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The Game (2015, Steffen Benndorf) Card Game Review and Rules

So today I am going to look at one of the oddest titled board/card games that I have ever seen. Simply put the game is called The Game. You couldn’t of asked for a more direct title if you wanted. Released back in 2015 The Game is a card game that actually has a lot of acclaim around it. The game was nominated for the prestigious Spiel Des Jahres after all and was designed by Steffen Benndorf who is also known for Qwixx. Based on the name alone most people would have no idea what it was even about. It basically is a cooperative game where all of the players have to work together to try and play all of the cards to four different piles. The Game (2015) is arguably the game with the dumbest title that I have ever played that likely won’t appeal to everyone, but hidden beneath the surface is a surprisingly deep and satisfying game.

How to Play | My Thoughts | Should You Buy? | Comments

How to Play The Game (2015)

Setup

  • The players will separate the four starting cards from the rest of the cards. These cards will be placed in a row with one card on top of one another.
  • The rest of the cards will be shuffled. Cards will be dealt to each player depending on the number of players:
    • 1 player: 8 cards
    • 2 players: 7 cards
    • 3-5 players: 6 cards
  • The remaining cards will form the draw pile.
  • Each player will look at the cards that they were dealt. The players will decide who they want to start the game.

Setup for The Game

Playing Cards

The objective of The Game (2015) is to try to play as many of the 98 cards as you can.

On each player’s turn they must play at least two cards from their hand to one of the four piles. Cards can be played in any order. A player can play two or more cards to the same pile, and/or can play cards to multiple different piles.

In the game you will be forming four different piles.

First there will be two ascending piles. For these piles each subsequent card added to them must be a higher number than the previous played card. For example on one of these piles you could play cards such as 2, 5, 7, 8, 13, 16, etc.

Ascending Pile in The Game
To start the top ascending pile one of the players played a three. In the future players could play any card on top of this pile outside of a two. Players preferably want to play something close to three so they are able to play more cards to the pile.

There are also two descending piles. For these piles each subsequent card added must be lower than the previous card. For example you could play 98, 95, 91, 85, 84, etc.

Decending Pile in The Game
A player has played a 98 to the bottom descending pile. In the future players can play any card other than a 99 to this pile. Players should try to play a number as close to 98 as possible though in order to allow themselves to play more cards to the pile.

There are two exceptions to playing cards to the ascending and descending piles. If a player has a card that is exactly ten lower than the current number on the top of an ascending pile, they may play it thus lowering the number for the pile.

Ascending Cards in The Game
The top card on the first ascending pile is 25. One of the players had a fifteen card so they played it on the pile in order to turn the pile back allowing them to play more cards to the pile.

If a player has a card that is exactly ten higher than the current number on the top of a descending pile, they may play it thus raising the number for the pile.

Descending Pile in The Game
The first descending pile originally had a 85 on it. One of the players had a 95 in their hand so they played it on top of the 85 to reset the descending pile by ten.

These exceptions can be used multiple times in order to increase the number of cards that can be played to the pile.

Communication

To determine what cards players should play on their turn, players are allowed to communicate with one another. At no point can any player say the exact numbers that they hold in their hand. Players are allowed to say things about whether players should play on certain piles though giving them a general idea of what type of cards that they hold.

End of Turn

Once a player has played cards they will draw the same number of cards from the draw pile. If the draw pile runs out of cards the players will continue playing with just the cards left in their hands. The next player clockwise will then take their turn.

End of Game

When the draw pile runs out players will continue playing without drawing cards at the end of their turn. At this point each player only has to play one card each turn. They can choose to play more than one card on their turn if they want though. If a player has no cards left in their hand they will skip their turn.

The game continues until one player is unable to play the required number of cards from their hand on their turn. The players will then count up how many cards that weren’t played (cards in the draw pile and players’ hands). If there are less than ten cards that weren’t played, the players did a good job. If the players succeeded at playing all 98 cards they have beat the game.

Increasing the Difficulty

The difficulty of the game can be increased in two ways.

First players can be forced to play more of their cards each turn.

Players could also choose to deal less cards to each player throughout the game.

