L.A.M.A. (Game Review by Brandon Kempf)

  • Designer: Reiner Knizia
  • Artists: Rey Sommerkamp & Barbara Spelger
  • Publisher: AMIGO
  • Players: 2-6
  • Time: 20 Minutes
  • Times Played: 4

So anyway, are you in or out, Rob? – Charlie “High Fidelity”

Small box card games are a dime a dozen. I have a coffee table full of them to prove this. What isn’t a dime a dozen are good, clever small box card games that inspire repeated plays.

L.A.M.A. is a shedding game. What I mean by that is that you are trying to shed, or get rid of, as many cards from your hand as possible. L.A.M.A. is played over a series of hands and will end as soon as one player has forty points. The player at the table with the fewest points, is the winner.

Everyone will start a hand by being dealt six cards. In L.A.M.A. the deck consists of cards numbered one through six and llama cards. There are eight copies of each of the number cards and eight llama cards in the deck. Place the supply of point chips, single and ten point value, off to the side of the playing area and you are good to go.

Each hand will start with one random card placed face up in the middle of the table, this is the starting point for the players. When it’s a player’s turn, they may do one of three things. First, you can play a card. When playing a card, you play a card of equal value, or one higher than the card currently on top of the discard pile. Sixes can only be topped by another six or a llama card. Llama cards can only be topped with another llama card or a one. Second, you could draw a card. Third, you may quit, or fold if you will.

A hand ends when a player runs out of cards, or when all players quit. At the hand end, players will gain points for the cards left in their hand. You gain face value for your cards, but, if you have multiples of the same card, you will only gain face value one time. Llamas in hand are worth ten points. If you are the player who ended the hand by running out of cards, you can throw one of your point chips back into the supply, usually if you have a ten point chip, that’s what you will throw back, but a single point chip works as well. As soon as a player hits forty points, the game is over and the player with the fewest points is the winner.

One simple decision, should you stay, or should you go? If you stay you are commiting to playing another card or taking one into your hand, if you go, you are committing to points a the end of the round. There are times though, when those points are as good as you are going to get and staying in will only make it worse.

You don’t have a lot of control here. The sooner you get that understanding, the better chance game will become a lot more fun, and it is fun. There really is no way for you to know what your opponents have in hand, so you are just hoping that you have the right cards for the moment. Do you stay on the same card number in hopes that it makes it around to you again, or do you raise it up a level in hopes that your opponents don’t have that card. Fun little decisions abound.

Also, a note on availability. I am not aware of if this will be available in the North American market or not. I do know that Amigo has a facility here and plans on doing their own distribution, but I have not heard one way or the other whether L.A.M.A. will be something they do distribute here. I purchased my copy via Amazon Germany for a very reasonable price.

Simple rules, simple play and interesting choices to make based on what is going on make this  perfect filler, or palate cleanser if you will. Something to play when you want to play something else but need a bit of a break. L.A.M.A. has earned a spot in my Quiver carrying case, now, I just have to decide what game takes its leave.

Thoughts from the Opinionated Gamers:

Chris Wray:  L.A.M.A is the game that is causing me to question my theory about what makes a game good.  I normally say it is the quality of decisions: we gamers like to feel that the decisions we make are interesting and matter.  Though L.A.M.A is fun — so fun that I’ve requested it a couple of times — I find myself puzzled because the decisions don’t seem, at first glance, to be all that interesting.  The only real decisions are which card to play (assuming you have a choice, which you often don’t) and whether to leave the round (which should just be a question of risk aversion).  Yet theres enough to make this a delightful little game that I intend to purchase. This would be a good fit for the non-gamers in your life.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers:

I love it.

I like it. Brandon Kempf, Eric M., Chris Wray


Not for me…

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