- Designer: Reiner Knizia
- Publisher: Kosmos
- Players: 2
- Ages: 8 and Up
- Time: 20 Minutes
- Times Played: > 5
Lost Cities: Das Abenteuer To Go (a.k.a. Lost Cities: To Go) is the latest game in the award-winning Lost Cities/Keltis line of games. Released last month in the German market, Lost Cities: To Go is a mix between the original Lost Cities and Keltis: Der Weg der Steine Mitbringspiel. My family has several Lost Cities/Keltis fanatics, so I was excited to import the latest spinoff. We’ve been playing this quite a bit, and we’re already big fans. In fact, this might eventually replace Lost Cities for us.
A Brief History of Lost Cities & Keltis
Back in 1999, famed designer Reiner Knizia released Lost Cities, a 2-player card game that went on to win the inaugural two-player International Gamers Award in 2000 and sell more than 180,000 copies. Several years after Lost Cities was released, Knizia designed an offshoot called Lost Cities: The Board Game, which was picked up in the United States by Rio Grande. German publisher Kosmos wanted a more abstracted game than LC:TBG, and to accommodate that request, Knizia designed the game known today as Keltis, which is distributed throughout most of the rest of the world. Keltis would go on to win the 2008 Spiel des Jahres and sell more than 600,000 copies. Keltis itself spawned numerous other games, including another card game (Keltis: Das Kartenspiel), a dice game (Keltis: Das Würfelspiel), and a travel game (Keltis: Der Weg der Steine Mitbringspiel), plus expansions. If you’re looking for an overview of the series, I highly recommend Luke Hedgren’s article “The Evolution (Intelligent Design?) of Keltis”. I also once wrote an expanded history of Keltis as part of our SdJ Re-Reviews series.
Recently, Lost Cities: The Board Game made its way to the German market, and both it and the original Lost Cities (which is now called Lost Cities – Das Duell) received a facelift. Lost Cities: To Go hit the market simultaneously, and it had previously been unreleased in any form.
Note: English rules aren’t yet available for the game, but the German rules are available on Kosmos’s site. I owe a debt of gratitude to the BGG poster who typed out gameplay details after translating. The below is my clarified version based on my translation of the rules. If anything has been lost in translation, please let me know!
The game consists entirely of 64 tiles and two small “camp” boards. In terms of tiles, each of 5 destinations has 9 tiles (numbered from 2-10, for 45 total tiles) plus 3 bet tiles (15 additional tiles). There are also four “raid” tiles. At the start of the game, all of these tiles are placed face down. Each player takes a camp, which shows two spaces on which a player may reserve tiles in the game.
On a player’s turn, he must do one of three actions:
- Flip up a face-down tile. If it is a numbered or bet tile, he or she can then (a) leave it there, (b) reserve it into one of the camp spaces, or (c) add it to an expedition. If it is a raid tile, he or she then discards the raid tile and discards either (a) a tile in the center or (b) a tile in his camp.
- Take a face-up tile. He or she can then (a) reserve it, or (b) add it to an expedition.
- Play a reserved tile from his or her camp onto an expedition.
Each player has a stack (an “expedition”) for each destination, and tiles can only be played in increasing value. Bet tiles can only be played before all numbered tiles for that destination. For example, once a player has played a 2, 3, and 5, he cannot go back and play a 4, nor can he play a bet tiles.
The 2, 3, or 4 tiles show a parchment, which represents a bonus action. When these tiles are played, you can immediately play an additional tile — either face up or from your camp — on to that expedition.
This proceeds until the last tile is revealed, at which point the game ends.
Scoring is the same as in Lost Cities. To determine the winner, each stack is scored separately and then the points from all of the stacks are added together. The points on a tile within an expedition are all added up, and then twenty points are deducted for starting the expedition (meaning the total points can be negative). Expeditions not started by the players are worth zero (meaning the twenty point deduction only is applied to expeditions that are started). If a player has 1, 2, or 3 bet tiles on the stack, the result is then multiplied by 2, 3, or 4, respectively. Each expedition with 8 or more tiles gets an extra bonus of 20 points, which is not multiplied by the investment values.
Like with Lost Cities, the rules say to play three times, adding the scores, and the player with the highest combined score wins the game. (Also like with Lost Cities, my family just plays once!)
My Thoughts on the Game
In my opinion, Lost Cities has long been the best game in its family tree, as I consider it far more tense than the games that came after it. At least until now. Lost Cities: To Go is every bit as strategic and fast-paced as its namesake. What has surprised me, however, is just how much of a duel this can be: I’d almost even call this version deliciously confrontational.
For the most part, Lost Cities: To Go eschews the hand management side of Lost Cities, much like the Der Weg der Steine Mitbringspiel did to Keltis. Because of that, I’d describe this as a perfect mashup of Lost Cities and the Keltis Mitbringspiel. To Go certainly has all of the hallmarks of its namesake — the scoring is identical, this is also only for two players, and the tiles must go in ascending order — but it utilizes the fast-paced, tile-based gameplay first introduced in Der Weg der Steine.
There’s a sizeable contingent of the hobby that loves the Keltis Mitbringspiel, and I suspect they’re going to adore this. The archaeology theme of Lost Cities works well with the discovery aspect of flipping up tiles in To Go. And like withKeltis Mitbringspiel there’s significant portability and very little setup, plus a low cost.
In terms of gameplay, the two biggest additions over the game’s predecessors are the camps and the raid tiles. The camps are a clever touch — they add a little bit of the hand management side back in — even if two spaces isn’t much. In my plays, they’ve easily become clogged, as I’ve tried reserving tiles I need and holding tiles I know my opponent needs.
The raid tiles are the coolest addition, and they are what make the game confrontational. Let’s say you’ve started the green expedition, you’re opponent hasn’t, and you’ve already snagged most of the green tiles. Your camp is full, and you draw the green 10. What’s the best option? You’d think it’d be to leave it on the table. But what if your opponent draws a raid tile and eliminates it from the game? That’s devastating. Counting the raid tiles is a must!
More than ever, you have to carefully monitor what your opponent is pursuing, knowing that they could pick up what you leave. And you have to watch for when they’re going to try to end the game. In Lost Cities, you had some flexibility on game end: you could draw useless cards into your hand from the discards. But here, your opponent has much more of an ability to force an ending by flipping up tiles and leaving them on the table.
On a more personal note, perhaps the best thoughts I can put in this review are those of the person with whom I most play Lost Cities. I’ll always associate Lost Cities with my mother; together, we’ve probably played it 100 times over the years. I’ve shown her ever game in the Lost Cities/Keltis line, and every time, she said she liked it but preferred to go back to Lost Cities. After I taught her Lost Cities: To Go and we played, I said we could go back to Lost Cities. “No,” she said, “We can play this one again.” I think she just really liked the addition of the raid tiles; she’d cackle with delight when eliminating a tile she knew I wanted. Before I knew it, we had played five times.
In short, I love this game. And though I’ll need a few more plays to make a final call, I think it has the potential to be better than Lost Cities. I surprisingly don’t miss the hand management side of To Go’s predecessor, and some of Knizia’s additions in To Go are brilliant.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Chris Wray
- I like it.
- Not for me…