You won’t pay a lot, but you’ll get a lot out of these games.
You might say we’re in a renaissance of board and card games. There’s no shortage of quality games, but the amount of choices can lead sometime be a bad thing. You may be spending time with friends and there’s interest for playing a new game together. It can be hard to introduce a new game to a group of family and friends. You often want games that at their core, they are fun, has straightforward rules, and has an easy learning curve. Games that are simple to pick up and play, even for a newcomer are wonderful and inviting. If after playing the first time, your first instinct is to play again, merely from enjoyment factor, different strategies to try, or there’s still time for another round, then you’ve got a great game on your hands. Today we’ll focus on some affordable card games that are easy to learn, are awesome, and can be enjoyed in a relatively span of short time. They’re all ones I’ve personally enjoyed and I hope this is a helpful article.
Sushi Go (GameWright)
MSRP: $12 (2-5 Player); $22 (2-8 Player)
This is a great little card game that can be learned in the span of about 5-10 minutes, which is really playing through a single round. Sushi Go is all about assembling an ideal hand of different sushi cards that reward points based on the combinations you can assemble. Everyone is dealt an equal number of cards. The game starts by everyone choosing a card they’d like to keep.. Everyone then reveals the card they chose, and passes the leftover cards to the left. The round ends when everyone chooses the last card, and points are tallied for the round. At the end of the third round, the person with the highest score wins.
The scoring is very simple, with the point values and how they are earned clearly printed on the card. There’s a few variables to keep in mind. Some sushi require specific numbers of cards (that other players might be keeping tabs) in order to get some or all of the points. For example, sashimi rewards a player with 10 points if three sashimi cards are revealed. If you don’t assemble three of those cards, you receive no points. Additionally, a player may reveal chopsticks, shout “Sushi Go!” and then choose two cards from their hand. After, they place the chopsticks back in the hand from which they were chosen. By watching what others are playing, you get a good idea of what strategy you should use to win.
The illustrations on these cards are absolutely charming and adorable. There’s sashimi, nigiri, maki, tempura, wasabi, chopsticks, and pudding. The play is fun and lighthearted, and is fairly simple to pick up and learn quickly. This is an outstanding game that is easily enjoyed by players of all skills and abilities. Sushi Go retails for $11 for a 2-5 person game, and the deluxe 2-8 party version retails for $22.
Tightwad Gamer Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars. Fun, enjoyable, and definitely affordable, Sushi-Go is an amazing little card game.
Love Letter (Alderac Entertainment Group)
Love Letter is a simple game of deduction, reasoning, risk-reward, and a little bit of luck, built for 2-4 players. The player’s goal is to pass a love letter while at a party, and beat out the other players trying to do the same. You do this by enlisting the help of others at the party, by playing cards from a very small number of cards. The game consists of a 16 card deck. Each card has a character, corresponding value that ranges from 1 to 8, and a specific ability printed on it, complete with elegant illustrations of the characters.
At the start, every person is dealt a card, which they look at and keep in secret. Play starts to the left of the dealer. On their turn, a player will draw a card, then play a card from their hand face up. Playing a card means performing the exact action that is written on the card. For example, playing a “Guard” card allows you to name another player and the type of card they are holding (I think so-and-so is with the Baron!). If you’re correct, that player discards their card and is out of the round. The round ends when either the last card from the deck has been played, to which all remaining players compare the card in their hand with everyone else’s — the highest value held wins, or when only one player remains after everyone else has been eliminated. The first player to win three rounds wins!
With the limited number of cards in the deck there’s a finite number of each card, which feeds into the deduction and reasoning aspect of the game. The risk-reward comes from the choice you have to make during your turn on which card to play. It’s really easy to learn, the rounds go pretty quickly, and I’ve never had a bad time playing it. When I want to break the ice with folks who are usually not too keen on board games, this one almost always does the trick. Love Letter Retails for $12.00, but you can usually find a great deal online. (Not an affiliate link). There’s some fun edition, such as The Hobbit, Batman, and Archer, which incorporate the same premise with a few slight twists.
Tightwad Gamer Rating: 4 / 5 Stars. Love Letter is a nice little compact game that’s sure to delight. It’s simple yet refined, and I enjoy the card-counting and strategy elements.
Lost Cities (Thames & Kosmos)
Lost Cities is a tremendously fun card game for two people. Coming from a person who adores strategy games like Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan, Lost Cities offers similar gameplay of planning and tactics that can result in an enjoyable experience in a very short amount of time.
Each player represents an adventurer about to set off on one of five different expeditions, with each expedition represented as a color of cards within the deck. Each player is dealt 8 cards at random from the deck, and the cards have either a number value between 2 and 10, or a $, which denotes an investment card. Play is simple: play a card, then draw a card. You play a card by either laying it down on an expedition in ascending order, where it remains, or by discarding a card to a respective discard pile (there’s one for each color). Starting an expedition has a cost value, which you hope to negate by playing additional cards from your hand and drawing into others you can play. Investment cards allow you to double, triple, or quadruple the profits or losses of your expedition, but can only be played prior to starting the expedition. The game ends when the last card of the deck is drawn, and score is tallied.
