Arguably one of the most popular card games of all time is UNO. The success of UNO basically made the board game company International Games. After their success with UNO the company tried to recreate that success with other card games. None of these games ever reached the success of UNO though and many of them were basically forgotten to time. As I am a pretty big fan of UNO (despite being well aware of the game’s problems), when I see one of these “forgotten” games for cheap at a rummage sale/thrift store I like to pick them up hoping to find a diamond in the rough. This brings me to today’s game Top That! which was first released back in 1987. Top That! relies on a lot of luck like most card games, but it actually has some interesting ideas that I haven’t really seen in other card games.
How to Play Top That!
- Choose a first dealer by whichever method you prefer.
- Shuffle the cards and deal six to each player. The rest of the cards form the draw pile.
- Take the top card from the draw pile and place it face up in the center of the table. This card will be the start card for the round.
- The player to the left of the dealer will start the first round. Play proceeds clockwise throughout the game.
Playing the Game
On your turn you will look at the card(s) played to the table and compare the two colors on both ends of the row of cards to those in your hand. Players are trying to find cards that match the colors on the edges of the row of cards.
You can play cards in one of two ways.
If you can play a card that matches the last two colors on one side of the row, you have played a Double Cover. When you play a Double Cover you have the opportunity to play more cards if you want. You can play as many cards as you want as long as you match two colors with each card.
Otherwise you can play a card that matches only the last color at either end of the row of cards. This is called a Single Cover. You can play a Single Cover after playing a Double Cover(s). When you play a Single Cover you are not allowed to play any other cards and you also have to draw the top card from the draw pile.
If you can’t play a Single Cover or Double Cover (or don’t want to), you will draw a card from the draw pile and your turn ends.
You may never play a card that covers up three colors in the row of cards. Thus you can only play cards to the two ends of the row of cards. If the row of cards ever gets too long, you may squish the cards in the middle together making sure you keep the end cards in the same order.
A Wild card has one section that says Wild on it. This section can be treated as any color, but the other sections are treated like normal colored sections.
Pick Up Cards
When a Pick Up card is played, all players other than the player who played it must draw one card from the draw pile. The player left of the current player will draw the first card followed by the rest of the players in a clockwise order. The current player will then continue their turn like normal.
Top That Cards
After a player plays a Top That card they will continue their turn like normal.
Starting with the next player, each player will check to see if the card is left uncovered. If the card has not been covered yet, the player must start their turn by trying to Double Cover the card (you cannot play a Single Cover on a Top That card).
If the player can cover up the card, they will continue their turn like normal. If they cannot cover up the card though, they will have to draw a card from the draw pile. They will then take their normal turn.
The Top That card stays in play until a player finally covers it up.
End of Round and Game
End of Round
A round can end in two ways.
If a player plays the last card from their hand, they will win the hand. If a player plays their last card in a Single Cover, they do not have to draw a card from the draw pile. All of the players with cards still in their hands total up the points in the corners of the cards. Each player will score points equal to the total of the cards left in their hand.
Otherwise the game can end when the draw pile runs out of cards. The game will continue with players taking turns playing cards like normal. If a player ever has to draw cards though, they won’t have to draw cards. If a Pick Up card is played, all players have to be able to draw cards or no one draws cards. When a Top That card is played, a player has to Double Cover it or they will skip their turn. The game will end when either one of the players runs out of cards or no one can play any more cards. All of the players will then score points based on the cards left in their hand.
End of Game
If none of the players have scored over 50 points another round is played. All of the cards are shuffled and play proceeds as before.
If one of the players have scored 50 or more points total between all played rounds, the game ends. The player that has scored the least amount of points wins the game.
My Thoughts on Top That!
Going into playing Top That! I honestly didn’t know what to think. I had never heard of the game before and despite being an avid thrifter, I had never seen the game before. Due to it being made by International Games and the fact that it was really cheap, I thought it paid to try it out. While the game has some issues which I will get to later, I was honestly a little surprised by Top That!.
While it is not a perfect comparison, in some ways I would say that Top That! kind of plays like a card game version of Dominoes. Like Dominoes the gameplay is built around trying to play cards that match the color at the ends of the row of cards that have already been played. Things are a little different as you can play cards that either match one or two of the colors at the end of the row. The ultimate goal of the game is to try and get rid of all of the cards from your hand before the other players. In a lot of ways the game feels like what you would get if you combined a game like UNO with Dominoes.
As you can see by the number of reviews here on Geeky Hobbies, I have played a lot of different board games. While I wouldn’t say that Top That! is totally original, off the top of my head I can’t recall a game that played quite like it. That doesn’t happen all that often. Top That! is a genuinely interesting game as the combination of a traditional card game like UNO and Dominoes is a strange pair that actually works surprisingly well. The game is far from deep, but I found it to actually be kind of fun.
