After the disaster that was Alhambra – The Dice Game, we only had time for a short game to finish and we picked this push your luck card game from Reiner Knizia, which is published in Germany by Piatnik.
Double or Nothing uses a deck of 66 cards made up of 59 suit cards and 7 bonus cards. The suit cards show between 1 and 4 suit symbols and the idea is to lay a chain of cards with one or more suit symbols appearing on every card laid. On a player’s turn, he can decide either to cash out or to add another card to the chain. By cashing out, the player banks the points from each symbol still in the chain from first card to last but then drops out of the current round. If a player lays a card and the symbols on it continue an unbroken chain, the player remains in the round. However, as cards are laid the chain for certain suits will become broken and, if the card you laid breaks the chain for the final unbroken suit, you are out of the round and score no points. The twist in the tail is that, if you are the last player in the round, you are forced to play two more cards: if they succeed in continuing the chain you then score double points; otherwise you score nothing. The bonus cards add points to the current chain but, if two turn up in a particular round, the round ends immediately and those still in go away empty handed. Also, once the seventh bonus card is revealed, the game ends immediately and whoever then has the most points is declared the winner.
This is a very simple game with more than a passing resemblance to Zirkus Flohcati (another Knizia game) that plays quickly with a fair bit of tension in deciding whether to carry on or bank your points. It also appears to be a close cousin to Diamant, which is a great push-your-luck game.
In our game, Mark K struck out with an early lead after a successful double attempt. However, it turned out to be short-lived. As we were approaching the bottom of the deck, I cashed out early in a round, hoping that the seventh bonus card would appear before anyone could overtake me. However, it wasn’t to be and Mark G raced past my score just before the final bonus card was revealed. Well played.