Designer: Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling

Artist: Oliver Freudenreich

Publisher: Ravensburger

I am still not sure what AbluXXen means. At least it isn’t AbluXXXen (Photo credits: Eric Martin@BGG)

I have a funny history with Abluxxen, or Linko!, as it is known in some countries. I was initially very hot about getting the card game as the glowing reviews filtered out from game conventions. However, after getting the early foreign language versions of the game, I could not understand what the hype was all about. It was flat, and I mean flat. Funny enough, the game should have been gone from my collection, but for some reason, managed to avoid getting culled. It just languished at the back of the cabinet.

Fast forward close to 10 years, I now have a chance to really play back to back to back to back games of Abluxxen and I can to see some subtleties to the game play that once eluded me just because I really did not give it the time of day. That said, in my defense, at the point in time when I acquired the game, I was very much into mid-heavy Euros. Whereas right this moment, my primary gaming buddy is my 7 year old daughter and we are exploring, or re-exploring in my case, all the wonderful mid-light Euros that just wasn’t getting enough play time. Enter Abluxxen.

I reckon Abluxxen to have some qualities of a trick-taking or ladder climbing game. I can’t tell which is which. It is subtle though. The idea behind the game is to score the most points by playing sets of similar type cards and hoping that your opponents doesn’t steal them or have you miss a turn by taking it back to your hand or discarding them. Each turn, a player is free to play whatever or however many cards they want from their hand. If the subsequent players play the same number of cards of lower value or cards with different counts, then nothing happens and you merrily move on to playing the next set of cards. Now, if they play the same number of cards of a higher value, they either get to steal your cards or make you decide whether to ditch them or take them back to your hand. If you ditch your cards, then you get to draw the same number of cards that you ditched from a common display. Ultimately, if your opponents trumps your suit, you “lose a turn” because the cards that you played which would have scored you end game points are now removed or stolen.

The key here is that scoring is done from your own pile of cards that you play. If you end the game, all cards in your play pile score positive points. If you are one of the loser, you must subtract cards from your hand. If you are a skillful player, your number of cards at hand should be relatively small and the negative points won’t hurt you too much. It possible, and perhaps likely that the player who ended the round doesn’t score the most points. This is correct because a skillful Abluxxen player is spending some effort to capture cards from opponents in order to boost the number of cards played to his own pile. That is the crux of the game – when to steal and what to steal.

Card values range from 1-13 with 13 being the strongest since no one can really steal from any set with value 13 since it is the strongest card in the deck. It also means that playing the 13s strategically will help you capture some desired cards. Those cards that you steal tend to increase the size of your hand, but will allow you play massive sets that won’t be rolled over by another opponent. These massive hands will score you a ton of points. However, care must be taken to figure out timing of the play since if you wait or hoard for far too long , you will be caught with lots of negative points when the game abruptly ends. Repeated plays of Abluxxen has made me appreciate holding back the high value sets and even tearing them down in order to steal from others. Remember, stealing other cards helps you and hurts them – a double whammy.

The game is simple to the core and it makes no bones about it. Yet, there is just something delightful when you pull off a heist to steal cards from opponents to increase your set collection. Simply delightful. There is a time and place for all games and Abluxxen was not right for me back then, but it is where it should be right now. Give it a try, especially if game with little ones or with your family.

Final word: Good

Kids Corner

7 years 10 months: My kid has taken a shine to this. Mind you, SCOUT! is one of her favorite games and this one is significantly easier than SCOUT! To be fair, SCOUT! is also more skill-based as I routinely dominant the family when we play SCOUT!. Yes, we make it a point not to give any freebies to kids. You earn your keep when we game. In any case, Abluxxen gives her a little more fighting chance to beat her parents. She loves it and it is much quicker than SCOUT! She has asked for Abluxxen quite a bit lately despite the deluge of games that we have pulled out from my gaming cabinet. This one is seeing quite a bit in the rotation, which tells me that it is quite suitable for kids her age. I’d certainly recommend a copy of Abluxxen for your kids. This is a step up from your regular UNO and on par with with Knizia’s LAMA.

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