Ninety-Nine or Bust

There are some times very good reasons for repackaging a traditional game. 99 is one such traditional game, and the people who brought us Pocket Farkel are just the people to demonstrate how good those reasons can be.

Though the traditional game of 99 can be played with a standard deck of cards, the publishers of Ninety-Nine or Bust have taken a extra step, creating a unique set of cards that supports all the standard rules of the game without changing any of the elements that make the game as fun as it is.
In the traditional game players take turns adding a card to a discard pile. And I really mean “add.” Whenever a card is played, it’s numerical value is added to the total. The only rule is that the total can’t exceed 99.
There are certain cards that have special functions, which, of course, is what keeps the game interesting. Aces count as a 1 or as 11. Fours reverse the direction of play without adding anything to the total. Nines also don’t anything. Tens increase or decrease the total value of the pile by ten. And kings reset the value of the deck to 99.

In Ninety Nine or Bust there are still 52 cards. And the object is still not to exceed 99. The cards are numbered from 1-10. There are no 9s. There are only four special cards: “subtract 10,” “stays the same,” “reverse direction,” and “99.” Because their functions are actually written on the cards, the game is much easier to learn. There’s also a little less to think about, fewer choices to make. And the special cards don’t look at all like normal playing cards, so the game itself seems special, which it is.
There’s a wonderful balance between chance and the illusion of choice. There aren’t any winning strategies. But it feels like there are. You get to make other people lose. But again, only if you’re lucky and they’re not. The odds are unpredictable enough so that, even if you lose three games in a row, you can still win. And even if you do win, it’s not really because of anything you are or did or should have done. Just like losing isn’t. It all adds up, as they say, to a perfect little party game – an invitation to easy going fun, for 2 to 8 players, for 10 minutes or maybe an hour.

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