Ten Great “Two-Minute” Card Games

The last few games I have fully reviewed here (i.e., Twilight Struggle and Power Grid) have gone against the grain of the type I usually cover. Both are long, complex, and not immediately accessible to the casual player.

To make amends, here’s my top 10 “two-minute” card games. “Two-minute,” in this instance, alludes not to the length of time they takes to play, but to the fact that the rules to each of these simple (but engrossing) games can be explained in 120-seconds flat.

Many people are reluctant to try new games because they dislike learning rules; as you can get a group up an playing these games in a matter of moments, they are perfect for Converting the Unwilling, Great for bars too, when everyone already has a beer or three under their belt.

Slide 5: Curiously, many of the most enjoyable games are those that provoke the most agony in the players. Slide 5 (previously called Category 5 and, before that, Take 6!) is a prefect example. The deck contains cards numbered from 1 to 104. Every round begins with each person playing a card from his hand face down. After all are revealed simultaneously, the cards are added to rows in the center of the table in ascending numerical order. But if your card winds up as the sixth in a row, you take the other five as points–and you don’t want points. Also: Turn The Tide is a very similar game, with a few more rules and a smidge more strategy. (But note that Turn The Tide is only playable by up to five people, while Slide 5 goes all the way to 11! Well, no. Actually just 10.)

No Thanks: My go-to filler for the last couple years. Great fun, despite having, like, one rule. Read my full review here.

For Sale: Round one: everyone uses chips to purchase a variety of homes, from a cardboard box to an orbiting space mansion. Round two: everyone resells their houses for checks ranging in value from $0 to $15,000, and the mogul with the most money at the end wins. It’s like playing two separate games, but whole thing takes about 15 minutes in total. For Sale was one of the titles that got me hooked on German Games a decade ago; it has recently been reprinted, as is again available to all.

Lost Cities: My default two-player game recommendation is perfectly suited for this list as well. Lost Cities is essentially rummy, but with a specialized deck and the tension-quotation set to overdrive. Despite its simplicity, I routinely cite it as one of my favorite games of all time.

Battleline: First cousin to the aforementioned Lost Cities, Battleline is both a little simpler and a little deeper. Assemble nine three-card poker-hands, while your opponent does the same. Every time one of your hands beats the corresponding hand of your rival, you capture a flag; capture enough in a row, or enough overall, and the battle is won. A full game only takes 10 minutes to complete, but you’ll find it hard not to play two or three in a row.

Coloretto: The cards come in seven different colors; your goal: collect as many of them as you can … in three colors only. All taken cards in suits beyond the third count as negative points, and can accumulate quickly if you are not careful. The central mechanism of Coloretto is so clever that the designer recently built a board game around it (Zooloretto), which earlier this month won the prestigious Game of the Year award.

Loco: On your turn you first play a card from you hand to one of the five piles, and then you take a chip of any color. I have just explained 90% of the rules to this game, honest to God. And it works! And is fun! I don’t understand!

The Bottle Imp: A strongly themed trick-taking game, if you believe it. Based on a short story by Robert Louis Stevenson, players vie to collect as many points as possible, without getting stuck with the Bottle Imp at game’s end (as doing so results in everlasting damnation … and also a point penalty). Though the rules to The Bottle Imp can certainly be explained in two minutes, playing well takes a few games. Thankfully, it’s well worth the practice.

The Great Dalmuti: One of the oldest games in my collection, but one that still gets played today. (I just bought my third replacement deck a few months ago.) More of a drinking / party game than a card game, really, but one that will have you playing–and cracking up–for hours. See my discussion of it, and other “Climbing Games,” here.

Guillotine: Okay, I’m going to level with you: I kinda hate this game. But many, many people love it (as half a dozen people in the comments are going to attest). Each round has a dozen nobles lined up for the guillotine; on your turn, the guy at the front of the line gets the axe, and you get his value in points. But wait! First you can play cards to rearrange the queue, perhaps swapping the worthless Piss Boy with the 5-point Marie Antoinette. I don’t like Guillotine because it has lots of luck and a distinctive screw-your-neighbor flavor; others adore it for these very reasons–go figure.

