Full disclosure: A review copy of 5211 was provided by Next Move Games.
New publisher unlocked! Yup, we’re going to start covering a few titles from Next Move in the near future, namely TUKI and 5211. We’ll see what happens after that; my goal here is to eventually play some games more than three or four times and we’re aggressively approaching the upper limits of my ability to review games in a timely manner. And that’s fine; hopefully the January – May period is light enough that I can just work on games I’ve gotten during convention season. Either way, 5211 is on deck; let’s check it out!
In 5211, you … well, the name’s kind of the thing. 5 cards in hand. Play 2. Play 1. Play 1. That’s kind of the whole thing. This will be a relatively short review. Just watch out for the lizards, right?
Setup is pretty trivial. Depending on player count, remove some cards from the deck:
- 2 Players: 10 Cards
- 3 Players: 13 Cards
- 4 Players: 0 Cards
- 5 Players: 15 Cards
Deal each player 5. You’re ready to start!
Pretty much nothing to say, here. It’s kind of dazzling how simple this game is to play. The game is played over a series of rounds, each round taking three simultaneous turns to complete.
During the first turn, each player selects two cards in their hand and plays them face-down. Once everyone is ready, reveal them and place them in front of you. Draw back up to 5 cards.
On the subsequent turns, do the same thing, but with only one card instead of two. If the name 5211 is starting to come into focus, well, that’s how the game is played, so, you’ve got it. Each time, refill to 5 cards. Once that’s complete, score the round.
The round is scored in order, one of two ways: Kododo Cards or a Color Majority. First, check to see if Kododo Cards will be scored. This is determined by the number of players and the number of Kododo Cards played:
- 2 Players: 4 Kododo Cards
- 3 Players: 5 Kododo Cards
- 4 Players: 6 Kododo Cards
- 5 Players: 7 Kododo Cards
If exactly that many Kododo Cards were played, only score them; they’re worth 1 point each.
Otherwise, score Color Majority. This is determined by the number of cards of each color played. But be careful! If there are too many cards of that color played (it meets or exceeds the limit), then those cards are ignored:
- 2 Players: 5 Cards
- 3 Players: 6 Cards
- 4 Players: 7 Cards
- 5 Players: 8 Cards
If multiple colors are tied for the majority, skip them as well. Players with cards of the scoring color score points equal to the card’s value. It’s cruel, but it’s fair.
Play until the deck runs out; the player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
Major differences are just in how many cards can be used for the various limits (and how many cards are removed from the deck during setup). Beyond that, there’s some strategizing for knowing when to hold and when to fold, but I haven’t noticed a ton of differences at various player counts. I usually just end up playing this game pretty poorly, being honest. Thankfully, they balance the game a bit around various counts so that the game takes about the same amount of time regardless of player count, so that ends up being pretty nice. At five players, I think it’s a bit too chaotic for me; at two, I’m not better, but I can just watch one other player and hope for the best instead of trying to make something work that requires buy-in from the rest of the table. I don’t dislike it at five; I just prefer it at two. Just make sure that if you’re going to play with five players, you’re watching everyone; as the player count increases, the limit only increases slightly, so you need to keep track of who’s playing what so you don’t get messed up.
- Be careful with your high-value cards. You don’t want to burn them early in the round if you don’t have to; that might incentivize other players to bust that color, which will be not-great for you. Plus, if they have other cards of that color, they’re usually lower values than yours (generally speaking), so wasting them might not be a huge deal to them. I usually try to play the 5 or 6 last in a round, and only if I think the majority is going to swing my way. If I blow a high-value card on a miss, I’m going to really regret it. You can play it on the second turn if there’s no way for your opponents to bust on the third, but it’s risky (the second turn has to pretty much go perfectly your way for that to work). It’s a lot of work for a flex, but what are gamers if not Like That?
- Leading two of the same color at the start of a round might not be the best move if you want to score that color. Unless nobody has any more of those colors, it usually signals to other players that they can go after that color because it’ll hurt you twice as much. This is also why it might not be the best move to only play cards of one color during a round.