The strategy in the game is usually pretty straightforward. Outside of knowing what cards are in the other players’ hands and playing cards to prevent them from being able to play cards, you are almost always better off playing cards as a Double Cover whenever possible as this is the only way to actually reduce the number of cards in your hand. Basically whenever you have the opportunity to make a Double Cover you should take it. Most of the game’s strategy comes from trying to create a chain of cards which allow you to play multiple cards on a turn as that is the only way to pull ahead of the other players. There is something oddly satisfying about being able to play multiple cards on your turn where you can get the colors to match up properly.
I would say that the Dominoes gameplay plays the most prominent role in the game, but the game still has those elements of a card game like UNO thrown in as well. The game has the patented Wild cards and draw cards like every other game made by International Games. The one unique card in the game is the Top That card. This card can actually have a pretty big impact on the game if played at the right time. Most of the time it will get covered up within a turn or two, but sometimes it will last for a while forcing players to draw cards. It becomes even more interesting when one of these cards gets played to both ends of the row limiting the player’s options significantly. Like UNO the game has a degree of players being able to mess with one another, but it feels like it doesn’t play as big of role as a game like UNO as these cards just don’t seem to impact the game as much as some other games.
Ultimately Top That! feels a lot like your typical card game. This is not meant to be an insult as it does a good job at what it is trying to accomplish. If you are expecting a card game full of strategy, you likely will be disappointed. If you are looking for a simpler game that you don’t have to put too much thought into though, Top That! may be the game for you. The game itself is quite easy to play as the mechanics are quite simple. It may take a little time for new players to fully grasp the game as it plays a little different than your typical card game, but there is nothing in the game that is particularly hard to understand. Because of this I think the game will work well with families.
Top That! is generally a good filler game. The length of each individual hand is likely going to vary some. If a player gets lucky and gets a lot of cards that can be played off one another, a round could end in a minute or two. Other rounds could take quite a bit longer if players aren’t able to get rid of their last card. While the game recommends that you play until someone has scored 50 points,you could adjust that to any number and it wouldn’t change the game outside of making it shorter/longer. Thus the game can be tailored to be as long as you want it to be. If you are looking for a simple little card game for when you don’t want too think too heavily about what to do, Top That! might be the game you are looking for.
The problem with Top That! is that its simplicity leads to most of its problems. The game is not the deepest. Figuring out a way to combine several of your cards to create a chain will definitely help you win the game, but it can only go so far. Your best or possibly only move on a turn is usually really obvious. Thus your strategic options in the game are kind of limited. It just feels like the game is missing something. I wish the game could be tweaked in some way where players could benefit from clever use of their cards more. The game is fine as it is, but with another mechanic or two I think the game could have been even better.
Since the strategy in the game is generally kind of limited, the game ultimately ends up relying pretty heavily on luck. Bad strategic play can lose you a round, but the same can’t be said for good strategic plays. If you somehow knew what cards the other players held in their hands you could make a play to win the game yourself or prevent someone else from winning. Otherwise your fate is going to come down to the cards you draw. Basically you need to draw cards that work well together so you can create chains as well as cards that work with the cards already out on the table. You will regularly end up with cards in your hand that have the right colors, but in the wrong order. This can be a little frustrating. The luckiest player will likely win each round which is kind of a shame as I wish a little more skill/strategy was involved. This is not all that surprising though as these type of card games always rely on quite a bit of luck.
Finally there isn’t much to say about the game’s components. The game just comes with a stack of cards typical of all of the games made by International Games. The card quality is typical of the era that it was made where the cards should last if you don’t abuse them. The artwork is quite bland where you don’t have a whole lot to look at. The card design works for the gameplay though which is what is most important. Basically you get what you would expect from the components from a card game like Top That!.
Should You Buy Top That!?
In the past I have played a number of the card games that International Games made trying to create their next big hit after UNO. While Top That! has its own flaws, I actually think this might be one of the better games that the company made. The game feels like a combination of a card game like UNO with Dominoes as you try to play cards that match the colors at the edges of the row of cards already played. The gameplay is not particularly deep, but it is kind of satisfying. When you are able to play several cards on your turn, it feels good. The game is also easy to play and plays rather quickly. Ultimately the game’s biggest issue is probably that it feels like a little more could have been added to the game. The game has some strategy, but it is usually really obvious where it doesn’t ultimately make a big difference in the game. Because of this the game relies on quite a bit of luck as the cards you are dealt will likely determine how successful you are.
My recommendation for Top That! mostly depends on your thoughts on the game’s premise. If the idea of combining a card game like UNO with Dominoes doesn’t sound all that interesting, it likely won’t be for you. Those who like simpler card games and are intrigued by the premise though will likely enjoy Top That! and should consider picking it up.
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