What you need to know about Gamewright‘s two-player card game Ka-Ching is that it’s mercifully short. You can play it in 15 minutes. That’s 15 surprisingly intense minutes of essentially cutthroat competition. Which makes the shortness of it all so merciful. What you also need to know, is that it’s surprisingly fun, absorbing, easy to learn, and well-designed.
There are two decks of cards: the money cards and the numbers cards. You use the money cards to buy the numbers cards.
There are five different cards of number cards, seven of each kind, numbered 2-6 (there are two 2’s). First thing you do, after you’ve shuffled the number cards, is lay the number cards out in 5 rows of 7. After that, you give each player $20 worth of money cards (which come in denominations of $1, $2, $5, and $10). There are two wild cards. You give one to each player.
On your turn you may do one of two things: you may buy any of the five cards that are currently exposed (the bottom card of each column), or you may sell any two cards that are of the same kind. The price for buying a card is the number that appears on the card. The amount of money you get for selling a pair of cards is the multiple of the numbers on those two cards. Thus, you could conceivably buy a blue card for $5 and another blue card for $6, and then sell it for $30 (5×6), for a tidy profit of $22.
That’s about it, rule-wise. Except for your one wild card. Which doubles the value of whatever card you want to sell it with.
Sounds simple, no? Except for the thinking part. Because, see, once you realize that if you buy, say, the purple 3, it makes it possible for your beloved opponent to buy the green 6 right above it. So maybe you should buy the blue 2 instead, given that the next card in that column is merely an orange 3. On the other hand, the blue 2 is only worth $2, and at best can only double the value of another blue card, and the card right above the green 6 is a purple 6, which would give you $18 – so your opponent might not really want to buy the green 6, even though it is a 6, because she doesn’t want you to have that purple one. Know what I mean?
Designed by Klaus Palesch and Horst-Rainer Rösner, Ka-Ching, despite how easy it is to learn, and how short of a game it may be, is a game you need to take seriously. It is a remarkably well-designed and -executed game of pure strategy, and sometimes delicious agony.
As for those money cards – game designers, take note. Using card stock for money, despite the fact that paper has far more money-like verisimilitude, makes for money that is much easier to handle and much more fun to play with.