Much like many of the folks who read the write-ups posted here on The Little Metal Dog Show, I’m more than happy to sit down at a table and play the same game for hours on end. Three hours of Twilight Struggle? I can do that standing on my head. A weekend of playing a single RPG? That’s not a challenge, that’s a bloody pleasure. But sometimes we all need something lighter, more bite size… something that, while quick, will also tease the brain and give us a good gaming workout.
I’ve written before about smaller games that I love to just chuck in a bag and bring with me everywhere – most of the time I’ve got at least one on hand from a list including The Great Dalmuti, No Thanks, Hanabi or Coloretto, but now I believe there’s another to add to the list. In fact, I reckon that this one could easily usurp all others that have come before it, taking its place at the top of the pile as the go-to filler game with bite. Red 7 is here, and it is a brutal little bastard in the best possible way.
Between two and four can play, and the game is built around one single, simple tenet: at the end of your turn you MUST be winning, or else you’re out. Players will place cards in front of them that will help them hit that rule, play a card to the middle of the table that alters the winning condition in their favour, do both of those actions or pass (which knocks you out of the game, so only do that if that’s the only option). You’re also booted out if you run out of cards, but that’s something of a rarity – most of the time you’ll find yourself hurling your hand onto the table and calling someone out as a [insert favourite profanity here].
All cards are uniquely numbered and coloured, 1 to 7, through the colours of the rainbow. The ruling in Red 7 is that the number on the card is checked first, then colour, so an Orange 6 is more powerful than an Indigo 6, for example – this makes the Red 7 the strongest card in the game, of course, hence the game’s title. Saying that, it’s only the strongest under certain conditions. It certainly rules the roost at the beginning of each round where the winning condition is to simply have the highest card, but things change very quickly in this game…
As well as a hand of seven cards, each player also starts a round with a single face-up card in front of them. This not only gives you all a base to work from, it also determines who starts play with the person to the left of the current winning player kicking off the fun. As mentioned previously, you only have four options available to you, but the cards in your hand will offer such a range of possibility to you that it won’t be long before brains begin leaking out of your ear. Fear not, you’ll get the hang of things quickly enough – the trick is working out what the best order to play your cards in, and precisely what to do with them.
Is it best to change the rules when play comes round to you? Perhaps just adding to your tableau is best? Regardless, you MUST make sure you’re winning, but most of the time you have options open to you; it’s not often that you’ll be dropped to only a single thing to do on your turn. The true challenge is managing to swing things in your favour while also making life harder for your opponents, and should you manage to be the last person standing, you’ll be the one to score.
Depending on what the winning condition was, points will be scored in different ways; if the Red rule is in play, only the highest card in front of you will be tucked under your reference card, eliminated from the game forever while also contributing to your score. However, manage to win while you’re all working towards the Blue “Most Different Colours” rule and you’ll take the highest value card of each colour in front of you. In a game where the winner is the first to hit 25 points, this is a great way to get a huge boost.
Production wise, Red 7 is simple enough; it’s a deck of cards in a wee box, not much can go wrong there, but it’s filled with little touches that make playing the game very straightforward. The cards are clean and bright, and every single one has their colour’s rule written down the sides. Players all receive reference cards that explain the hierarchy of colours in the game as well as the symbols used in the ‘advanced’ version of the game – just a few extra rules that allow for extra card draws and such like, but frankly the base game is pretty much perfect so these aren’t really necessary. The rules are laid out well and are easily understandable with clear examples throughout, but even though this is a simple game these examples are great – Asmadi Games have done really well in putting Red 7 together, and designers Carl Chudyk and Chris Cieslik should be proud of the little monster they’ve created. Trash talking and brain melting comes swiftly when this game hits the table – the game’s basis is in screwing over everyone else every single turn, after all – so the only question is Why Haven’t You Got A Copy Yet?
Red 7 was released in 2014 (in VERY limited numbers) but it’s now in stores all around the world, meaning that you really should buy it. Games take around 15 minutes at the very most and a copy will set you back under a tenner. Get yourself a copy now and discover that you’ve got a brand new favourite filler.