Category Archives: Card games

Some Quick Card Games

Over the weekend Sophie and I played a few quick card games that we have been accumulating.  I think all gamers get a few of these over time – they’re inexpensive, which makes them good gifts, and they play quickly, which makes them great for filling in space while waiting for people to show up for a game or if a given game runs short.


2-5 players

Ages 10+

15 minutes

A wealthy patron commissions a lovely landscape mural, hiring the greatest (and most competitive) painters in the world… you! Interfere with each other’s paintings and compete to win the world’s greatest treasure: Points!

On your turn, draw a card from the central display. If it is a Commission card, keep it at your side for scoring at the end of the game.

If it is a tree card, you may add it to any player’s tree. If you make a contiguous limb of cards sharing one or more features, you score 1 point for each instance of those features in that contiguous group.

If you score more than 10 points in a turn, remove the scoring cards and the owner of the tree collects them as “pruned” branches.

Then reveal a new card in the central display. If there are ever three Commissions in the display, discard them all and replenish the display with three new cards from the deck.

I think that of all the games we played, this one took the longest.  There are a fair number of tactical decisions to be made regarding scoring.  Since your opponent can score off your tree, you want to be wary of setting up 8- or 9- point scores that your opponent can play off to prune your tree.  You need to keep an eye on your opponent’s tree for opportunities as well.  Until you get used to looking at both your tree and your opponent’s each turn the game will play a little slower than listed (no surprise) but once you get the hang of it things can go very quickly.

Commissions in the game (methods of scoring extra points) can be an important factor in play – an extra 10 points at the end of the game is quite a boost.  The commissions that come up early in the game will drive player strategy (if you get a commission for “most branches”, for example, you will want to build up your tree and score  without allowing for pruning, so you get a lot of branches, and you will want to pick up other commissions that play on that, such as “longest branch” and “least pruning” and avoid commissions like “Most pruning” and “smallest tree”) while commissions picked up later in the game will revolve around targets of opportunity, and trying to get commissions that will nullify your opponent’s (so if your opponent has “largest tree” you should start looking to get “smallest tree”).  Particularly in a two-player game, this can even out a lot of the commissions – it gets harder to do in games with three or more players.

We made an error in scoring the game our first time out, but I think it worked equally for and against both of us, so it probably didn’t make a big difference.  I wound up losing by a couple of points.

Incidentally, the wealthy patron who commissions your landscape mural must be HP Lovecraft, because my tree looked more like the tree that Clancy Brown had tattooed on his chest in Carnivale than a lovely landscape.

Outcome:  I lost by a couple of points.

pic1845363_tNINE LIVES

2-5 players

Ages 8 and up

15 minutes

Cats are running loose through the city! There are nine different breeds, five cats each, each with their own personalities. Rescue as many cats as you can, but try not to get scratched!

NINE LIVES is a fast game of trading, bidding, and clever tactics. Each round, all players bid a numbered card from their hand. High bids use special powers first, which can force trades between players. Then, low bids get first choice of cats to rescue, which is key scoring victory points and winning the game. Score points by rescuing the majority of a breed, rescuing any cats of a rare breed, and finally one point per scratch… but only if you have the *fewest* scratches!

This was a fun little game that I, at least, probably didn’t really grasp on my first play-through.  You are trying to score points by collecting sets of different breeds of cat into your kennel.  Some breeds are rare and worth more points – exactly which breeds are rare is determined by drawing a few cards from the deck at beginning of play and setting them aside.  Each cat has a value, which is used for bidding each turn – and cats of higher bidding value also have special abilities which can allow you to swap cards out of your hand or kennel.  Art on the cards is very cute, with lots of nice drawings of cats, and each cat (even within the same breed) is individually named.

Each game is exactly five rounds long, so even learning the rules the game goes very quickly. You start with five cards, and play one out of your hand each turn, so your choices become more constrained as the game progresses (something I didn’t realize on my first play-through).  It is a good idea to look at your hand before turn one and get an idea of what order you want to play your cards in.

Cats are also rated for the number of scratches they give you if they are in your kennel at the end of the game.  Once again, this means that you want to keep track of your opponent’s kennel, since having more scratches than your opponent at the end of the game costs you points.  Some cats are relatively benign, and some are really vicious, which is a factor to consider when deciding what breeds to collect.

