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Lost Cities Card Game Review

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All board game reviews and ratings from “A Pair of Meeples” are entirely based on the game at two players. You can learn more about our rating system by clicking below.


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If Lost Cities was a person it would be old enough to drink, it’s crazy that we’re still playing and reviewing a game that is that old.  We tend to think that board gaming has changed so much but there are still a lot of great games that have stood the test of time and Lost Cities is one of them.  

If you need one of the most simple and basic games to play with your friend, partner, or spouse but still want some good gameplay this might be the one.

Lost Cities Game Review

7.5 out of 10

Is it Good For Two Players? : Yes

If you’re just starting in the board gaming hobby Lost Cities might honestly be the perfect place to start.  You only need one person to play it with, it’s dead simple, it’s very portable, it’s quick and yet it still has a lot of depth and strategy to it.  There are not many other games that check all those boxes, especially not games that have been so well-rated for twenty-plus years.

Theme: 3/10
Replayability: 4/10
Components: 5/10
Conflict: 4/10
Fun: 4/10

Husband's Rating
8 out of 10
Wife's Rating
7 out of 10

Pros

Super Simple and Straightforward

Quite Portable

Quick Playtime

Great for all experience levels

Cons

Keeping score is a bit of work without an app

Gameplay Experience:

We were only about 20 years late to the party, but we finally got Lost Cities and were pretty excited to play it.  We thought it was a card game but the box was quite a bit large for just cards.  We opened it up to realize that it was mostly cards, a very small board, and empty space.  

Lost Cities Components
That’s it?

It kind of annoys us when game boxes waste so much space, especially when they don’t have to, but we soon learned Lost Cities is a game that deserves as much space as it wants because it’s just that good.  

We got down to business, read the rules, and were on our way to playing our first game of Lost Cities.  It sounded simple, too simple.  Just play cards in order to devise routes for your expedition and make sure you have enough to pay the cost of these so-called expeditions. 

We started our first round and it was easy to see how tight of a battle this game is between both players.  Even your first turn is extremely meaningful.  This is because you will instantly provide your opponent with information that they can use against you for the rest of the game.  Whether you start an expedition, place a wager, or discard they now know something they didn’t.

This was so obvious that my wife and I were playing so cautiously because we didn’t want to give up too much information.  It says something about how easy this game is to learn because normally our first playthrough of a game we just do a bunch of random stuff because we have no idea which strategies work.

Well, this overly cautious strategy was both of our downfalls. The deck ran out before either of us had any decent expeditions laid down. After a few minutes of trying to figure out how scoring works in Lost Cities, it wasn’t looking good for us.  I was definitely in the negative on some of mine and my wife had a small profit but only from the single expedition she had mostly focused on.

The end of the deck came so quickly and we were not expecting the game to move that fast at all.  Clearly, we needed to revise our strategies a bit to get more cards laid down, so it was a good thing Lost Cities is played over three rounds.

We started our next round off a bit more aggressively.  We were realizing that Lost Cities is about deciding when to hold off on your plays in order to hide information or when to go all in and hope the statistics play in your favor.  We became much quicker at laying our cards and deciding what we could let each other know and what we should hide for as long as possible.

Some of you might have shuddered at the word Statistics,  thinking back to all those terrible Math classes in school. Don’t worry, mental math can help you a lot in Lost Cities, but it’s not a necessity to have fun playing the game, so don’t worry, you don’t need to be a math major.  

Our scores were much better on our second round with almost all of our expeditions getting a positive score and our third round scores were even better.  It did not take long at all to play three rounds, especially considering this was our first time playing the game.  We both agreed it was a great game and wanted to play again right away.

Lost Cities Game

Before we could start another game though, there was just something that I had to do.  Download a Lost Cities scoring calculator app.  Just because I said mental math is very helpful to your success in the game doesn’t mean I’m not going to avoid doing it whenever I can.  The scoring is simple and won’t be hard for most people, I’m just allergic to non-essential math.  

Anyway, once that was downloaded on my phone we played game after game and all the nuances of this quick and simple card game became even more clear.  It was easy for us to see how Lost Cities has been one of the top board games for over 20 years now.

Lost Cities Rules Summary:

In Lost Cities players are dealt eight cards and the rest are formed into a draw pile next to the board.  In the standard game, there are five expedition card colors with each color ranging in value from 2-to 10.  Each expedition color also has three corresponding wager cards.  

