07 May 2020
A game where the how to play is in the name
Back when I was in the film industry my boss had a saying: “Every movie is somebody's favourite.” For a long time I wondered if the same thing was true of games, then last year I wrote up a BoardGameGeek entry fora forgotten 90s title, Jan Ken Po, in which I described it as the worst CCG and possibly the worst card game ever published, and various gamers emerged from crevices to declare that it was one of their most cherished possessions.
What I'm saying is two things. Firstly there is no such thing as an objectively good or bad game. Secondly, I'm absolutely sure that there are people who will go nuts for 5211, who will find it a perfect blend of cooperation and competition, probability balancing and luck-pushing mechanics. I don't know who these people are, but they weren't us.
5211 is a suit-based game where you score for your face-up cards that match the most-face-up suit. In other words, if at the end of a turn there are more visible yellow cards than any other colour, you add your own face-up yellow cards to your score pile and discard the rest – unless there are too many yellows in total.
There's a trump suit with kododo lizards on (‘Kododo’ would be a much better name than the opaque ‘5211’), and many fiddly rules that depend on how many players there are.
Mechanically it all works, but we didn’t find it engaging or fun. That’s blunt but true. The tactics are rudimentary, and the restricted number of cards in your hand often means that your choices feel obvious or meaningless.
'5211' refers to the play structure: you start with five cards, and you play two, then one, then one. If a game has to remind players of its systems via its title then it needs a better name or to be a better game.
Other reviewers have warmed to its charms, but it left us cold. Still, not as bad as Jan Ken Po.
Designer: Tsuyoshi Hashiguchi
Artist: Chris Quilliams
Time: 20 minutes
This review originally appeared in the February 2020 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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