If you’re familiar with my pieces here on the DWP, you’re likely aware that I love me a good filler game. They’re an essential part of my gaming arsenal and it’s great when I have another one to add to the rotation. Last year at BGGcon, a friend introduced me to a Japon Brand game called 5 Colors, a small and quick card game that had some shared DNA with trick-taking games but feels more like a group set collection game. It took me a round or so to click, but in the end, we played back to back games and it was a blast.
At Origins, I discovered that Plan B Games were bringing this out here at 5211, named for the number of cards one starts with, then plays, in a round. When I saw the bright splash of colour on the box I was excited – the Japon Brand release was quite minimalist, and if I’m quite honest a little bit of a 1970s design vibe. Not offputting, but definitely something to be improved upon. The art in 5211 is really lovely – no surprises from Chris Quilliam – but it can impact gameplay slightly. First, the backs of the cards are just as busy as the fronts and it can really be visually overwhelming on the table. The other issue is the shade of yellow chosen for that suit’s colour — it’s a little too bright in tone against the white corner and makes it difficult to see across the table. Minor quibbles, but it’s a shame.
Regardless, the gameplay is the same wonderful experience. A game consists of the group of players working their way through the deck of cards (from which some may be removed, depending on player count). Each turn, players will start with 5 cards – then play 2 simultaneously drawing back to 5, and then 1 card and another card (drawing back up to 5 after each play). Why not reveal all 4 at the same time? Well, there’s some guesswork and hedging of bets involved in this game, and you’ll be reassessing what to play each of these steps.
You are hoping to be part of the play of exactly 7 kododo lizard cards once the round is up or of a majority of a suit (colour) played to take part in scoring either. Maybe you’re hoping that there’s just enough kododo in the player pool that nobody will bust and you’ll get to score with those few players (taking the qualifying cards and placing them facedown for game-end scoring). Or perhaps you’ve got a few juicy values of cards in a certain colour, and hope that collectively there’ll be just enough of them to come out as the majority and not bust (that is, have equal to or more than a certain number – depending on player count – played in the collective pool). If there’s a tie for the majority, those suits are eliminated and then the next most played suit is awarded the win. So, you could end up really lucky and be one of only a couple of folks who end up getting to score cards in this type of situation!
Because of the random nature of the deck and the unpredictability of other players, 5211 might seem a little hectic and hard to be “good” at. I’d say there’s a good dose of luck in there, but you can certainly play tactically based on your card draws and what is played down in the 2-1-1 phase. Jump in on the last one if you can see there’s a likely majority! Or deliberately play a card that might bust a suit in order for it to be eliminated and then another suit that you’ve invested in playing could win. It’s a quick and not-too-thinky game as there’s no point to getting hung up on your choices in a game as light on its feet like this one.
This is a must-have in my eyes as far as a game to throw in my Quiver for a convention, or take to a game day to kill time while various groups finish up what they’re playing and then we can all regroup into other stuff to play. Just this past weekend it was a great game to pull out for a little break, especially if folks didn’t have time for a longer commitment before they left the game day. It re-energized us all and we all got very into the reveals of the last card of each round, with groans or cheers, depending on how things shook out. No matter which way, it left us all smiling. There’s nothing like the pure satisfaction of such a tight little game to pepper your day with.
5211 is a short card game for 2 – 5 players, playing in approximately 20 minutes. Designed by Tsuyoshi Hashiguchi (はしぐち つよし), with art by Chris Quilliam, it is published by Plan B Games, and it’s a re-implementation of Japon Brand’s 5 Colors. And you better believe I paid cold hard cash for this baby, I love it that much!