A Sunday Night Showdown - Schotten Totten vs. Lost Cities

This past weekend Cody and I did what we do every weekend, try to take over the world - by buying all the board games (Narf).

With no real reason (or need), and no plan for what we wanted, we decided to check out a new board game store in town (Gauntlet Games). As per usual, we came home with a number of new games, including the topic of tonight's blog, Schotten Totten. After getting home and playing a few rounds we realized that it was very similar to another game we own - Lost Cities (the card game). So this week I thought I would shake things up. Instead of a complete review of a single game, I thought I would compare two games. A Sunday Night Showdown per say, based on mechanisms, theme, and artwork.

In one corner, we have Lost Cities, a two player card game by Kosmos, originally released in 1999 and in the other corner we have Schotten Totten, a two player card game by IELLO, also originally released in 1999. 

Lost Cities: This is a card placement game with an archaeological theme. The game includes cards with five different colours, numbered 1 to 10 with 3 handshake cards for each colour set that act as point multipliers, and a small board to keep track of  where the colours should be played. The game is played in three rounds (recommended number of rounds) where players place a card in their tableau and then draw a card or discard a card and draw a card. Cards must be placed on the matching colour area, in numerical order, the end of the round is triggered when there are no cards in the draw pile, and the score is calculated based on the cards played (a one = one point), the total points are multiplied by any handshake cards played, and any score less than 20 are negative points. Players do this for three full rounds, and the player with the most points at the end of all the rounds wins/is the most successful archaeologist.

Schotten Totten: This is a card placement game with a Scottish land dispute theme. The game includes cards with six different colours, numbered 1 to 9 with 10 tactics cards (we have yet to play with these) and 9 property board tiles (for card placement). The game is played in a single round, where players place cards next to the stone tiles and then draw a card. Each player can only play three cards maximum below each tile (one player on one side and one player on the other side), using poker style scoring (run of the same colour, three of a kind, etc.) players claim the land tiles. The player to win three tiles next to each other or five in total win the game/ move their village boundary further on to their neighbors property.

Both games have similar card placement mechanics, using numbers and colours to determine card placement and scoring. That said I would argue that Lost Cities adds a little more strategy to the game play than Schotten Totten. During Lost Cities players must choose which colours they want to explore. If they pick too many cities, they may end up with less points as they are unable to achieve the minimum point requirement and thus have negative points. Lost Cities can also be more tricky because cards must be played in order, often leaving you with the chose to discard (and potentially give your opponent the card that will score them more points) or playing a high card early and potentially picking up a lower card later on. While not having the right card can sometimes be an issue in Schotten Totten this issue is countered with the variety of card combos that can be played (if you play a 9 this could be a coloured run, and set of 9s, high cards, etc.), it all depends on what is drawn next. The other thing that makes Schotten Totten more forgiving is that the scoring is based on what your opponent does as well. Maybe you couldn't make a run but put 3 of a kind down instead, but if your opponent has a lower run or couldn't get anything other than points than you can still win that tile.

Based on this, I would say that Lost Cities is the clear winner for mechanisms. While they seem similar on the surface, Lost Cities has a lot buried below the surface just waiting to be explored.

Theme is a difficult category to judge as it is highly biased but it seems like if these two games are going to have a showdown, than theme must be discussed. Prior to playing these games if you asked me if I would rather play a game about archaeology or land disputes, I would pick archaeology every time - who doesn't want to be Indiana Jones?! But when it comes to these two games, I think Schotten Totten is the clear winner. The backstory provided in the instructions is fun - winter is ending, the snow is melting, and you are going to try and increase your land by moving your village's boundary stones when you notice your neighbour doing the same thing... Lost Cities on the other hand seems a little more generic, you want to go on adventures but you can't afford to do it all, pick and chose to try and be the most successful. They talk about different areas of the world and different treasures to be found but the cards don't seem to represent that. While they have numbers and colours and a generic picture, there is nothing to represent further exploration or anything changing from card to card. Instead it seems like they pasted this theme onto an already made game.

Based on this, I would say that Schotten Totten is the clear winner for theme.

As discussed a little bit above, artwork seems to be what really decided the winner for me. Schotten Totten cards are filled with fun, cheeky characters trying to defend their property. Think crazy old Scottish guy throwing a chicken at you to keep you off his land (likely yelling about how his family has been there for 40 generations), it really goes with the theme and adds an extra element to the game, making it look really nice. Lost Cities artwork on the other hand is sadly lacking. There is so much that they could have done with these cards. Each card could be a really cool rare artifact from a different civilization, or a progress of an archaeological dig, from dirt to dinosaurs or scarabs to mummies, but instead the cards are random and do not progress (contour lines, underwater art work, etc.).

Based on this, the winner is hands down Schotten Totten.  

Overall, the next time I want to play one of these games I will likely pick Schotten Totten. While I know that Lost Cities add more mechanically to the mix, I find it hard to ignore the issues with the theme and the artwork. I also find that while I really enjoy the more strategic mechanisms in Lost Cities, I also struggle with these types of mechanisms. I find it hard to know what to do, and I find it frustrating at times when I play a card out of necessity and then draw the perfect card on my upkeep phase and can't use it any more. I don't find that this happens during Schotten Totten because there are more options, it is a more forgiving game.

So while these are both great little games to play, this Sunday Night Showdown goes to Schotten Totten. 

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