My Thoughts The Game (2015)

Before getting into the rest of the review I want to begin by discussing The Game (2015)’s title. I have played close to a 1,000 different board games and am aware of many more. Of all of these games I honestly don’t think I have ever encountered a game with a worse name than The Game (2015). The name is terrible for a number of reasons. First it doesn’t describe the gameplay at all. Without any other knowledge you would have no idea what it is about. In addition to that the name is so generic that it is hard for people to even know what you are talking about. As the name is so generic I was forced to refer to the game as The Game (2015) for the rest of this review so people knew what I was even talking about. The good news is that even though the name is terrible, The Game (2015)’s gameplay is actually really good.

The goal of The Game (2015) is actually quite simple. The game consists of 98 cards and your goal is to try and play all of them to one of four piles. Two of the piles will increase in value with each subsequent card that is played. The other two piles will decrease with each card. On each player’s turn they are forced to play at least two of their cards. Complicating things further is that each player holds their cards so the other players can’t see them. Players can give hints at what cards they hold in their hand, but they can’t specifically say what numbers they have. With these restrictions in place, players need to try and figure out what cards they should play on their turn in order to keep the piles viable for as long as possible.

Just reading the overview of how The Game (2015) is played many people will probably think that it doesn’t sound all that interesting. It might just seem like you are playing cards to different piles. In a way you are. There is more to the game than that though. Basically the game is built around players working together to figure out the most efficient way to get rid of their cards. The best case scenario would be to play all of the cards in numerical order. This is unlikely to happen though as each player is forced to play two cards on their turn. Therefore you will end up skipping numbers in all four piles. You generally want to play your cards that are closest to the top cards from the piles, but sometimes it is better to leave a pile alone so one of the upcoming players can play a card that works even better. This is why communication is key. Players have to work well together if they want any chance of succeeding.

While you generally want to play your cards that are closest to top cards on the piles, there is one exception that is key to your success in the game. If you ever have a card that is exactly ten in the opposite direction that a pile is moving, you can play the card which helps reset some of the numbers that were passed over in that pile. This is a critical part of the game as you likely won’t succeed without utilizing it. Before you play any cards you need to check to see if you can play one of these cards as they can be really helpful. In fact you could end up playing a card solely so you can then play a card to back up the pile that you just played to. You can actually set up a chain reaction where you reset a pile back 20-30 giving you a lot more flexibility in where you play cards. This might not seem like much at first, but it really helps the game standout.

I will admit that The Game (2015) is not going to be for everyone. If you think the concept behind the game sounds stupid, I don’t really see it changing your mind. I will say though that I really enjoyed playing it. The game might not be the deepest experience, but it is satisfying. I think The Game (2015)’s greatest strength might be that it finds the perfect balance between strategy and simplicity. The game is really simple to the point that it can be taught within a minute or two. There is more strategy to the game than it first appears though. How you decide to play the cards, especially when it comes to taking advantage of playing cards to turn back the piles, really has an impact on the game. The more that you play The Game (2015) the better your group should get at it.

I will say that The Game (2015) is one where the group that you are playing with will likely make or break the game. The main reason I say this is that the rules are kind of open to interpretation when it comes to player communication. Basically the rules only limit players from telling the others exactly what cards they hold in their hand. Otherwise there is a lot of flexibility in what you say. You could easily give players clues that are specific enough that your teammates will have a very good idea of what cards you hold in your hand.

This could be a contentious aspect of the game as players may have differing opinions on what should and shouldn’t count. Some players may think that you can say anything as long as you don’t say the exact numbers that you have. Based on how the rules are written this is likely allowed. In a way though this kind of feels like cheating. You could say things that basically tell the other players the exact cards that you have. Some players will likely think this ruins the game as there isn’t much skill to the game if everyone pretty much knows what everyone else holds. These players will think that communication should be limited. The problem with this is that I think the game would be kind of dull, and it will be really hard if the players don’t really communicate. Because of this the players have to come to an agreement before playing the game about which information can be shared and what can’t. If the players can come to an agreement it should eliminate most of the issues that could pop up later.

