Full disclosure: A review copy of Lucky Numbers was provided by Luma Imports.
So I’ve lately been having trouble getting heavier stuff to the table. It’s fine; it’s just kind of a consequence of where we are, currently. My more heavy-game-inclined players have been getting busier or have been otherwise occupied, and my more imminently local friends are less interested in Castles of Burgundy and more interested in Match 5 or Just One. I probably should have expected this, but this means that my reviews may skew a bit lighter for the next … while. We’ll see what I can keep in circulation. In the meantime, a helpful box of games from Luma Imports arrived, so we can start powering through that! Lucky Numbers has looked fun for a while, so I’m excited to get into it. Let’s!
In Lucky Numbers, you’ll need just about all the luck you can muster. The premise is simple. Fill out a grid with strictly increasing rows and columns. The catch is that you’re drawing all your numbers at random, and your opponents are pulling from the same pool! It’s a little like bingo, in a way. Don’t overthink that. Will you be able to bend luck to your will and win? Or is this exactly where your luck runs out?
Not a ton here. Each player should get a board, making sure they keep the ladybug on the board on the bottom-right of it:
Next, take out one set of clovers per player:
Mix them up! Each player takes four and places each of them on the top-left to bottom-right diagonal of their board, from highest to lowest. For a more risky setup, players can take turns choosing one face-down clover at a time, revealing it, and then placing it on their boards. Up to you! Once that’s done, you’re ready to start!
Lucky Numbers has a pretty simple win condition. You win once you have 16 clovers on your board, and they are all increasing from left to right and top to bottom. That means that your clovers increase in value as you move across rows and down columns. If you can make that work, you win! As you add clovers to your board, you must follow one rule: The clover you add cannot be less than any clover to its left or any clover above it, and it cannot be greater than any clover to its right or any clover below it. Everything needs to be in increasing order.
On your turn, you can take one of two actions. Let’s go through them!
Reveal a Face-Down Clover
You can reveal any currently face-down clover and either add it to any empty spot on your board or swap it with any existing clover on your board, returning the replaced clover to the center face-up. If you hate the clover you revealed or can’t add it to your board following the rules, return it to the center and end your turn.
Take a Face-Up Clover
Instead of revealing a new clover, you may take any already-revealed clover and add it to your board or swap it with any existing clover on your board, returning the replaced clover to the center face-up. You cannot take a face-up clover that you cannot place on your board legally.
End of Game
The game ends as soon as a player has filled out their board according to the placement rules. That player wins!
The game can also end if every clover is revealed and no player has completed their board. In that case, the player with the most clovers on their board wins!
Player Count Differences
This is one of those times where I write something that sounds insightful on the surface but is really just some napkin math with more flowery language. Essentially, you’ll have some of your benefits from additional players (namely, more clovers) get amortized out by the drawbacks from additional players (specifically, more players taking clovers between your turns). It’s not something that’s going to particularly shake your game to its core or change everything you thought you knew about Lucky Numbers; it’s just kind of how that math works out. It balances things kind of nicely, save for a minor slowdown in gameplay because there are more turns happening between your turns. If you’re new here on What’s Eric Playing?, you should know that I generally prefer lower player count games slightly, for that reason, and largely because in the last two to four years I’ve had much more luck finding players for lower player count games. That said, I do think Lucky Numbers is particularly fun with two players, since there are fewer duplicates of numbers. Once you’ve got two of a number, it’s gone. Your opponent needs to figure their way out of that on their own. That tension makes the game fast-paced and a lot of fun for me, and it’s why I prefer Lucky Numbers at two to other player counts. It’s a great silly game for a date night or a 1v1 showdown or settling a blood feud or whatever compels you to play two-player games.
- Your initial setup is pretty critical. I wouldn’t necessarily say it decides the game, for you, but there’s definitely a quality gap that can exist. If that happens in your favor, it totally rules, but it can just as easily not. If you get a set of numbers where the difference between several of them is 1 or 0, you’re going to have to spend a lot of time reconfiguring your board where other players are just adding clovers.
- If you’re going to swap a clover on your board, try to return a clover to the center that your opponent can’t use. I spend a lot of time trying not to give my opponents clovers that they would find useful, occasionally to my detriment. This includes clovers that are essentially no-ops. Offering a 20 when they already have 18 and 19 on their board is only useful if they don’t have a clover in the bottom-right. If they do, then they gain nothing from swapping it for a 20 (other than marginally increased flexibility).
- Taking a 1 or a 20 is pretty much a gimme, if you already need to swap out the top-left or bottom-right corners of your board. You often will, unless you’re starting with less than a 4 in the top-left or greater than a 17 in the bottom-right. Even then, it might be worth it if there are a lot of 18s and 19s and 2s and 3s in the center that aren’t getting taken. After all, your goal is to fill your board.
- Your board can be kind of erratic as long as it’s increasing top to bottom and left to right. I tend to try and guess what clovers are going to be available by doing a quick survey of my opponents’ boards when it’s not my turn. Then, I’m still paying attention to the game and I know what the available range of clovers is when I’ve pulled one. It’s totally fine if your top row is 1 5 10 12, as long as you’re setting yourself up to actually increase from top to bottom from that top row. Don’t get stuck!