If you like cats (and what sane person doesn’t?) this is a great game to pass a lighthearted 15 minutes.  Just looking at the illustrations during play will make you feel better.

Outcome – I won by a couple of points on scratches.


2-6 players

Ages  13 and up

15 minutes

You are head of a family in an Italian city-state, a city run by a weak and corrupt court. You need to manipulate, bluff and bribe your way to power. Your object is to destroy the influence of all the other families, forcing them into exile. Only one family will survive…

In Coup, you want to be the last player with influence in the game, with influence being represented by face-down character cards in your playing area.

Each player starts the game with two coins and two influence – i.e., two face-down character cards; the fifteen card deck consists of three copies of five different characters, each with a unique set of powers:

Duke: Take three coins from the treasury. Block someone from taking foreign aid.
Assassin: Pay three coins and try to assassinate another player’s character.
Contessa: Block an assassination attempt against yourself.
Captain: Take two coins from another player, or block someone from stealing coins from you.
Ambassador: Draw two character cards from the Court (the deck), choose which (if any) to exchange with your face-down characters, then return two. Block someone from stealing coins from you.

On your turn, you can take any of the actions listed above, regardless of which characters you actually have in front of you, or you can take one of three other actions:

Income: Take one coin from the treasury.
Foreign aid: Take two coins from the treasury.
Coup: Pay seven coins and launch a coup against an opponent, forcing that player to lose an influence. (If you have ten coins or more, you must take this action.)

When you take one of the character actions – whether actively on your turn, or defensively in response to someone else’s action – that character’s action automatically succeeds unless an opponent challenges you. In this case, if you can’t (or don’t) reveal the appropriate character, you lose an influence, turning one of your characters face-up. Face-up characters cannot be used, and if both of your characters are face-up, you’re out of the game.

If you do have the character in question and choose to reveal it, the opponent loses an influence, then you shuffle that character into the deck and draw a new one, perhaps getting the same character again and perhaps not.

The last player to still have influence – that is, a face-down character – wins the game!

Another fast and easy game, with lots of potential for bluff and deception.  The rules are a bit longer than the previous two games, but once they are understood the game runs very quickly.


Yeah, there is a “however” here that prevents me from saying much more about this game.  And that is that despite what the box says this isn’t really much of a two-player game.  The nuances of bluffing just don’t work as well with only two players, and it is unlikely that you will see the full range of characters and their powers in any given game.  Also, given that players start supposedly evenly matched, and there are only a small number of turns in the game (our game ran 6 turns), the player who goes first has a sizable advantage.  Certainly the second player still has a shot depending on the luck of the draw, but the game is really the first player’s to lose.

On the other hand this game looks like it would be an insane free-for-all with more than two players, and the 6-player game must be a bloodbath.

I wouldn’t recommend this one for two players, but really look forward to playing it with three players or more.

Outcome:  I won by virtue of being able to stab Sophie’s characters to death before they could coup me to death.

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Zeppelin Attack: Master Plans for Masterminds

Previously, I looked at some general strategies for Zeppelin Attack.  Now I want to take a more in-depth look at each of the four Masterminds.

I feel that there are five main considerations determining how a given Mastermind plays in Zeppelin Attack.  In descending order of importance they are:

  1. Which attack form they specialize in
  2. What capabilities their experimental zeppelin gives them
  3. What General effects their experimental weapon gives them
  4. What Attack effects their experimental weapon gives them
  5. Which attack form(s) they are initially weakest against*

*Mastermind decks have one defense card that covers two different types of attack.  I consider these types to be the ones that the Mastermind is weakest against, since they have only a single card to defend against both types of attack.  Such cards do, however, compensate by being more flexible, which is why I list them as the least important consideration

Below is a look at the various Masterminds of Zeppelin Attack with an eye towards effective, basic strategy for each.


Payload Capability:  Attack:  4, Defense 6, Operations 3

Strongest Attack Form:  Lightning

Weakest Defense:  Lightning/Psychic  (Note:  since it is likely that you will be buying up the powerful Lightning attack cards, this is less of a problem than for other Masterminds),

Experimental Zeppelin ability:  Extra Battle Point

Experimental Weapon Attack Effect:  target must discard two random cards, you get the lowest VP value Mercenary card put in your discard pile,

Experimental Weapon General Effect:  draw three cards.