I personally enjoy lost cities for the quick rounds, something that usually results in, “C’mon, one more!” types of exchanges. It’s a great game for couples during a weeknight where something fun and simple comes to mind. I also love the simple thrill of strategy of which expeditions they’d like to pursue. It’s a little less involved than planning your routes in conjunction with your destination tickets in Ticket to Ride for example. So given with how short the games can be, how easy it is to pick up and play, and an overall fun playing experience, Lost Cities is one that you should definitely have in your cabinet.
Tightwad Gamer Rating: 5 / 5 Stars.
Utter Nonsense (Utter Nonsense, LLC)
This a game we recently enjoyed. Utter Nonsense is a fantastic card/party game in gameplay that is similar to Apples to Apples or Cards against Humanity. There’s two card types, accent cards and phrase cards. At the start of the game, all cards are shuffled and all players are dealt 7 phrase cards. A player is chosen to start as the Nonsense Judge, and chooses a card from the accents deck. This is the chosen accent from the round, and each player will choose and read aloud a phrase card in that specific accent. Some of the phrase cards pair well with the accent card, but more often than not they don’t. After each phrase is read aloud, the Nonsense Judge deems which accent and phrase was the funniest. A player wins when they have won five accent cards.
I haven’t enjoyed a game this much in years. In the first round, I was in tears. A half an hour into the game, I had received a full ab workout from my fits of laughter. The game balances a good sense of humor and interactiveness. Some people are good at accents, and then hilariously bad at others. As long as you’re comfortable in your own skin and don’t mind being ridiculed, you’ll probably enjoy yourself. I watched my brother in law give a passionate speech in the accent of chicken. He later had to do an Australian accent which came out sounding more like someone from New Jersey, which we didn’t let him live down. I had the pleasure of entertaining everyone with a French accent and an awesome phrase card: I shared about my recent trip to Kalamazoo where I played the Kazoo for all of my zoo friends. Very often the cards are just fun to act out, watch people really go for it, and laugh together in the process.
The accents seldom veer into the inappropriate/harmful territory. I think the designers had this in mind. The phrases, at least in the adult “Naughty Edition” version of the game, are definitely offensive. I haven’t played the “Family Edition” but can imagine it’s toned down a little bit more for younger players, ages 8 and up. The game is purchasable online and in store through Target, retailing for $25.
Tightwad Gamer Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars. Utter Nonsense is downright hilarious. My first few plays have been some of the most fun I’ve had in years with a card game. I am hoping the creators start to add little expansions here and there.
Star Realms (White Wizard Games)
MSRP $14.99 (base game, expansions available).
Star Realms is a fantastic two player spaceship, combat, deck-building card game. This is similar in some respects to many deckbuilding games like Dominion, but combines elements from games like Magic the Gathering or Hearthstone, in having a set number of health to start, labeled authority points. The first person to drop down to 0 authority points loses.
Each player starts with a set number of cards representing different spaceships you control that either have a trade value or a combat value. Combat values make people lose authority points, whereas trade values help you build up your deck through purchasing more valuable and powerful ships, outposts, and base, which come from a shared deck both players purchase from on their turns. As you buy new cards for your armada, they are placed in your discard pile, then reshuffled back into your deck to play once you draw the last card from your deck. As the game progresses, you acquire a bigger fleet which can branch into different factions with their own color, abilities, and play style. It really becomes about outlasting your opponent by battling it out!
I really appreciate Star Realms for a fun sci-fi setting and exciting gameplay. It’s straightforward to learn and still challenging to master. This is a great game for someone who wants to have a fun card game experience at a fraction of the cost for a constructed card game such as Magic or Hearthstone, or other deck building games like Dominion, Ascension, or Legendary. But if you want to have a unique card-game experience at a fraction of the cost, Star Realms can’t be beat. (Also not an affiliate link!) It does have some additional expansions you can pick up as you go on and want some new space adventures!
Tightwad Gamer Rating: 4.25 / 5
Honorable Mention: Joking Hazard.
Since Utter Nonsense was already mentioned, I still want to tip my hat and give Joking Hazard an honorable mention. Joking Hazard is another game to be successfully Kickstarted. Joking Hazard plays very similar to Apples to Apples and Cards against Humanity. However, it comes from the popular webcomic Cyanide and Happiness and a round consists of making a three-panel comic. In this awesomely funny game, everyone has 7 cards which resemble a single frame of a comic. The cards have funny illustrations, complete with expressions or dialogue written on them. A judge flips a card from the top of the deck, and then takes one of their own cards and adds a second frame to the comic. All players then play a card of their own face down. The judge flips up each remaining panel, and chooses the winner of the round. Play then rotates. There’s plenty of other play variants too. It’s hilarious, it’s obscene, and it’s great. Joking Hazard sells for around $25, has lots of replayability, and has a few expansions out already. It’s worth it.
Tightwad Gamer Rating: 4.5/5
If you have any other enjoyable games that you’d like to recommend or think I should give a shot, please let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading!
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