Recently, I created a list of my top ten favorite board games in 2021, and I thought, why not one for card games in 2021? In general, I enjoy board games more than card games, but these ten I enjoy every time they make it to the table.
Here is my list:
Coup is a bluffing and risk-taking game. Your objective is to manipulate others and take control of the court.
Each player has two cards that represent the influence of particular character types; for example, assassins or a dukes. Each character type has an advantage named at the bottom of the card, such as allowing you to draw three coins.
You can use the abilities on the cards in your hand, or pretend to have a card with a different ability. Other players may catch you if you are bluffing and force you to lose influence. If the other player is wrong, however, he or she is the one who will lose influence.
Once you reach 7 coins, you can launch an unblockable coup, forcing another player to lose influence.
Since each card in your hand represents influence, when you lose influence, you lose a card. You never draw another another card, so once you lose two cards, you are eliminated.
Even though I am not particularly skilled at bluffing, I enjoy playing this with family members who are good at it. I generally play it safe at the beginning, but some people start bluffing from the start.
It’s a simple game that is perfect as a warm-up for a lengthier board game, or for when you only have a short time to play.
#9: Sushi Go!/Sushi Go! Party
Sushi Go! is a drafting game. Each player starts with a hand, chooses a card, and passes their hand to the next player. All players then flip their chosen card and those cards take effect.
Some basic cards just score the points denoted on the card. Others require two or three in a matching set to score the point. Some are kept until the end of the round, and some until the end of the game, before scoring.
I like this game because of its cute theme and easy gameplay. After one game, players can easily become accustomed to the scoring system. It’s a great game to bust out when there is not much time to play.
The variant, Sushi Go! Party, provides an even greater variety of cards to make the game less repetitive. I fully recommend Sushi Go! Party if you can get it instead of Sushi Go!, but even the original simpler version will give you a good time.
Bohnanza is a game where the objective is to plant and harvest beans to gain coins.
In the beginning, each player receives five cards. The order of the cards matters in this game, so you cannot organize the cards in your hand.
On your turn, the first action you must take is to plant bean cards from your hand. The first card you must play on one of your fields. The second is optional, but can only be placed if it matches one of the beans you already have in your fields.
The cards you place must be the first (and second if you decide to place two) card on the right side of your hand.
Next on your turn, you turn over two bean cards from the top of the deck. You can then decide if you want to keep and immediately plant those two cards, or get rid of them. The only way to get rid of them is by trading with the other players. If no one is willing to trade, you must plant those beans. The active player can also trade cards in their hand along with the two beans from the deck.
A player can also give bean cards for free. This may happen because they want to get rid of cards they would otherwise have to place in their fields.
The third part of your turn is planting the turned-over cards from the deck if you haven’t traded them, and/or planting the traded cards. If you plant a bean that doesn’t match either of your stacks of beans in your fields, you must harvest your largest bean crop and then plant the bean.
You can harvest beans at any time, whether during your turn or someone else’s. When you do, you look at the beanometer at the bottom of the card that says how much different amounts of beans are worth. Then you gain coins matching the amount listed on the bottom for the number of beans you have.
The game ends when the draw pile is emptied and shuffled for a third time.
There is a variation that includes several more types of beans: the cocoa been, wax been, and coffee bean.
#7: Point Salad
The game is super simple. On your turn you can take one point card or two veggie cards. The point cards dictate what veggies you need to earn points. The veggies allow you to actually earn those points.
There is another optional action that you can do once per turn. That is to flip over a point card in order to gain the veggie on its back. (Cards are doublesided.)
There are over a hundred ways to earn points, and more experienced players can earn vast amounts of points by employing effective strategies.
That’s it. Easy to learn, harder to master.
I believe Dixit qualifies as a card game rather than a board game because the small board is only used for scoring purposes.
Dixit is a party game in which players take turns with the storyteller role. The storyteller looks at the cards in their hand, picks one, and without showing it to anyone else, uses a word or phrase that they hope will lead some players, but not all players, to guess it. For example, “Mirror, mirror.”
The goal for the other players is to guess the storyteller’s card.
Each other player uses the word or phrase to choose a card from their own hand, trying to trick the other players into falling for their card instead. For example, let’s say the storyteller’s card is of a woman who looks like an evil queen, and the storyteller is thinking of the classic Snow White.
Another player chooses a card with a literal mirror on it. A third, remembering that the queen asked for Snow White’s heart, uses a card with a picture of a heart on a platter. And so on.
These cards are mixed up randomly, and then players vote secretly using upside down numbered tokens on which one they think is the storyteller’s.
As explained before, the goal for the storyteller is to have some, but not all, of the players guess the storyteller’s card. The goal for everyone else is to choose the storyteller’s card.