Particularly Useful Cards:

  • Attack:  X-Bomb, Screaming Mimi
  • Defense:  Magnetic Field, Ghost Projector
  • Science Zeppelin:  The Daedalus, IAS Lord Protector of Bulls, IAS Prototype 51

Strategy:  everyone really needs to cycle through their card decks, but you’re especially good at it.  Take advantage of those extra draws to get your big attacks into your hand as often as possible.  Enlarge your zeppelin fleet quickly so that those extra cards can be used rather than discarded.  And use your ability to gain an extra BP per turn to ruthlessly eliminate cards that are potentially good for your enemies or bad for you.

Beware of those low-value mercenary cards going into your discard pile!  While you will occasionally get something useful, the fact that they are semi-random (based on what is inexpensive at the top of the various mercenary decks) means that you may get cards of limited utility that will clutter up your deck.  If this happens, purge them at the first opportunity.


Payload Capability:  Attack:  4, Defense 6, Operations 3

Strongest Attack Form:  Cold

Weakest Defense:  Psychic/Explosive

Experimental Zeppelin ability:  When you play an Attack card on the zep, immediately draw two cards.

Experimental Weapon Attack Effect:  target must put all Fate cards in hand on top of Draw deck.

Experimental Weapon General Effect:  pay four Fate points less for the first card you buy this turn

Particularly Useful Cards:

  • Attack:  Cryo Suspensor, Inferno Rockets, Beta Wave Cannon, Einstein Cannon
  • Defense:  Magnetic Field, Phantom Cloak
  • Science Zeppelin:  none*

*Any of the Science Zeppelins are useful to Frost, but there isn’t one that is particularly useful to her.

Strategy:  you can purchase Mercenary cards less expensively than others once you get your x-weap out, and should concentrate on buying cards that enhance this capability.  This has two effects:  first, you will be able to get those expensive cards into your deck quickly, and second even lesser Fate Cards are useful to you.  Cards like the Midshipman and the Resourceful #2 that are of limited value to others once they can afford better operatives, remain useful in your hand.  Even a lowly 2-pt Fate card will allow you a 6-point buy when used in conjunction with your x-weap.  Used properly this ability can allow you to totally dominate the middle and end game, snatching up valuable resources  for peanuts as your opponents can only sit by enviously.  Unlike Gorilla Khan, however, your ability only works for your first purchase of the turn.  This, incidentally, makes Gorilla Khan a prime target for your x-weap,  Unlike Gorilla Khan, however, you need to worry less about clogging your deck with Fate cards, since even a few can go a long way.


Payload Capability:  Attack:  3, Defense 6, Operations 4

Strongest Attack Form:  Explosive

Weakest Defense:  Lightning/Cold

Experimental Zeppelin ability:  When you play an Operative card on the zep, immediately draw one Fate card.

Experimental Weapon Attack Effect:  target must discard two Action cards, you get one Battle Point.

Experimental Weapon General Effect:  draw one Fate card and add it to your hand.

Particularly Useful Cards:

  • Attack:  Topside Swivel Gun, Boarding Torpedo
  • Defense:  Ghost Projector, Swift Response, Bilithium Armor
  • Science Zeppelin:  The Prospero

Strategy:  You will be getting a lot of Fate draws, so keep a constant eye on the Mercenary decks to see what you can purchase.  Since your abilities put Fate cards into your hand, not your discard, you can and should use them immediately whenever possible.  Your exact strategy may vary from turn to turn depending on what purchase opportunities you have, but you should try extra-hard to get either your x-zep  as quickly as you can, then leverage the extra Fate cards to get the x-weap.  Once you have both, use your wealth to buy, buy, BUY!  Don’t let Fate cards stay in your Discard pile if you can help it – keep your economy rolling.  Note that because you purge after you buy, you can choose to purchase a card useful to your opponent, then immediately purge it.  Prestige zeppelins can also boost your score rapidly, and are a good buy towards the end of the game.  Finally, because you will be buying a lot of cards, you will have more control over when the game ends than Masterminds like Der Blitzman and the Walking Mind.  Beware of jamming up your deck with Fate cards, however.  All the Fate cards in the game won’t help you if your fleet is blown out of the sky.