Apples to Apples: Technically a party game, but played with cards and dirt simple so I’m going to cheat and sneak it into slot 11 on this top 10 list. The Judge turns over an adjective card, like “Soft” or “Respectable;” everyone else slaps down Noun cards from their hands as quickly as possible. The Judge then decides which played card best matches his own–if the description is “Slimey,” will he select “Frog,” “Used Car Salesman,” or “Bill Clinton”? Perhaps the most accessible and laughter-inducing party game I’ve ever played–and I don’t even like party games!

Cliche Rotation Project, Round II

The second round of the Cliche Rotation Project is complete. (For details on the CRP, see http://www.defectiveyeti.com/crp.)

A big thanks to everyone who contributed. Here are some of the best I received.

Old Cliche Replacement Contributor Note
Seeing the world through rose colored glasses Reporting from the Green Zone Brett  
Sweep it under the rug Clear the cache Ryan Murphy  
Timing is everything Timing is the difference between salad and garbage Anonymous  
Not the sharpest crayon in the box Not the brightest LED in the house mantaworks Fully y3k-compliant.
Sometimes, you just have to roll with the punches. Sometimes you just have to park your car beneath a bird Dave  
Rain on your parade. Stick a boot on your wheel. JMT  
The grass is always greener on the other side of the street The line is always shorter at the Starbucks up the street Penni Prominski  
It’s not rocket science It’s not Advanced Squad Leader zosa This is in reference to the infamously complex wargame ASL. Typical rule:

2.2401 GUN DUELS: Vs a non-concealed, non-Aerial DEFENDER's declared Defensive First Fire attack on it, a vehicle may attempt to Bounding First Fire (D3.3) its MA (/other-FP, including Passenger FP/SW) at that DEFENDER first, provided the vehicle need not change CA, is not conducting OVR (D7.1), its total Gun Duel DRM (i.e., its total Firer-Based [5.] and Acquisition [6.5] TH DRM for its potential shot) is < that of the DEFENDER, and the DEFENDER's attack is not Reaction Fire (D7.2). Neither the +1 DRM for a Gyrostabilizer nor the doubling of the lower dr for other ordnance in TH Case C4 (5.35) is included in the Gun Duel DRM calculation. The order of fire for non-ordnance/SW is determined as if it were ordnance [EXC: TH Case A can apply only if this unit/weapon is mounted-on/aboard a vehicle that is changing CA; all such non-turret-mounted fire is considered NT for purposes of TH Case C, and; A.5 applies to any type of FG]. If the ATTACKER's and DEFENDER's total Gun Duel DRM are equal, the lower Final TH (or non-ordnance IFT) DR fires first - and voids the opponent's return shot by eliminating, breaking, stunning, or shocking it. If those two Final DR are equal, both shots are resolved simultaneously. Any CA change the DEFENDER requires in order to shoot (5.11) is made before the ATTACKER's shot if the DEFENDER's total Gun Duel DRM <= the ATTACKER's; otherwise its CA changes (if still able to) after the ATTACKER's shot. After the initial Gun Duel had been fully resolved, and if otherwise able and allowed to, that DEFENDER may announce another attack vs that ATTACKER who in turn may declare another Gun Duel; this time the printed ROF of one firing weapon on each side may be included as a -DRM in that side's Gun Duel DRM calculation. Only the ATTACKER may declare a Gun Duel [EXC: not if the DEFENDER has done so per 5.33].

