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#1 — OCTOBER 21st, 2012

THIS WEEK: Why is a whip-wielding archaeologist like an investment banker?




It comes as no surprise that uber-designer Reiner Knizia was a mathematics PhD student – his games often play like precisely-tuned systems of numeric relationships, with a theme added as an afterthought. You might need to play Lost Cities, however, to guess that Dr. Knizia was also an investment banker. The swashbuckling adventures depicted on the box are a thin glaze on a game that’s essentially all about risk management. Calling it "Raiders of the Lost Asset" might have been more accurate, but it would probably hurt sales… which would be a shame, since Lost Cities is such a well-polished gem.

Reiner Knizia

With a hand-drawn “explorer’s club” style, a slim rule-sheet and a sub-30-minute playing time, you’ll get into the “Investor Jones” role quickly.

There are five suits, each representing a type of adventure with a bright primary color (green jungles, yellow deserts etc.) Gameplay is based on fronting capital for these expeditions – starting each one puts you twenty points in the red. You then try to bring each expedition you’ve started as far into profitability as possible by laying down ever-higher point cards. This is trickier than it sounds, as your opponent will generally be competing in some of the same colors you are.

You’re also limited to a hand of 8 cards, giving you precious little space to plan out where to invest next. You’re constantly left guessing whether the card you’ve been waiting for is in the deck or being withheld by your rival. It can get pretty cutthroat; while not quite a zero sum game, Lost Cities will bring out the competitive streak you forgot you had.


It takes a couple of plays to get a feel for how the game is weighted, and beginners will have several moments of of lip biting and card counting as they try out different strategies, but we found that gameplay speeds up quickly after this learning phase. Like many of Knizia’s games, you'll come up with some totally new strategies as you continue to play.

Lost Cities is available from Amazon as well as most any local game shop. There’s also a brand new iPhone version that’s one of the best board game to iOS ports we’ve seen.

Have you played Lost Cities? Did we tell the whole story here, or do you have something to add? Email with your thoughts!


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Made with love in San Francisco, California.