Payload Capability:  Attack:  3, Defense 6, Operations 4

Strongest Attack Form:  Psychic

Weakest Defense:  Lightning/Explosive

Experimental Zeppelin ability:  Can’t be targeted

Experimental Weapon Attack Effect:  target must discard 1 highest cost Mercenary card.

Experimental Weapon General Effect:  take one Battle Point

Particularly Useful Cards:

  • Attack:  Delta-wave cannon, Insanity Ray, any atomic (particularly the Einstein Cannon)
  • Defense:  Bilithium Armor, Magnetic Field
  • Science Zeppelin:  the Daedalus, the Inflammable (if you invest in some high payload defense cards)

Strategy:  something to know from the outset – it is unlikely that you will ever match or exceed the other Masterminds economically.  You cannot cycle through your hand to get Fate cards as fast as Der Blitzman, you can’t buy things at a discount like Jacqueline Frost, and you don’t get bonus Fate cards like Gorilla Khan.  Trying to keep up with them in terms of the size and power of your fleet is a losing strategy.  Instead, you need to go the other way and concentrate on inexpensive, low-payload Mercenary cards.  Give serious consideration to turtling during the beginning of the game, concentrating on building up your defenses so others won’t consider you a worthwhile target.  Once you get your x-zep out, you can start peppering your foes with low-payload attacks.  Always keep an eye on what your opponents are buying.  If your x-weap is in your hand, attack a foe who just bought some high-value mercenary and force them to discard it, delaying their plans.  More than any other Mastermind you will benefit from buying up Atomic attacks, enabling you to hurt all your opponents at once.  Purging a card when you buy is not optional for you – always purge to keep your deck thin (ideally you should have only two more cards – your x-weap and x-zep – in your deck at the end of the game than you have at the beginning, though of course the cards themselves will be different).  This way you can overload one of your zeps for your infrequent large-payload attacks and get the both the the zep and your attack card back quickly.  Use that extra Battle Point ability of your x-weap to help control the tempo of the game and deny your foes resources.  And be particularly alert for players who seem to have jammed up their deck somehow – they are always your preferred targets.  Your victories will usually involve you coming from behind to sweep past the other players at the last minute for victory, so be prepared to hunker down and play for the long game.

All of the above are basic strategies tailored to the strengths of the individual Masterminds, but they are not automatic game winners.  Sometimes the cards will fall out in a certain way and you will need to change strategies mid-game in response to what you draw, or what your opponents are doing.  Sometimes a surprise move will catch your opponent napping.  But hopefully these strategies will help you play your Mastermind to its full potential, and make Zeppelin Attack more enjoyable.  

Now go forth and conquer the world!

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Zeppelin Attack!

We recently received our copy of “Zeppelin Attack” and have been playing it avidly.  After a few games I have come up with some general strategies that I would like to share.  Comments are, of course, welcome.

1)  Try to focus your attacks on a single type.  Being able to hit your opponent with multiple attacks of a single type is very powerful.  With only a 5-card hand, the chance of having two defense cards that cover the same type of attack are pretty low, even if your opponent starts buying defense cards of the appropriate type.  There are just too many types of card that can potentially go in a 5-card hand to make multiple copies of defense for a given type of attack unlikely.

2)  Keep a few attacks of other types in your deck.  Just to keep your opponent honest, keep at least one attack of each of the other three types in your deck.  Go for 1-pointers that you can fire off from your weaker zeps.

3)  Keep your deck lean and mean.  The fewer cards you have in your deck, the faster you can cycle the big attacks that get you additional effects.  Don’t be afraid to purge cards when you are drawing – you get points for them, and they help keep your deck (and thus your hand) from clogging up.

4)  Fate cards are absolutely necessary – but in moderation.  Too many Fate cards can clog your deck.  A hand full of Fate cards is every Mastermind’s dream, and will leave you oogling the Mercenary decks dreaming of next turn’s purchases.  And while you are doing that your opponent will blow your fleet out of the skies because you don’t have any defense cards to protect them.  Since Fate cards often (though not exclusively) go in your discard pile, you can cycle through that lean and mean deck only to find that when you reshuffle you now have a deck bloated with Fate cards.  I find that a strategy of cycling through my deck once to get Fate cards, followed by a second cycle where I try to keep Fate cards out of the discard pile and clear out what I have, works reasonably well.