While I was actually kind of surprised by the amount of strategy in The Game (2015), it is hard to deny that it relies on a lot of luck. There are some things that players can do to overcome some bad luck. You will always have some extra room in your hand to hold cards that you can’t play right away. Every card that is played doesn’t have to be perfect either. As long as you aren’t forced to play a card that is far away from the current top cards you can survive. The problem is if you are dealt a bunch of cards that don’t work with the current state of the piles. In a lot of ways your fate could be decided before you even begin playing the game. The initial shuffle of the cards could either make the game really easy or really difficult. Because of this you want to really shuffle the cards before you begin, as playing the game naturally sorts the cards. If you get a lot of cards in numerical order the game will either be really easy or really difficult. There really isn’t anything the game could have done to reduce its reliance on luck, but it kind of sucks when you play a game that you had no chance of winning.

Speaking of winning, The Game (2015) is one of those type of games that you can’t really win. The only way to technically win the game is if you are able to play all 98 cards. This is pretty difficult to do as you need to have quite a bit of experience with the game as well as some luck in order to pull it off. Instead the game basically says that if you can get rid of all but ten or so of the cards your group did a good job. I kind of wish the game had more of a scale that you could compare your score with to see how well you did. I don’t mind these type of games as much as some players though.

The Game (2015) has had quite a bit of success for such a simple game. That was probably helped by the fact that the game was nominated for the Spiel Des Jahres in 2015. Despite its success I was a little surprised to find out that The Game (2015) has actually had a number of spinoffs/sequels made over the years. I mostly thought this because I thought the gameplay was too simple where there really wasn’t much that a spinoff could work off of. After looking at the spinoffs I was kind of intrigued. The spinoffs don’t drastically change the gameplay, but they do add some interesting twists. The spinoffs are as follows:

  • The Game: Extreme – The main gameplay is basically the same. The twist is that some of the cards have instructions on them. When these cards are played the players must follow the instructions printed on the cards. Amazon
  • The Game: Face to Face – This game only supports two players. This spinoff is interesting as it is actually a competitive game. The players compete to try and get rid of their cards before the other player. The players still have to work together at times though in order to be able to get rid of their own cards. Amazon
  • The Game: Quick & Easy – This spinoff reduces the numbers to 1-50 as well as the number of piles to two. The other twist is that all of the cards have a color. You can play a card that matches the color of the current top card even if it violates the direction that the cards for that pile have to follow. Amazon

I have to say that one of the biggest complaints that I had with The Game (2015) was with the components. My copy of the game is the first edition, but a newer version was released in 2018. Of the two I would say that the second edition looks much nicer. The artwork for the first edition is just really dark and doesn’t really fit with the rest of the game. The newer version is much more colorful and actually changes the artwork for each ten cards which makes it easier to identify cards in the same area. Of the two versions I would highly recommend the newer version. Theoretically you don’t really need either version though as it would be easy enough to make your own copy of the game. All you need are cards numbered 2-99. There are a number of other card games that you could use the cards from or you could even create your own cards with index cards. The game is cheap enough though that it probably is easier to just purchase a copy of the game.

Should You Buy The Game (2015)?

The Game (2015) does a good job showing that you can’t judge a game based on its title. The Game (2015) is a horrible title for a card game. Despite this it is actually a good game. The game is built around playing cards in numerical order to different piles as you try to get rid of as many cards as possible. Not surprisingly this leads to a game that is really simple to play where anyone can enjoy it. There is more strategy to the game than you would initially expect though. The players have to work well together or they will fail. Figuring out what cards you should play each round has a pretty big impact in how successful you will be. The players do need to come to an agreement on what communication is allowed though or it could lead to problems later in the game. The Game (2015) does rely on quite a bit of luck as you could have no chance of winning the game solely due to how the cards were shuffled. The components are also pretty average and can be easily replaced with a deck of cards with the numbers 2-99 printed on them.

My recommendation for The Game (2015) is actually pretty simple. Does the concept behind it intrigue you? If the game doesn’t sound all that interesting, I don’t think it will appeal to you. Those that think the game sounds interesting though should really enjoy The Game (2015) and should consider picking it up.

Buy The Game (2015) online: Amazon (2015 edition, 2018 edition), eBay. Any purchases made through these links (including other products) help keep Geeky Hobbies running. Thank you for your support.

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