- Watch what other players are playing. You need to know how close certain colors are to both the majority and the limit. If you can help your best color to the majority, go for it, but watch out for players who may try to push you over the color’s limit.
- Trying to bomb other players may end up messing you up. I use bomb here to mean playing cards to try and push them over the limit. If you try to force that, you’re potentially going to waste lots of potentially-scoring cards, which is never good. Additionally, it may not work! You may just help them score a ton of points, which is even worse.
- If you have the ability to knock out a bunch of other players, though, I’d recommend it. Sometimes it only requires one more card to hit the limit. None of the highly-invested players are going to go for it, so maybe you should? Then you hit multiple birds with one stone. Just make sure you’re already going to score some other way; you don’t want to mess yourself up.
- Don’t help the player in the lead. I generally think of this sort of stuff as useful advice, but ideally you’re not teaming up with the player in the lead to help each other get points, since unless you’re gaining more quickly than they are, you’re just clowning yourself.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Dead simple to set up and play. You basically just need to shuffle a deck and deal out a few cards. That’s the kind of setup I can get behind; very few games that are quicker and simpler beyond perhaps NMBR 9.
- Nice, big cards, too. I usually just have to complain about tiny cards instead! I’ll be doing that next week when I talk about The Quest for El Dorado: The Golden Temples, at least. But these are quite large. I’m bad at measurement, so, I won’t call them tarot or something I know is wrong, but I appreciate that they sprung for larger cards.
- Very portable. The box fits in most places; easy to throw in a bag or something, and since it plays 2 – 5, you’ve got a variety of situations in which having this game might be useful.
- Love the art style. It’s so bright and colorful! I know that Next Move prioritizes aesthetic a lot but I’m always pleased to see how it turned out. The yellow is a bit bright for me, but beyond that it’s a great-looking game.
- This is me being really nitpicky, but does 5211 count? I know Next Move was going for four-letter game names, but this is four digits. You know what, as I’m typing this I’m realizing that I’m the only person who cares about this, so I’m going to withdraw.
- Can take a bit of time to play. Exhausting the entire deck can take a bit, especially if players are trying to outthink each other. Never a bad game to have a short timer for.
- A lot of this game can feel like you’re being ganged up on or at least knocked down by other players’ sloppy play, which may frustrate some players pretty greatly. This is probably my least favorite part of the game; you can kind of just get knocked out of a round if enough players decide to mess you up. It doesn’t necessarily benefit them, but a misplay here or an intentional flub there can move you a long way towards getting clowned.
- The yellow is … pretty bright. It’s occasionally hard to see some of the yellow numbers; I feel like a more muted yellow might have sufficed.
Overall: 7.25 / 10
Overall, I think 5211 is pretty fun. For me, I think I like it best as a two-player game of essentially call and response, since it’s very easy to track who’s playing what and whether or not they’re building up to try and mess you up. The initial 2-card play of the round sets the stage, and the remaining four cards played between you two can do a lot to turn the tide one way or another. It’s interesting! If high chaos is your thing, I’d recommend five players, instead. You’re never going to know who’s going to burn it down for everyone and give points to a completely random player, but you can certainly get mad about it. And I think some players will, which disincentivizes me to play this with five people. Beyond that, though, it’s got a lot of nice things going for it. It’s bright and colorful, it’s got large cards, and it’s a cinch to get to the table. Basically the game and the rules are all in the name, right? It’s 5211. The only complex thing about it is the scoring, I feel, and even that’s not too bad. Just watch out for some tricky lizards. I kind of wish there were a bit more to it, but I’m not going to begrudge a game for being a pretty light and simple card game. I imagine it would land well with a lot of families, especially as a quick one for the holidays. If that sounds up your alley, or if you just are looking to clown your friends with some very sneaky lizards (something I can respect), 5211 might be worth checking out!