Blazing Aces! by Reiner Knizia

4 Apr

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Today, I delve into my bookshelf to talk about a book of games.  Reiner Knizia’s 1995 book (reprinted in English by Convivium Publications, and distributed by Fred Distribution in 2007) Blazing Aces! is not just a collection of rules in book form… that would be too easy.  Instead, Blazing Aces! tries to tell an actual story which occasionally breaks into detailed rules explanations.  While the story may not be enthralling, I have found many of the games to be quite enjoyable.

The story behind Aces! is that Joe Joker (or JoJo for short) has been a long time poker player in the Wild West days.  Unfortunately for JoJo, he has lost everything he owns because of poker, but still has a love for the game.  So he travels around in the West having wild adventures and inventing new card games based on poker hands as he goes along.

All told, there are 15 main games described in the book, along with variants for nearly all of them.  I was originally going to cover all 15 games, but as the review was tipping 1300 words, and I was just past the halfway point… I decided it might be best to only highlight a few of my favorite games instead.

Oregon / Portland

Oregon and Portland are both push-your-luck games.  Oregon is for 1 player only, Portland can be played by up to 4.  I lump them together, because the basic concept of the games are the same, though they do play differently.

A 17 point game of Oregon

A 16 point game of Oregon

In Oregon, you start the game by dealing 5 cards onto the table.  You then draw a card and decide to either cover one of the cards up on the table, or start a new row.  The goal of the game is to score points, based on the quality of the hands you make (a table for scoring the hands is in the book).  It is as quite pleasant variation of solitaire.

In Portland, players deal 5 cards in front of them.  They then have a choice when it is their turn.  To draw a card and cover one on the table (no option) to start a new row), or pass.   Once all players have passed for a hand, the player that has made the best hand scores the most points.  The decisions get difficult in this game because the points available double, then triple, etc etc.  Portland plays over 6 rounds.  Did I mention you never reshuffle your deck?  This game can have some very difficult choices.

4 player Portland, my triple 8s just got destroyed by a lucky straight.

4 player Portland, my triple 8s just got destroyed by a lucky straight.

Bonanza

Bonanza is a card drafting game for 2-6 players (one of three that make up the second chapter in the book).  In it, 5 cards are placed on the table.  Players have to draft one of those cards into their hand, and replace it.  Once each player has 7 cards, hands are revealed, and the best hand gets the most points.  There’s a surprising mount of bluffing in this game, and I like it quite a bit.

Halfway through a game of Bonanza, a card drafting game.  I could go for the flush, or the straight.  Protip: I got neither.

Halfway through a game of Bonanza, a card drafting game. I could go for the flush, or the straight. Spoiler: I got neither.

Thinkabit

Basically, this is poker Memory or Concentration.  Flip 5 cards over, if you make a poker hand, collect all the cards…unless you only made 1 or 2 pair, in which case you only keep one of the cards.  A surprisingly difficult game, if only because you’re trying to mentally juggle the locations of up to 5 cards at a time, instead of just 2.  I also like to play this with my multi-colored suit deck, to throw players off just a bit more.

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Thinkabit – Basically Memory / Concentration with poker hands. It’s harder than you think, this early game straight was pure luck (for my opponent).

 The thing I most like about this book is the variety of games.  There are card drafting games, auction games, card Yahtzee, Liar’s Dice has a poker variant, and there’s even a real-time party game (imagine Pit with 20 people playing at the same time…that’s Stampede).  What I don’t like about the book is the contrived story that they try to fit the games into.  Each game is explained as though you were actually at the table with JoJo.  I found this incredibly annoying.  Especially for the more complicated games (High-Low is a noticeable example).  The art is also nothing to write home about.

East-West, very much like Lost Cities / Battle Line with players playing off a shared middle card.

East-West, very much like Lost Cities / Battle Line with players playing off a shared middle card.

Blazing Aces! is a great book to have around if you’re looking for some quick time-waster games.  I doubt anything in this book will become a classic like cribbage, or poker itself.  However, I think if you can get by the way the games are presented, you will find some quality game play.

 

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One Response to “Blazing Aces! by Reiner Knizia”

  1. online poker cheats reviews April 9, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    What’s up mates, how is the whole thing, and what you want to say concerning this article, in my view its really remarkable in favor of me.

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