Escalation!, despite the cartoon-enabled violence of its imagery, is actually a fun little card game from the prolific, multiple-award-winning Reiner Knizia.

There are 55 cards in the artfully illustrated deck. The cards are numbered 1-13. There are two special cards – the Neighborhood Watch and the wild cards.

Each player (from 2 to 6 players) is dealt 6 cards. On your turn, you must discard a card that is higher than the card(s) just played. I say “card(s)” because if you have two or more of the same rank, you can play as many of them as you want, raising the target number by the total of the numbers on the card(s) you play. So, if you have two 7s, and the current target number (the number last played) is 6, you can play one 7, raising the target number by one, or both 7s, raising the target number to 14.

The wild cards can be any number from 1-7. The “Neighborhood Watch” cards don’t change the target number.

On your turn, if you can’t play a card that is higher than the current target, you have to pick up all the cards played, and put them in a pile. You really don’t want this pile, because every card you collect counts against you.

That’s about it. The game takes about 5 minutes to learn and 10 minutes to play. Of course, you’ll probably want to play it several times, perhaps several many.

Published by Z-Man Games, Escalation! is one of those somewhat mechanical games that require only some actual awareness, perhaps a little strategy, and yet prove to be a very welcome “filler” at any games gathering.

The game is nicely packaged in a well-made cardboard box (the kind with a lid). The rules are printed on one of the cards, so the whole thing gives you the feeling of something well- and thoughtfully-made, as if someone really cared about creating a game you could treasure.

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