The Lost Code
- Designer: Leo Colovini
- Publisher: Mojito Studios
- Players: 2-4
- Age: 10+
- Time: 60 minutes
- Played with review copy provided by Mojito Studios
Leo Colovini is one of my favorite designers – many people find his designs a bit dry and abstract, but I’ve tended to really like them. Lost Code is a new game where players each have a code in front of them – but they can’t see it! Instead, they can see the codes of their opponents.
There are six colors of stones (with different colors/icons) numbered from 0 to 7. Each set is shuffled separately, and one of each color is discarded unseen. Then, each player takes one stone of each type and places it in their log. It is recommended that you put the stones in the same order as seen on the deduction sheet. Be sure to not look at your own numbers while you are doing this. The scoreboard is placed on the table and the seven guessing wheels are placed in their respective spaces. You will use the deduction sheet to try to figure out which stones are in your own log. You can start the game by blackening the spaces of all the numbers you can see in the other logs.
A four player game is played over 8 rounds. In each round, there are 3 phases:
1] Throw the dice. The player with the fewest points rolls the 3 dice (if a tie, the player on top of the space rolls). The player who rolls can either accept the roll OR they may change any single die to any face they like. Now, all players should note the roll on their deduction sheet.
2] Make your guess. Starting with the player with the fewest points (ties again broken by being on the top of the stack), players try to guess the sum of the stones on their log which match the icons seen on the die roll. The seven wheels are all different, and the goal here is to be able to guess a range of values on the disc which includes the actual total of the chosen numbers on your log. In general, the wider the range offered on the disc, the fewer victory points are possible from it. Each player in reverse scoring order chooses a disc and then dials in the range which they think includes the actual sum on their log.
3] Scoring – beginning with the player who rolled the dice, the guesses are revealed and the other players will tell them whether their guess was correct or not. If the guess was correct; that is the actual sum of the stones as seen in the range on the disc; the guesser scores points as shown on the wheel. If incorrect, the players must tell the guesser whether the actual answer is higher or lower than the range on the disc. There is one exception here, if you have chosen the wheel with the smallest range (only a single number), you do not get to learn if the correct answer is higher or lower; you only get told right or wrong. Players then mark down the gained information on their sheet.
Aside from not scoring points, there is another penalty for guessing wrong. After all players have scored their guess, any player who has made an incorrect guess must replace one stone from their log with one that has the same symbol. The stone which used to be in your log is discarded face up so that all players can see it. Then replace all the wheels back on the board.
The game is played for 8/9/10 rounds in a 4/3/2 player game. Then each player is asked to make a final deduction to their numbers – this is one in the bottom left of their sheet. For each of the six colors, players can make guesses to what their number is. They can guess anywhere from 1 to 3 numbers, but you will score more points per color if you have made fewer guesses! For each color which you did not guess the correct number, take a 2 VP penalty. Sum up your positives and negatives from this end scoring and add/subtract the total from your current standing. This is done in reverse scoring standing at the end of the game. The player with the most points wins. Ties broken in favor of the player at the bottom of the tied stack.
My thoughts on the game
So, when I first looked at the game, I didn’t realize that it was a new version of Think Str8!, previously done by Huch! Though I no longer have the original version for comparison, it does not appear that there are any substantive rules changes for the main game, though there are 3 variants included in the Lost Code. I had always enjoyed the original version, but it was a dry abstract game and the lack of theme made it hard for me to get others to play. The graphic design in The Lost Code is much more thematic bringing in a Mayan-like feel to the game. I think this is a huge improvement to the game as it made it easier to entice unsuspecting gamers into playing a deduction game…
The wheels also add to the theme, but they require a bit more explanation to grok than the bidding strips of the original version. Also, you need to make sure that you are using the correct side of the wheels! In the teaching, make sure to point out to all players which side is to be used and have players double check at each turn.
I like the way that you initially start with only about half of the information you need (based on what you can see on your opponent’s racks) and then you slowly but surely gather more information with each new stone revealed and with the yes/no answer made to your bid. As you hone in on the right values, you can start to take the more specific wheels which will lead to higher VP payouts. Of course, if you are wrong – the penalty of having to replace a stone can be high. Early on, you can usually just switch out a color that you’re not sure of anyways, or that you’re fairly certain the value is close to what you are discarding… But, near the end of the game, you might be forced to discard a stone that you actually know the value of! (Remember that you are forced to exchange an available color, and that selection can get tight at the final stages…)
As with all deduction games, it does rely upon players to give each other 100% accurate answers. To facilitate this, we generally have multiple players confirm the yes/no answer is correct before telling the guesser. In this game, the correct answer just requires basic arithmetic; but it’s still better just to make sure that you’re not giving incorrect (or any extra) information…
There is possibly a bit of a rich-get-richer scenario here; though that might be unkind to the game to call it that. I mean, if you deduce better than your opponents, you’ll more likely be able to choose a higher scoring dial as you are more sure of your numbers; and of course, the more sure you are, the lower the risk there is to take a high scoring disc. Admittedly, you may not always get the disc you want as turn order is determined by the lowest score; but this provides a nice catch up mechanism, especially in the final round or two.
For me, the components are an improvement as I like the graphic design. I also think that the logs keep the number chits nice and stable during play. I did note earlier that the double sided wheels can cause confusion; but they do allow for some variant play by adding in tiles with the value “8” on them.
The Lost Code is a nice tight deduction game where you are rewarded for paying attention to the clues given to you on the table as well as from insightful guesses to the value of your tiles. To my eye, the new art design is much more appealing than the old strictly abstract version, but the base game itself plays the same.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Larry: I haven’t played this new version of Think Str8!, only the original. But when Think Str8! came out 7 years ago, I thought it was one of the cleverest pure deduction games I’d seen in quite a long time. I’m thrilled that this is available again, in what is apparently a better looking version.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
I love it! Larry
I like it. Dale Y
Not for me…