- Designers: Molly Johnson, Robert Melvin, Shawn Stankewich
- Publisher: AEG
- Players: 1-5
- Age: 10+
- Time: 20-30 minutes
- Played with review copy provided by AEG
The trio of designers behind this game are also responsible for two other games that I have greatly enjoyed – Point Salad and Truffle Shuffle – so I was definitely interested in trying this one out once I heard of it. TEN was described to me as both an auction game as well as a push your luck game, and I was quite interested to see how those two mechanisms melded.
The goal of the game is to generate sequential runs of cards in each of the four colors in the game. The deck is modified based on the number of players, though with 4 and 5 players, you’ll play with the full complement of 129 cards. There are 4 colors (blue, yellow, green and red) with numbers 1-9 and a octothorpe card, though the lower numbers have more copies than the higher numbers. There is also a single set of wild cards 1-9 and an octothorpe. Finally, there are a few currency cards which have black dots on them. The deck is shuffled and placed on the table. Each player is given 5 black currency tokens, and a start player is chosen.
On a player’s turn, it starts with a Card Draw. Take the top card from the deck, one at a time, and if it is a number or currency card, place it face up on the table in the tableau area. After each card is placed there, the player then must choose to stop and take a reward or push his luck to draw another card. If a wildcard is drawn (either a multicolored card or an octothorpe), the game is paused for an Auction. So long as there isn’t an Auction, the turn can continue unless the player busts. (I’ll talk about auctions in a bit).
You can bust in two ways. Your overall total can be over ten – this is the sum of your number cards MINUS the sum of your currency cards. If this happens, move all the number cards into the market area (to the side of the tableau) and gain a bust token (a white token worth 3 currency), and all other players gain currency tokens equal to what is left in the tableau, and then those currency cards are discarded. You can also bust if the sum of your currency cards alone is greater than ten. If this happens, just the currency cards are discarded (the number cards remain).
As long as the player hasn’t busted, he can choose to end his Draw phase and take a Reward, namely either all the number cards in the tableau or all of the currency cards in the tableau. If you take all the number cards, they go on the table in front of you, and all the other players take currency tokens equal to that shown on the cards left in the tableau. Then the currency cards are discarded. If you take the currency cards, you get currency equal to what is shown, the currency cards are discarded and the number cards are placed off to the side to form a market. In either case, note that the maximum number of blakc currency tokens that any player can have is ten tokens.
Finally, if you chose to take number cards this turn, you can move into the Buy Phase. You can pay currency tokens equal to the number shown on any one card in the market and move that card into your personal area. You can only buy one card per Buy Phase. If you do not have enough currency, you can also use bust tokens (worth 3 currency) and discard any of your cards to the discard pile for 1 currency each. You are not allowed to buy a card that is identical to one you already have.
OK, so now that you’ve seen how a turn goes, what happens when a wildcard is drawn? The game is paused immediately for an auction! Starting to the player to the left of the active player, there is a once around auction for the revealed wildcard, thus ending with the active player. You may spend currency tokens, bust tokens, and you may discard cards for 1 currency each. The winner of the auction takes the card and adds it to his play area, and then the active player’s turn resumes with another card drawn from the deck. Note that you do not have to designate the value/color of a wildcard until the end of the game.
The game continues until the last card is drawn from the deck. The player taking their current turn still finishes their turn, but they cannot draw any more cards. Then, each player gets one final Buy Phase from the market, ending with the player who drew the last card. Now, all players arrange their cards to try to make sequences in each of the four colors.
Players will score one point per card in the longest sequence in each of the four colors. There is a one point bonus (thus TEN total) if you have a full one thru nine sequence in a color. The player with the highest total wins. Ties go to the player with the most currency left.
My thoughts on the game
TEN is an interesting game that gives players a lot of options on their turn. Sometimes, turns are easy – a card you want comes up first, and you just stop your turn and collect the card you want. But, many turns are made more complex when you have the chance to push your luck. Say you’re looking for a low card like a 3, and it comes up first… now, what do you do. Surely you can flip over another card and maybe pick up an extra something to help you later? Even if it’s a duplicate, you can still discard it to help you buy something else!
Turns go by fairly quickly in the game, as there isn’t much to flipping up the cards and then making a decision on them. For some reason, my group loved stating the count out loud after each flip – I think in part to try to goad the others into pushing their luck and busting.
The wild card auctions were both interesting and not; all depending on the timing. You always had to be prepared for this – as they can happen at any point in the game – and man, what if it was the color or number that you desperately needed?! This constant possibility forces you to consider having some tokens at hand in order to bid on the card you want. Of course, you’ll need to also watch what other people are collecting. The wild cards have a different relative value for each player based on their needs, and you should definitely take that into account when making your bid – trying to ensure that you don’t overpay for a wildcard if you think people later in turn order aren’t wanting it. I’ve seen wild cards go for as little as 1 token and as high as eleven so far.
The rules are a little confusing. The turn has a bunch of interrupts and forks in it, and that’s hard to put into the flow of a rulebook. There is a helpful flowchart right at the start, but this is one of those games that it takes a few turns to just see how everything works. That being said, there is one place in the rules (talking about the options after busting) that really should have been organized better. We missed the bit about not making a market after busting with currency due to the way it was written. Sure, this is maybe an error on our part, but all three of us who read the rules made the same error, so just pay close attention to this when you’re reading it yourself.
The artwork is utilitarian, but there isn’t much to be done with plain numbers and colors. Everything is easy to read, and honestly, these days, that’s nice to see sometimes – a game where the graphic design doesn’t detract from playability. The cards felt a bit thin when we unwrapped them for the first time, but they have held up well to shuffling and moving in our first few games, so no worries there.
TEN wants to be a lighthearted game of pushing your luck and hoping for the right card to come your way. The structure and rules though are a bit convoluted, and this may keep you from playing this with beginners due to the complexity of the rules. That being said, it does then to flow pretty well after a few rounds, so maybe you just have to walk newbies through their first few turns and then it’ll be smooth sailing? With your regular gaming group, this will work just fine as a filler. Thematically, I want to rate this game a TEN, but realistically, my rating would be a little lower.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Greg S: I recently played Ten for the first time and it immediately struck a chord with me. I truly believe it will make for an excellent game with my casual gaming friends, as well as my wife. It has a light feel, but as Dale explains, there are important decisions to be made throughout the game. It also plays very quickly. I immediately purchased a copy and look forward to introducing it in various settings.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
I love it! Eric M
I like it. Greg S., Dale Y
Neutral. John P
Not for me…