As a gamer, I often hit a problem. There are so many games out there that require two, three, four, or even eight players, yet it’s not always possible to find people when you want to play a game. This means I’ve been taking to the solo games recently, in the quest for the best gaming experience for solitaire players.
This led me, oddly enough, to a highly recommended title known simply as The Game.
THE PREMISE OF THE GAME
The Game is a discarding and hand management card game, designed by Steffen Benndorf, based around a simple number puzzle. It can be played with 1-5 players. This is a review of the solo player experience.
Essentially, and it is this simple, the player is presented with four cards to begin with. Two start with 1 and have an arrow pointing upwards. Two start with 100 and have an arrow pointing downwards. These form the four discard piles of the game.
There are 98 other cards, each with a number on them. These are shuffled, and eight are picked up into the player hand.
The challenge is to, in order, place all cards into piles, in numerical order, until no cards are left. You only have 8 cards to choose from at any one time, so this presents a fair challenge. That’s really it. Simple, eh?
There is a The Game On Fire variant, which I will review in its own right, as it is its own game in its own way. It’s kind of like an expansion, so I will save it for another time. For now, let’s get analysing.
QUALITY AND COMPONENTS OF THE GAME
The game comprises of a series of cards, all made with a linen quality finish which makes them really easy to shuffle. They feel good in the hands.
The box is not oversized, but instead, it is exactly the size it needs to be. This is a rarity amongst games nowadays. It is nice to see.
For some reason though, and I guess it is to make it edgier, there is a skull design (as obvious by the picture above). I’m not objecting, but there is no particular reason for it. If you search for it on BGG, images like this appear, which I can only assume is from the early days of The Game when a rainbow deck was also available. This is one of the primary weird things about the game – as it is abstract – yet seems to plug an idea that The Game is groovy or dangerous. It’s neither, but it is quite an interesting game.
For some reason, it is much easier to find the German version of The Game, so I did go with buying that instead of the UK version. To the credit of the companies behind The Game, I did find an English copy of the rules online.
WHAT IS IT LIKE PLAYING THE GAME?
Now the interesting bit –
The Game is, in a strange way, a paradox. On one hand – it’s a dull exercise in time wasting, partly governed by luck and the order of cards, whilst being incredibly frustrating. There is no real theme, bar the skull faces, and the whole thing feels a bit like a game of solitaire.
On the other hand – it is ingenious. The Game is so simple, so basic, and so not-about-the-theme that it actually traverses what it is to be a game. The Game is not a game. It’s a puzzle. It becomes an exercise in mathematics, precision guesswork (if such a phrase can exist) and trying to figure out how best to distribute your cards.
It feels like there is no strategy at all, whilst at the same time feeling like it is a strategically heavy game. You find yourself wondering where the best place would be out of the four slots for your card and, if you place it where you are thinking about placing it, how do you need to play out the rest of your game in order to win. It’s not an exercise in time wasting, but rather deck management as you discard down into the four piles.
So, what can we gather by this? Well, The Game is a conundrum. It doesn’t take long to play, but don’t go in expecting a game. Instead, treat it the same way you would a crossword puzzle or sudoku.
It is because of this that the game has a fair amount of replayability. Every time you replay the game, every time you shuffle the deck, you are playing afresh, with a different set of circumstances. Since it is so simple, since it has such a basic set of rules, it is easily replayable. There is nothing that overly grates about the game, making it easy to pick up and put down.
VERDICT FOR THE GAME
The Game is very difficult to judge. On one side it is not really a game. This may change when I play it with more people (again, I’ll review it), but the solo game feels like a logic puzzle rather than a game. This is…kind of refreshing in its own right.
To avoid this being a completely inconclusive review, let me just say this – I am looking forward, weirdly enough, to playing The Game again (solo). The lack of theme actually makes it timeless and more approachable than other games. It’s confusing, but it is good fun and so I am going to keep playing it until I can successfully beat it. I can see why it is on the list of so many peoples’ top 10 solitaire game lists.
What’s your opinion of solo games? Do you have a favourite? If so why? Let me know in the comments below.
SIMILAR ARTICLE: Review: Friday (Solo Board Game) – AKA. Why I Would Never Survive On A Desert Island