If no one chooses the storyteller, or everyone chooses the storyteller, the storyteller gets zero points. This means the hint was either too vague or too obvious.
Players who are not the storyteller can gain bonus points if they trick someone else into voting for their card.
When my family plays, we have a rule that no one can comment after the storyteller chooses his or her word or phrase. This is to prevent players from accidentally giving further clues, such as by saying what the word or phrase reminds them of.
This is one of my favorite card games. It is a bit more complex than most party games, which I appreciate. I love the art on the cards, especially with the expansions. I think it is hilarious how two of my sisters use obscure anime references that they both understand to get ahead in the game.
Other relatives use references to sports, which they know that some players will get, but that my sisters and I will be clueless about.
One caution is that it is not good in groups where most people know each other really well, but there are some newcomers. The newcomers will feel left out and discouraged by how well the other people play off of each other.
Dixit has artwork that is stunning and intriguing, which lends itself well to giving ambiguous hints. I like all of Dixit’s expansions, and while they do not change the rules, they provide more cards with new artwork and styles.
In Saboteur, you play a dwarf mining for treasure in caverns. The game is three rounds long. Each game, there is at least one, but usually two saboteurs.
The goal of the regular miners is to make a trail seven cards long to the treasure, which can be in one of three places. (Generally, they use maps to ascertain the location as soon as possible.)
The goal of the saboteur is to prevent the other miners from reaching the treasure. This can be done by placing dead ends, turns, and other unhelpful pieces. Saboteurs can also sabotage the tools of the other miners, breaking lanterns, pickaxes, and wheelbarrows.
When a dwarf has a broken tool, he or she cannot place anymore tunnel pieces until they are healed.
The dwarf that puts the finishing card on the tunnel gets to choose from the treasure first. For the Saboteur to win, the other miners must be unable to place more cards or obviously be unable to finish the tunnel to the gold. After winning, the Saboteur automatically gets three gold because it is harder to win as the Saboteur.
This game is so much fun, we have played several consecutive games in a row on some days. It doesn’t feel like simply a warm-up for a more complex board game – it’s more like the main event. This is one game that is simple enough to learn quickly and yet does not get boring.
Dominion is a deck-building game. In it, you play as a monarch attempting to gain influence and expand your kingdom. You start out with a small deck and use treasure to buy cards to add to your deck.
The real goal is to gain victory points by buying victory cards, but these otherwise powerless cards clutter your deck and make it harder to take actions during your turn.
The base game has some variety in which cards you can create the store with, but the expansions greatly modify gameplay and what your decks will consist of.
One of my favorite cards is the Witch, which curses other players by giving them -1 victory point cards to clutter their deck.
This is a phenomenal introductory deck-building game that has dozens of variations. I would recommend any of the expansions to add on to the game, because all of the expansions I have played have changed the course of the game and made it very interesting.
#3: The Bears and the Bees
In the Bears and the Bees, all cards are hexagon shape like honeycombs. When placing a card, you must match two sides with the adjacent cards. If you match three sides with the adjoining cards, you get to place an additional card. Sides that look like honey are wild.
all of their cards scores the best, getting zero points. You are supposed to get the lowest number of points to win. The first person to put down all of their cards scores the best, getting zero points. The other players score points according to what cards are remaining in their hands. That ends the round. The game is played over three rounds.
There are several special cards:
Bear: Has to be played with one side touching honey. After it is placed, no other cards can be played touching it.
Flower: Makes all other players draw a card.
Worker bee: Make one player draw a card.
Drone bee: Has three sides that are honey.
Even though I am not great at this game, I found it creative and very enjoyable.
#2: The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine
The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine is a cooperative, trick-taking game made up of 50 missions. You can binge these missions and do them all one after another, or you can complete them on different days and start off where you left off. Technically you can do them out of order, but I don’t know why you would do that because they each increase slightly in difficulty if you do them in order.
The Crew is unique because not only is it a trick-taking game, you also have to win certain tricks and are only allowed very limited communication with your crewmates (fellow players).
#1: Cover Your Kingdom
Cover Your Kingdom is a set collection party game. Each player chooses a kingdom to rule, and you will try to convince creatures such as Pigxies, Uniquehorns, or Sighclops, to reside there. You do this by matching two creatures from your hand and placing them down to make a clan, or by trying to steal clans from your rivals by using cards that match their clan type in your hand.
Each separate clan you make is placed in either the Mountains or the Valley. Each new clan is placed over the preceding clan in its respective region, alternating horizontal and vertical. Rivals can only steal the clan on the top, so it is important to cover high-scoring clans. The more often a clan is stolen, the higher worth it is because it will accumulate more cards.
You win by having the most points at the end of the game. It is ruthless–it is fun. It is my favorite card game because it is not only easy to teach, it also causes much laughter and drama.