Romi Rami is a new game with an old soul. It has some famous card game cousins. You may have met them, Rummy and Contract Bridge, or its crazy board game uncle, Ticket to Ride. You’ll collect set of cards from one market in hopes of filling contracts from another. Keep your eyes peeled for the bonus suits and trophies, too. They can really boost your score.
There are 128 cards in Romi Rami. The main deck has 92 cards in four different semi-traditional suits (hearts, diamonds, cherries, and clover). The cards are numbered 1-2-3-4-5 in each suit . There are four cards at the high and low end of each suit (Four 1 cards and four 5 cards). There are five cards for each number in the middle (Five 2s, 3s, and 4s).
The contract deck has 36 cards. These cards have four different elements.
In the center is a recipe of cards you will need in order to fill the contract. The recipe could show a set of like numbered cards (a pair, three, four or five of a kind) OR the recipe could show a sequence of consecutive numbered cards, a run (a three, four or five card run). Every contract will show at least one recipe or as many as three.
Below the recipe on each contract card is a bonus suit, a large icon matching one of the suits in the game: heart, diamond, cherry, or clover.
The top edge of each contract also has important information.
The top right corner of the card shows the number of points you will score for filling the contract.
The rest of the top of the card is the scoring zone: this area mirrors details about the contract so the cards can be stacked in columns and overlapped, solitaire style as you collect them. This way you dont have to see the whole card, just the scoring zone, once you collect it.
The scoring zone shows the bonus suit and a number of card combo icons that mirror the recipe(s) shown on the contract. So, for example, if a contract had two recipes – a pair and a 3 card run – and the bonus suit was clover, the scoring zone of that contract card would show a clover and two card combination icons: a 2 card combo and a 3 card combo.
There are 4 cardboard crowns which serve as trophies in the game. The crowns display a number of points and a different scoring requirement on each side.
There are four cardboard Joker tokens (stars). Each player gets one and has the option to use it once in the game.
To set up for a game of Romi Rami, shuffle the main deck and deal a three card hand to each player. Then use the main deck to create the number market in the center of the play area by dealing 6 cards face up (2 rows of three cards). Shuffle the contract deck and deal four contract cards face up to the play area just above the number market. Keep both main and contract decks handy as you’ll be dealing or drawing from them frequently during the game. Last but not least, toss the four trophy tokens in the air The trophy sides that land face up set the trophy scoring opportunities for the game. Grab a joker token, pick a start player and we’re ready to go.
The goal of Romi Rami is to score the most points. Each turn a player will perform three steps, then the next player in clockwise order will do the same and so on until a target number of contracts is filled based on the number of players. When this target is reached, finish the current game round so everyone has had an even number of turns, then count up your points and high score wins the game.
So here are the three steps to your turn in Romi Rami.
Step One: you MUST collect cards from the number market. You can collect up to three cards, never more than three! There are two rules to follow when you collect. All the cards you collect must be the same suit OR all the cards you collect must be the same number. You can always collect a single card of any suit or number. If you collect more than one card you have to follow these rules: all the same suit or all the same number.
Step Two: You MAY fill a contract (or contracts) from the market provided you have cards in your hand to fill the recipe or recipes listed on the contract. Fill one contract at a time and either discard or bank the cards used to fill the contract. We will get to banking cards in just a minute. Once you start filling contracts, stack them in a column solitaire style so the scoring zones for each contract are visible.
At any point you can use your Joker token as a wild card for any one missing card you need to fill a contract.
Step Three: Refill both markets so the number market has 6 cards and the contract market has four cards. Then, check the number of cards in your hand. If you have more than 10 cards, you must discard down to 10 cards. If you have less than 3 cards, draw cards from the main deck until you have 3.
So, you MUST collect cards from the number market (either matching suit or matching number) never more than 3 cards. Then you MAY fill contracts if you have the right combination of cards from your hand – discard or bank those cards. Last of all, refill the markets (number market should have 6 cards, contract should have 4). Check your hand size 10 is too many. Less than three refill your hand up to 3.
From there Romi Rami is lather rinse and repeat round after round until someone fills the target number of contracts (5 contracts for 4 players, 6 contracts for 3 players, 7 contracts for 2 players). When the game is over you will score the points listed for each contract you filled. You will get 1 bonus point if you didn’t use your Joker. And then you’ll score two additional ways: your banked bonus cards and trophies. These two methods are…
The suit bonus and trophy points make each decision of which cards to collect and which contracts to fill more involved and challenging.
Every contract has a suit bonus listed at the bottom of the card. To fill a contract you have to follow the recipe for the combinations listed in the middle of the card (sets of like number cards or runs of consecutive number cards). Suit never matters when filling contracts. Until it does! The suit bonus listed at the bottom of the card says this: for every card you use to fill this contract that matches the bonus suit, instead of discarding those cards when you fill the contract you get to BANK each of those matching suit cards into a score pile. At the end of the game, each card in your banked card pile is worth one point.
Suddenly the number market isnt just about numbers. You may choose collect cards of a certain suit from the market in hopes that you can fill a contract and bank the majority, maybe even ALL the cards you use because they match the suit bonus on the contract. And because all the contracts are public information, you need to keep an eye on not only what numbers others are collecting but what suits they take as well. You may have your heart set on a particular contract only to have it swept off the market by someone else because they could cash in on the suit bonus.
The trophy tokens list a point reward for the player who collects the most of something at the end of the game. It could be the most contracts with a certain suit; it could be the most 4 card combo shown in the scoring zone of your contracts. Suddenly each contract you fill could put you in competition with your neighbors for the most diamonds or the most pairs. In order to win the trophy there can be no tie. You have to have an outright majority. As the game charges closer and closer to the end (and the end will sneak up on you much faster than you think) you will want to keep close tabs on where you stand in the trophy race since it could easily influence which contract you choose to fill.
Romi Rami is a great example of a modern grandma game. I know this is an inherently silly term, but hear me out. A grandma game doesnt mean you can only play it with grandma. It means you can play it with everyone including grandma (or grandpa). It means it is a game with a timeless quality, a universal appeal, a game you can pull of the shelf and teach grandma or anyone younger than grandma (or grandpa) and they will be able to absorb the rules and have fun on a level playing field.
A grandma game is a triumph of accessibility. If grandma can play and enjoy Romi Rami, I think practically anyone can. It is HARD to create games that have this broad appeal that aren’t just retreads of older games. Familiarity with key concepts and rules are often what make a game accessible, but it can also make it boring. You can draw inspiration from your cousins, but you dont want to clone them! Romi Rami can trace its heritage back to set collecting and contract filling games. You can even see how filling and scoring tickets building your train routes card by card shares some DNA with this game. Romi Rami draws great inspiration from its heritage, but also stands apart with its own paths to challenge and enjoyment. This vaults Romi Rami into its own class of classic, major fun for all.
Written by: Stephen Conway