- Look at other players’ boards! That will tell you if the clovers you’re looking for even exist, and what clovers they’re looking for. If your goal is to place an 8 and all the 8s are already on other players’ boards, get a better goal. But you also can better see high-value clovers by looking at other players’ boards. If they’re looking for a 6 and you just drew one, it’s probably best to make sure that gets on your board, even if you have to boot something else out to do it. That should hopefully force them to take another turn, which might let you extend the game out farther so you can win.
- I highly recommend placing consecutive numbers adjacent to each other as often as you can. If you can get consecutive numbers, you really free up additional space for non-consecutive clovers to be placed later. It’s a similar principle to Welcome To, honestly, but in a much simpler form. There are only 5 numbers in the 10 – 14 range. If you place 10 and 12, now you only have two possible numbers in that range you can place. If you place 10 and 11, you suddenly have three numbers that can be placed from that range. Again, not terribly insightful, just math, but it’s a useful thing to keep in mind as you play.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Quick and easy to set up! You really just take a set of clovers for every player and mix them up and you’re ready to start. There’s really nothing else to it, provided the previous players put it away in a useful fashion. If you just have a box full of clovers, that’s going to be annoying, granted, but just … don’t let jerks put away your games. Or people who don’t value properly-stored components, I guess.
- I like the color scheme, as well. I really don’t see enough green games, I guess, so I end up calling it out every time I play one. There are a bunch of green games, but it’s just a relatively uncommon color palette, I suppose? I don’t see it much outside of Red Raven titles (and a few others). Always down to see more.
- The core gameplay loop is pretty simple, as well. You’re really just drawing a clover and deciding where to place it. It’s a bit of gambling on a diminishing pool of options, but it’s cute, simple, and straightforward.
- As a quick and straightforward intro game, it’s pretty good! Like I said. I think the game is pretty easy for most people to pretty quickly pick up, but the optimization around which pieces to place where based on the game state might not be what people always think about.
- Decently portable. The box isn’t terribly big. Fits in a lot of backpacks / suitcases / other transit modalities, as far as I’ve been using it. I wouldn’t say it has the niceties of smaller board games like the Oinks or the Button Shy line, but it’s only a bit larger than, say, the EXIT games or the sort of standard small-rectangle size.
- It includes a variety of solo puzzles, too! These are pretty cool, and there are over forty of them! A nice alternative or a good way to get accustomed to playing the game.
- There are also a couple of variants to mix play up. You can either play with a much riskier variant that has you lay your starting clovers one at a time, or you can play tournament mode and let every player go first once to balance out the player order. I like the classic game just fine, but these variants are nice as well.
- The game can temporarily stalemate if multiple players are looking for clovers in the same general range, which isn’t always the most exciting to watch or play. If they need the exact same number and haven’t realized that the other players have taken the number they need, this usually ends with the final clover being revealed to everyone’s great confusion, which is pretty funny, but having a chunk of the game where nobody is actually taking clovers, just flipping them over, is not the most fun part of the game. Thankfully, more often than not players notice this and start to try to correct for it in the hopes that they can win before the game fully runs out.
- As you might expect from a game with Lucky in the title, the elements of luck might be frustrating for some players (albeit unsurprising). There’s a lot of different elements of luck in the game that can frustrate players, but that’s kind of … exactly what the game says on the box. Your initial setup can be very good or very bad, for instance, which can slow you down; you are drawing clovers at random, and they might be either what you need or exactly what your opponent needs and you can’t use; and you may not even get a chance to get the numbers you need because your opponents might get them first. That’s kind of the name of the game, and while it’s fine for me because the game is relatively short, these are things that may frustrate some players. If your group is looking for a high-strategy game, well, this has some strategy to it, but there’s a substantial amount of luck, as well.
Overall: 7.75 / 10
Overall, I like Lucky Numbers! I probably like it more than the score I gave it, even, but I fully acknowledge that I’ve had some very fortunate games. The major issue I have with it is that, functionally, you can really start from a bad place if you get a particularly bad draw, and your potential for bad draws increases with player count. You functionally cannot draw four of the same number as your starting configuration if you have four players, since there aren’t that many of that number in the available pool. That variance existing makes games a bit more interesting at higher player counts, but it also can make games run a bit longer, since there are more players taking turns between your turns. I don’t mind that much, though; Lucky Numbers is functionally a very quick and simple game with a lot to offer, especially for folks who haven’t played a lot of board games before now. I like showing Lucky Numbers to new gamers for that exact reason; it’s bright and engaging, and I have a lot of fun when I’m demoing it to someone. If you’re looking for something like that, or you just want to play something quick, simple, and a bit luck-based, I’d recommend checking Lucky Numbers out!
If you enjoyed this review and would like to support What’s Eric Playing? in the future, please check out my Patreon. Thanks for reading!