Hit me with your best shot Shock & awe me aaron c  
Dumb as a post Dumber than shoes Megan Coughlin  
A watched pot never boils A watched microwave never pings Suezboo  
All the tea in China All the porn on the internet Danny D and the Defects  
Busier than a one-armed paperhanger Busier than a sailor on shore leave RustyBadger self-explanatory, I think!
A stitch in time saves nine. Enable Autosave! Carmen  
No shit, sherlock. Does a one-legged duck swim in a circle? Anonymous  
Kill two birds with one stone Steal two elections with one candidate Pete Stine oh, you KNOW who I mean.
Gone without a trace Gone 404. Ryan  
Stuck out like a sore thumb Stood out like a miniskirt in a monastery Lung the Younger  
Like a knife through butter Like a chainsaw through cheesecake Lung the Younger  
keep your eye on the ball Track it like NORAD Michael  
Nice guys finish last James Dean died young Ben Ide  
Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Always the fluffer, never the porn star. Richard From my wife while trying to fluff a houseplant back into shape after a disastrous repotting.
Forgive and forget Flag and move on Cior  
Born with a silver spoon in his mouth Born with a venture capitalist in the family Cior  
As slow as molasses. Like Baldwin posting a Cliche Rotation Project update. Bill Braine Molasses flows very slowly because of its inordinately high viscosity. The very slow pace of this flow is reminiscent of the pace at which Matthew Baldwin, author of the popular blog "Defective Yeti" posts updates to his Cliche Rotation Project series of entries. Thus replacing the old standard simile "as slow as molasses" (used to describe the pace of change in a very slow process or the pace of physical movement of a particularly slow object or individual) with "like Baldwin posting a Cliche Rotation Project update" presents the listener/reader with a cognitively appropriate and mildly amusing (because of the tiny effort/reward of decoding the dynamic) new simile, perfect for use as (nerdy) parties.


Fetal Attraction

I’m going to write a thriller about a knight who returns home after a year in the Crusades, and finds his wife six-months pregnant despite wearing a chastity belt. It will be a locked-womb mystery.

The Oregon Pundit

I can’t imagine anyone desiring a higher-caliber of poltiical commentary than the below, but, in the off-chance you do, check our my father’s new blog, Oregon Pundit, where you’ll find much, much less comma-abuse than exists in this sentence.

Second Ally To The Right, And Straight On ‘Til Morning

In his recent speech on Iraq, Bush said “We thank the 36 nations who have troops on the ground in Iraq and the many others who are helping that young democracy.”

This assertion–that there are as many as 36 nations aiding in the Iraqi war–has some calling the President delusional. Aside from the US and the United Kingdom, who else is really involved?

Responding to those who question his grip on reality, Bush today enumerated all 36 countires:

  • United Kingdom
  • Australia
  • Ukraine
  • Poland (don’t forget!)
  • Denmark
  • South Korea
  • Japan
  • Czech Republic
  • Macedonia
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Latveria
  • El Salvador
  • Slovakia
  • Narnia
  • Kazakhstan
  • Bulgaria
  • Romania
  • Estonia
  • Quendor
  • The Shire
  • Armenia
  • Azerbaijan
  • United Federation of Planets
  • Cimmeria
  • Mongolia
  • Sodor
  • Singapore
  • Dagobah
  • Oz
  • Mypos
  • Brobdingnag
  • Albania
  • Loompaland
  • Where The Wild Things Are
  • Lithuania
  • Mario World 2-3

Bush added that these allies are also aiding us in our struggle against Eastasia, with whom we have always been at war.

The Bad Review Revue

License To Wed: “There’s bad, there’s awful and there’s horrible, and then somewhere beyond that, in its own Kingdom of Lousy — where all the milk curdles and the jokes aren’t funny — is License to Wed.” — Mick LaSalle, SAN FRANCSCO CHRONICLE

The Brothers Solomon: “The not-funniest comedy of the year.” — Michael Phillips, CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Death Sentence: “Kevin Bacon’s performance is six degrees of ham.” — Jack Mathews, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

War: “What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.” — Jim Ridley, LA WEEKLY

Daddy Day Camp: “Has an amazing amount of CGI – Cuba Gooding Incompetence.” — Kyle Smith, NEW YORK POST