Ten - Card Game Review
Updated: Oct 3, 2022
WBG Score: 8.5/10
Player Count 1-5
You’ll like this if you like: Port Royal, Quacks of Quedlinburg, Lost Cities.
Published by: Alderac Entertainment Group
Designed by: Molly Johnson, Robert Melvin, Shawn Stankewich
Card games have been a staple part of my life since I was very young. I vividly remember long summer days, sat playing Solitaire until it was time for tea. Every now-and-then a new card game will come out that be billed as the next 'must have.' Point Salad, The Mind, and The Crew come to mind for some recent examples. It's usually as they are seen as bringing something new mechanically, such as The Mind and The Crew. Or, something seen before, but in a fresh and fun way such as Point Salad.
I am always interested to see what the next 'hot' game will be in each genre, and how and why certain games rise to the top of the hype lists! TEN seems to be the next game gaining this sort of traction for card games, and I think I can tell why. It's not a secret, or a clever marketing ploy. It's simply this. Ten is a really, really good game. Let's talk about why.
I enjoy games that take one mechanic and that find a way to deploy that one mechanic well. Furnace recently gained a lot of hype, I think from positive early reviews and a stunning box art. But this was driven by a game that took engine building, and distilled it into its purist form. TEN does a similar job with push-your-luck. There are some excellent card games out there that use push-your-luck very well already. Port Royal being the stand out example for me. However TEN brings this mechanic into its purist form. Port Royal requires you to recruit a crew, fight of ships, complete missions. It is a fantastic game, don't get me wrong, one of my favourites. But TEN distills this mechanic further. It does not deviate from its core objective. To make a great push-your-luck card game.
The abstract theme, the simple rules, and basic scoring; TEN is not trying to do anything clever. Other than avoid the superfluous. Which TEN achieves with flying colours. Even the name! Everything is stripped back to the bare mechanics. Now, this could make the game simple, or even dull. But it absolutely does not do that. TEN is a fantastic experience. Made better by the simplistic play. Without the worries of trying to be clever, or weave in a redundant theme. TEN is left to focus on pure game play and fun. So, how does it play?
In TEN, players are given five currency tokens and a reference card if they need it. They are really not needed, but can help determine the starting player. The deck is shuffled and you are ready to play. The first player will take the draw deck and flip over the top card, placing it face up for all to see. In the deck, there are a mixture of cards numbered one to ten in four different colours, wild cards, and currency cards. On your turn, you can keep flipping cards until you chose to stop, or go bust. Going bust can happen in two ways.
First, if you turn over numbered cards with a value of more than ten, you will go bust. Second, if you turn over currency cards with a value of more than ten you will go bust. However, currency cards deduct from the total of your numbered cards. A pink six followed by a green two would see your current total being eight. However, if you draw a currency card with five pips on, your current total will drop to three. Your currency total is not affected in the same way, but the number of these cards in the deck is a lot less, and the highest value currency card is a five, so the chance of going bust here is lower. You need to be wary of drawing a nine in numbered cards, so a threat of going bust appears on card two if the first was a numbered card. But with the currency cards, you have a bit more room for pushing-your-luck.
If you choose to stop before you go bust, you can pick to either take currency to the value of the currency cards currently turned over; or all of the numbered cards. You are also then able to buy cards from the market. The cost is the value shown on the card. If you go bust, you will loose all of this, but gain three currency. If you don't go bust and take the numbered cards, all other players will gain currency to the value of the currency cards drawn that round. If you take the currency, the other players will not gain anything, but the numbered cards will be moved to the market, available to all players at a later stage.
If you draw a wild card, the game must immediately pause whilst this card is auctioned to all players. Starting with the player to the left of the active player, each person can bid on the wild card. You don't have to bid, but you only get one chance to bid. The highest bidder takes the card and then the active player continues their round. If all players pass, the card is discarded.
The game runs until the deck is exhausted at which points all players have one final chance to buy something from the market, and then all players will score their their cards. During the game, you are looking to create runs of sequential numbered cards in each of the four colours. You can use wilds to your advantage, and at the end of the game, you will score one point for each card in an uninterrupted run. It's a simple task, within a simple game. But believe me, this game will get you!
It all sounds very simple. Basic even. But as someone who very much enjoys a good three hour crunchy euro, this game does exactly what a good card game should. It is simple, short, but very satisfying. I love it! TEN is getting the hype for very justified reasons. The distilled game play, rewarding push-your-luck mechanics, and quick and simple scoring, provide the perfect filler card game experience.
I love push-your-luck games. But often they can be too brutal, or simply, just not fun. A push-your-luck game that punishes players for going bust in too harsh a way is just not for me. Playing games should be enjoyable. I appreciate that sometimes you want difficult choices to make. But in a push-your-luck, where you are doing just that, pushing your luck; I am not sure this the place for this. Its not a big strategic decision. It is a throw of the dice. Or more accurately put, a flip of the cards.
I don't think push-your-luck games is the time that this hobby should punish players for doing the wrong thing. Sure, you can play the odds. Count the cards and work out the percentages of what may come next. But it is still random, and ultimately, who wants to count cards. Especially when there are 129 of them! No, pushing your luck should be more like playing the two-penny games at the arcade. You really enjoy it when you win and turn 2p into 6p! But when you lose, and 2p turns into someones else's 2p, you don't care as it was fun trying and the loss isn't too great.
The net live score in the push-your-luck here is a clever way of adding to the tension, and encouraging players to keep going. But the reward of the three currency tokens if you go to far is enough to soften the blow if you turn one too many cards over. Missing out on the market phase if there is something specific you want, that you think another player may take before it comes round to you again is frustrating. But on those occasions, play it safe and only turn over a few cards.
The game ending with the exhaustion of the deck is a clever way to moderate the strategy. Knowing that there is a predetermined number of cards available, by watching the amount of cards other players take cards on their turn; players can actively see what is left for them. And how other players may be doing. On your turn, you may want to get something specific, a green three to join up with your green one, two, four, five and six. But this phase is less about trying to get a specific card, that really is more a job for the market. And more about just trying to get as many cards as possible. Even if you duplicate cards you already have. You cannot score more than one run per colour, but taking a card you don't need but other players may need will still increase your chances of winning.
Watching as other players slowly build up there runs, bidding for the wilds as they come up, and creating long, satisfying runs of your own is highly rewarding. The sense of satisfaction from playing this game is in direct opposition to the simplicity of the game itself. In terms of fun factor to the level of rules and difficulty, this game has to be considered right up there with some of the greats! Multiple plays are rewarded too as you can employ different strategies. Trying to become the wealthiest player so that you can win all bids and buy whatever you need from the market is a fun way to play TEN. Gaining every numbered card you can, no matter the use for you is a sneaky way to get through the deck quicker, and make the game shorter. Or, you could focus on simply building your runs as best you can. But you could simply play the same way each time. Just playing this game is fun.
TEN brings more of an event than a deck of cards should bring. The bright vibrant box helps this game stand out. But what will keep players coming back to it, is the fun and satisfaction gained from playing the game. If you like push -your-luck games you will love this. If you don't like push-your-luck games, then you should try this to see if this changes your mind.