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Card Game Review: ‘Crazier Eights’

The versatility of the standard 52-card deck with its suits, numbers, and colors has spawned dozens of games over two centuries. One of the most popular type, card-shedding, gives players each a handful of cards and has them race to be the first to get rid of them all. Many of us have fond family memories of the classic Crazy Eights, matching suits and numbers and keeping an eye out for special plays with eights or jokers. As fun as the game is, it is rarely played today by more serious gamers who want more versatility and cunning. Fortunately for…

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The versatility of the standard 52-card deck with its suits, numbers, and colors has spawned dozens of games over two centuries. One of the most popular type, card-shedding, gives players each a handful of cards and has them race to be the first to get rid of them all. Many of us have fond family memories of the classic Crazy Eights, matching suits and numbers and keeping an eye out for special plays with eights or jokers. As fun as the game is, it is rarely played today by more serious gamers who want more versatility and cunning. Fortunately for them, indie game designer James Gray has created Crazier Eights.

Crazier Eights BoxAfter years of playing and refining, Gray has launched a Kickstarter project, giving backers the chance to grab print-and-play editions, special jumbo-sized decks, and more. The game offered takes the time-tested shedding mechanic of Crazy Eights with suits and numbers and raises it to a whole new level by giving each card a special power. Gameplay gives a feel of early Magic: The Gathering with quick deduction and calculation to maximize the impact of a player’s randomized hand of cards.

While it may share a good deal of the aesthetic of Magic, Crazier Eights is much less complicated. The powers are shared, and players may even memorize the deck to know which cards to watch out for and what could be best used to their own playing styles. Aggressive players may dole out extra cards to opponents’ hands through cards like Angel of Hope, Demonic Minions, and Forbidden Knowledge. Other players more focused on eliminating their own hands might defend themselves with a Castle or use a Potion of Vitality for extra discards. Creativity comes into play when swapping cards with Trade and Research or dealing out devastation with a Devious Dragon. Ultimately, the goal is simple: empty one’s hand before anyone else can. The ways to get to that goal are innumerable.

craziereightscardsOne of the best features of Crazier Eights is its haunting art. In a clever indie move, Gray uses public domain works by historical artists, such as the card backs with the Renaissance mask-and-lion work of Ridolfo Ghirlandaio. The art touches on a wide variety of styles, including an Asian dragon, Renaissance religious work, and natural Impressionistic landscapes. Each card is literally a beautiful work of art and gives a sense of imagination to the calculating logic of the game. The images give actions emotional impact, from the charming Elven Princess kissing a grizzly on the nose to centuries-old paintings of demonic creatures worthy of nightmares.

Crazier Eights is a card game for two to four players aged 10 and up. Games are typically quick, and the cleverness of the players in stacking cards for maximum effect can make them go even faster. Two-player games can be as fast as 10 minutes, while more players will make for a longer, even more calculating game. With a solid system and great art, Crazier Eights is an excellent addition to a gaming collection.

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About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.