Players then take turns trying to lay their expedition cards in order from lowest to highest to score points for that expedition.  If you can lay wager cards before laying any numbered cards for an expedition, that will multiply the value of that expedition at the end of the round.  That’s all you need to know to play Lost Cities.

See it’s a super simple game but when you play it you can quickly see how deep it actually is. 

So how do you win?  Lost Cities scoring can be a bit confusing especially when first playing, this is because you can score negative points if you’re not careful.  Cards for each expedition are added up separately and then the expedition cost, 20 points, is subtracted from each total.

After subtracting your expedition cost, it’s time to collect those sweet wager bonuses or those not so sweet wager losses.  If you played one wager, multiply that column score by 2, if you played two, multiply it by 3 and you guessed it, if you played 3 multiply that column’s score by 4.

Lost Cities Scoring

If you also lay 8 cards in a single column you will get a bonus of 20 points for that column. Now write down your scores and get ready to play another round since all points are added up after 3 rounds.  The player who has the most points always goes first because the first player has a slight disadvantage.

We told you, that keeping score might actually be a little bit more involved than just playing the game, so do yourself a favor and get a Lost Cities scoring calculator on your phone.  This is the one we use for android and it’s free! – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.valloo.lostcities.scorer&hl=en_US&gl=US

 

Conclusion:

If you’re just starting in the board gaming hobby Lost Cities might honestly be the perfect place to start.  You only need one person to play it with, it’s dead simple, it’s very portable, it’s quick and yet it still has a lot of depth and strategy to it.  There are not many other games that check all those boxes, especially not games that have been so well-rated for twenty-plus years.

The only negative to the game in our opinion would have been the scoring. It takes a bit of work and if you don’t play that often you’ll probably need some refreshing. Keeping score would have been a bigger pain twenty years ago but now we all have smartphones to do that work for us so we can’t really complain about this now. 

Another awesome thing about Lost Cities is that it is ultra-portable and so quick to play, making it great to even bring out to restaurants or anywhere for that matter.  Just take the cards, leave the board at home and you can play this great little game anywhere.

Is Lost Cities Good For Two Players?:

Lost Cities is a two player only game and if you haven’t gathered already it’s great.  It’s so simple and straightforward but has so much depth that you can play this amazing game with anyone, whether it is your non-gamer spouse or your hardcore strategist friend.  So in our opinion Lost Cities is great for any pair of two players.

Pros

  • Super Simple and Straightforward
  • Quite Portable
  • Quick Playtime
  • Great for all experience levels

Cons

  • Keeping score is a bit of work without an app

We hope this Lost Cities two player game review has helped you and if you are interested in buying a copy you can click the orange “Buy on Amazon” button.

Our reviews are not paid reviews, but some games are given to us, we do not let this affect our opinions in any way. This post may contain affiliate links so we might receive compensation if you sign up for or purchase products linked to. As an Amazon Associate, we can earn from qualifying purchases. This helps cover our site’s costs and allows us to continue reviewing games.


Lost Cities Expansion

Most copies of the game that you will find also come with the 6th expedition expansion.  This is just another color that can be added to the game.  The board is even double-sided with one side having a space for the new expedition cards.  

This expedition just makes the game a bit longer and gives players more options and more room on what to do.  We don’t play with the 6th expedition often because the original is so good because of its quick playtime and extremely tight gameplay, the sixth expedition detracts from both of these aspects.  

It is great that they added this to the base game but it is not something that we ever really have the urge to use because we like the base game that much.

Lost Cities Board Game vs Card Game

There is also a board game version of Lost Cities that shares a lot of similar characteristics to the card game but has many of its own unique features with probably the most significant difference being that it can be played with 4 players. We have yet to play the board game version but if we do and end up reviewing it, we will put the link here.

Lost Cities Scoring App

One of our biggest negatives about the game is that keeping and calculating scores takes a bit of work. This can be fixed pretty easily though by downloading an app that will keep score for you, the one we use can be found here for android: Assistant Lost Cities – Apps on Google Play. There is one available for ios but the reviews are limited: Lost Cities Assistant on the App Store (apple.com).

There is also Lost Cities ios app Lost Cities on the App Store (apple.com) This digital implementation of the game is fairly well reviewed but we have yet to try it, but it is another way to try Lost Cities before you buy.


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