Number of Players: 2 - 3
Length of Time: 30 min
Game Designer: Aaron Johnson
Publisher: The Quick Dealer
Rank of Hands is a card game published by The Quick Dealer and is an active Kickstarter campaign at the time of this writing. You can check out Rank of Hands by clicking this link.
We were generously given both copies of the base game (the standard version and the Kickstarter version) along with the stretch goal expansion pack, which is what we will be reviewing for you all today.
Rank of Hands is a two to three player card game which is played over a series of rounds. Each player starts the game with a horizontal line of ten face down cards in front of themselves, which is referred to as the “Lineup.” The number of cards in your Lineup represents your Rank; therefore, you will start the game with a Rank of ten. The goal of each round is to get all of your face down cards flipped face up in numerical order from left to right. Each player’s turn consists of choosing to either draw a card from the main draw deck or draw the top card of the discard pile. If your drawn card is able to be placed in your Lineup, you then replace the current card occupying that particular space in your Lineup with your drawn card and then flip up the replaced card. For example, if I had a face down card in spot number one in my lineup, and drew a card from the draw deck labeled “One,” I would place that card in the spot of my face down card and then flip my face down card to see what it is. If the flipped card can be used in your Lineup, you use it as described above, and repeat the process until you can no longer place any more cards. You then discard your unused card (the one that could not be placed) and it is your opponents turn.
This continues back and forth until the first person who is able to complete their lineup does so, which ends the round. You then shuffle all of the cards and setup the game again for another round just like you did at the beginning of the game; however, the person who won the round gets one less card in their lineup, effectively going down in Rank. Winning the game requires you to win a round at Rank One.
Aside from numerical cards (numbering one through ten) there are also Powercards which can help you fill out your lineup quicker by taking cards from an opponent (Steal Card) or simply turning into whatever card you want (Wild Card and Rank of Hands Card). There are also Dud cards mixed into the deck, which essentially end your turn because they cannot be used. It should also be noted that the Expansion pack adds the ability to expand the game to four or five players. It also introduces another Powercard, the Switch Decks Card. This Powercard literally does what it says, and allows the user to switch their Lineup with another player’s Lineup.
The overall game averaged forty-two minutes with two players, with each round lasting anywhere from thirty seconds to three minutes. The game designer also advertises that you can customize your experience by changing the number of Ranks you start the game at, which would make it last shorter than the advertised thirty minutes.
There are two versions of the game available to backers, the standard version and the Kickstarter Gold Edition exclusive version. Both versions come with the exact same components, except the Gold Edition has a nice Golden colored box (who doesn’t like gold?). After looking everything over, we really like the simplicity of the art with this game. The art is simple and direct, but brought out a retro vibe which reminded us of That 70s Show or the sound track to Guardians of the Galaxy. We also liked the holographic shine used for the Powercards, which helped them stand out from the normal cards and made you feel like you found something valuable from the draw (like finding a holographic card when you rip open a booster pack of your favorite card game). Although our cards quickly took a beating from all that shuffling, the designer assured us that the production copy that backers would receive would include an upgraded card stock (310 GSM black core casino quality card paper), which should help solve the wear and tear our cards experienced.
Now for gameplay! The game is extremely easy to pick up and to teach. I think it took us a few minutes including setup to start playing. We believe this simplicity in rules helps make the game accessible to younger players, which can be a positive thing. With that being said, we found that after five or so rounds, the game began to play like multiplayer Solitaire, where you’re drawing or flipping cards hoping the card is useful. There is not a lot of strategy involved in winning the game, with very little you can do to enhance your ability to win over your opponent. Once you draw a card that you can actually use in your lineup, you’re then at the mercy of what facedown random card you’re forced to flip over. Once you flip over that card it’ll either be something you can place in your lineup or not. However, the addition of the Powercards does help to elevate a portion of this lack of control by actually giving you the opportunity to decide which card you want to flip in your line up, such as using a Wild Card or Rank of Hands Card (which can replace any facedown card). There are also Powercards that have a direct effect on your opponent, such as the the Steal Card which allows you to steal a face up card in your opponent’s lineup (replacing their missing card with one of your face down cards). There is even the Switch Decks card from the expansion pack, which allows you to switch lineups with your opponent. This can allow you to suddenly become the opponent’s Rank without having to do all that hard work of winning rounds, heh.
We also felt that this game played better in the range of a Rank Five, not the standard ten. If you and your opponent go back and forth winning rounds, you effectively will play nineteen rounds before a winner is declared (if you play the game at the standard Rank Ten). This took us an average of forty-two minutes to complete over all of our plays, which was just too long for this kind of game in our opinion. We felt that a quick, twenty minute game starting at Rank Five was much more enjoyable and was less likely to make us feel like we were just going through the motions.
All in all we think that this is easily something you can pick up and play with just about anyone. We also feel that if you played at a lower starting Rank, the game doesn’t succumb to being stale as easily as it did for us at Rank Ten. A lower starting Rank also makes this game easy to play between larger gaming sessions or even during long setups to other games.
We hope this review of Rank of Hands has helped shine some light on our experiences with the game, and what you might expect from your own. We hope you’ll at least sneak a peak at the game on the official Kickstarter website, where you can pick up a copy for yourself if this appeals to you!