Run Wild

It’s a card game. It’s a well-made card game, with exceptionally colorful cards in a convenient card-size tin. It’s a card game for 2-4 players of any age, as long as they’re old enough to know the difference between sequences of the same color and groups of the same number.

It’s Run Wild, a tense, heads-down card game, where everybody plays simultaneously and the first person to play all the cards in their hand wins.

Lay down your sets and runs of three or four. Once a set or run is played, it belongs to everybody. You can add your cards to any set or run on the table. You can use cards from any set or run on the table (as long as there are at least three cards remaining). And there are wild cards, O yes, indeed there are wild cards. Lovely, colorfully wild, wild cards. Cards of two kinds of wildness: one of which can be used, as you would expect, in place of any card. The other, as you might not expect, a “draw-three” card, making the other players add three more cards to their hand – resulting in what some may see as sweet revenge, and others as just desserts.

There are 72 cards in the deck. The deck is divided equally between all players, and placed in a face-down pile. Each player draws the top eight cards. At a mutually agreed upon signal, everyone starts laying down their sets and runs. If you have no cards to lay down, you can pick from the cards that remain in your portion of the deck. This is really not a thing you want to do, because it means that you have more cards that you’ll have to get rid of. So you focus, with somewhat passionate intensity, on what everyone else has played. If you are trying to be exceptionally strategic, you might try to hold off on laying out any new sets or runs, because every new set or run is someone else’s new opportunity. On the other hand, the longer you hold on to your cards, the less likely it is that you will win the round.

At the end of the round, you are penalized five points for each card still in your hand, and ten points for each wild card. Hence the added incentive to get rid of your cards mingles somewhat acidly with the strategic value of waiting for the right moment to give that draw-three card to someone who is just about to go out. Ah, so sweet the desserts. Yet, wait one a minute too long, and O the bitterness and remorse of it all.

Designed by Brad Carter, Run Wild is not frantic like the two-player solitaire game of Spit or Speed. It’s a light-hearted game that will probably make you laugh, but it will also challenge you, pretty much entirely. Its rules are not only easy to understand, but also inviting to tinker with. For example, should the game prove too challenging for some players, all you need to do to level the playing field is give the player who won the last round an additional card or two when she starts the next, or play in teams, or see if you can get everyone to go out at the same time. Even untinkered-with, it’s worthy of your most determinedly playful consideration.

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