5)  Play your Zeppelins – always (almost)!  Don’t keep zeps in your hand and don’t discard them.  Get them out and in play – always. Multiple zeps help you play more cards, which helps keep your hand clear, which in turn helps you keep your deck cycling and brings your good cards into your hand more quickly.

6)  Don’t fear the discard!  You should get used to thinking of a certain percentage of the cards in your hand as being just temporary opportunities – useful if you can use them the turn they come into your hand, but not worth saving if you can’t use them.  In particular, at the end of your turn ask yourself why you are saving any cards that are still in your hand.  If you don’t have a good reason to save them, dump and draw.  In general I save high value fate cards (4’s and 5’s), and defense cards (particularly those that offer defense against multiple attacks).  I might save a high value attack or operative card, but only if I have a zep that can use them next turn AND I have at least a couple of defense cards in my hand so I have a good shot at defending it.  Aside from those conditions, dump and draw.  If you have kept your deck lean and mean, then any cards you dump should come back into your hand soon anyway.

7)  Attack the weak!  Particularly if you have multiple cards of the same attack type in your hand, attack one of the weak zeps in your opponent’s fleet first.  Go particularly for zeps that have a defense payload of 1 because even if your opponent can defend them, they can easily get overloaded and have to retreat.  If you have several attacks of the same type, use the lowest payload attack on the weakest zep.  

8)  Defend the strong!  Sometimes you need to sacrifice weaker zeps to protect the stronger ones.  If you have only one zep with the attack payload to use that lovely payload 3 attack you just drew, you need to protect it.  If your opponent is using probing attacks (see #7) with their favored attack types, consider letting one of your weaker zeps retreat and saving the defense card for a stronger zep later in the turn.  You concede a BP to your foe, but you preserve your options for your next turn.

9)  Overloading is better than not playing the card.  Cycling your deck is crucial in this game.  It is better to play that big card, even if it means overloading your zep, than keeping it in your hand or discarding it.  Losing a zep to overload is inconvenient, but again if you are keeping your deck lean and mean and cycling your hand you will get the zep back quickly.

10)  X-zeps and X-weaps – know them, love them, buy them!  Each mastermind has access to an Experimental Weapon and an Experimental Zeppelin.  Get them into your deck as quickly as possible and use them as often as possible.  Each x-zep and x-weap is quite powerful, and also suggests a certain strategy.  You should familiarize yourself with the x-zep and x-weap of your mastermind at the beginning of a game and begin building your deck to support these particular abilities even before you actually buy them.  Knowing the capabilities of your opponents will also help you to anticipate their actions and probable purchases.

11)  Battle Points aren’t just about points.  When you take a BP, you aren’t just scoring a point towards victory, you are also getting to make an important tactical decision.  You have the ability to take a mercenary card out of the game entirely and you should take a moment to look at the cards available before deciding on which to sink under your flagship.  If your opponent seems to be collecting cold attacks and there is a big cold attack card on the top of the mercenary attack deck, consider selecting it to deprive your opponent of a potential attack (and yourself the headache of having to defend against it).  Likewise, if your there is a defense card against the type of attack you are specializing in on top of the mercenary defense deck, prevent your opponent from getting it.

12)  Leave.  The Flagship.  Alone.  Unless you have no other targets, don’t attack the flagship.  It gives your opponent an extra draw, which is almost never a good thing,

The thirteenth strategy:  break the other strategies.  Everything written above should give you a solid foundation for playing “Zeppelin Attack” and should allow you to end any game at least feeling like you had a shot at winning, rather than going down to a humiliating and lopsided defeat.  But none of the strategies outlined above are unbreakable.  Sometimes a change-up can take your opponent by surprise.  Sometimes the luck of the draw may put a bunch of perfect cards that you shouldn’t discard into your hand.  Sometimes you won’t have any defense cards, so playing your zeps will just result in some flaming balls of wreckage and your opponent getting more BPs.  “Zeppelin Attack” is a game where you have to plan strategically and play tactically and often improvise on your plans from turn to turn (because the ironclad rule is you never, EVER have the cards you want exactly when you want them).  Hopefully, however, this article will give you a foundation to build on as you plot to conquer the world!



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