as a bad turn. If you’re used to games like Can’t Stop, where pushing your luck too far can result in a dead turn with no reward, this is a refreshing change. It keeps the game really tense, with no runaway leader, or worse, someone who stands no chance of catching up. If the worst happens and you bust, you get a token worth three currency, which can be really powerful in future auctions.
If it isn’t already obvious, I really like TEN. Set collection is awesome, push-your-luck is awesome, so what’s not to like? It plays nicely with all counts from two to five, but four or five is where I like it best, because the auctions take on some real bite. The game ticks along at a nice rate, and you can happily play three games in an hour. One thing I love about TEN is that all players are invested in every turn, not just their own. If someone chooses to take numbers, all other players get the currency left on the table. There’s palpable tension when someone’s sitting on a total of seven and choose to flip another card. Will they bust….?
The production values, especially considering it’s a card game, need to be talked about. TEN is gorgeous. The card quality is really good, the colours are vibrant, and there are so many nice touches throughout. The shiny UV spots on the cards not only look nice, but if you look closely you’ll notice there are a number of spots on each card that equal the value of it. The currency tokens are really tactile too, it’s fun just to play with them and clack them in your hands between turns.
Molly, Robert and Shawn from Flatout Games have put together a really polished game, one which I would – and have – play at home or a convention alike. The box is small enough to take to the pub, and when you consider you can pick it up for under £20, it’s the kind of game you could, and should, play anywhere. Tense, fast, and it’ll get the table talking, TEN is superb.
Review copy kindly provided by Alderac Entertainment Group. Thoughts and opinions are my own.
Designers: Molly Johnson, Shawn Stankewich, Robert Melvin
Art: Shawn Stankewich
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
Playing time: 20-30 mins