The game: Abluxxen by Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling, published by Ravensburger in 2014. The international edition is called Linko.
Elevator pitch: Card game filler where you steal cards from other players in order to get rid of the cards in your hand.
What’s in the box? In the small, though not as small as it could be, box there is a pack of card: 1–13, eight copies of each, and five jokers and one extra card.
What do you do in the game? On your turn, you can play as many cards as you want – provided they have the same number. The cards are played in front of you so that everybody can see the sets you’ve played.
You then compare your set to the topmost set from other players. If your set has the same number of cards, but of higher number, you get to steal the cards. This comparison is done to every player, so if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to steal from all other players.
When you steal, you have two options: either you take the cards to your hand, or not. If you don’t take them, the victim gets to choose: either they take the cards in their hand, or they discard them. If the victim doesn’t take the cards (or if you took them), the victim draws equal number of new cards from a set of open cards.
The game ends when the deck runs out or somebody doesn’t have cards in hand. The cards are then scored: a card in hand is -1 point and a card on table is +1 point. Most points wins.
Lucky or skillful? Both. This is a light card game, so obviously there’s lots of luck involved, but there’s also room for skill. A clever player draws cards to collect larger sets and watches opponents to notice when they are about to run out of cards. In the end, lucky player may win, but skilled player will win more often.
Abstract or thematic? Abstract, but the cards do have a cute lynx on them.
Solitaire or interactive? There’s an interactive element. Stealing cards from other players is fun. Sometimes you want your cards to be stolen. Playing the other players is a part of the game, but it’s not pure chaos and there’s no negotiation element.
Players: 2–5. I haven’t tried the game with less than four so far, and I don’t think the two-player game will be worth playing, frankly. So far it seems four is the best count, but five is not bad.
Who can play? Anybody who can handle card games. Age recommendation is 10+, which sounds correct, but if you have younger children who can play other card games, I don’t think this one is going to be a problem. For everybody, though, the first round will probably be quite awkward, but once that’s done, it’ll click and the game becomes more attractive.
Length: About 10–15 minutes for one round, play as many rounds as you wish and total scores if you want to. A single round is not a bad filler, either.
What’s to like: Simple idea, quite unlike other card games, stealing cards is fun.
What’s not to like: It’s just a card game, nothing particularly new about it.
My verdict: W. Eric Martin was quite enthusiastic about this game on BGG. I read about it one Thursday morning and thought: well, we could try this. The game can be played with two packs of standard playing cards, so we tried it right away the same day. I liked the game almost immediately. Stealing cards and building larger sets is fun and so is trying to get someone to steal your cards so you can draw better cards. Once I played a three-card set, stealing two three-card sets which both matched my hand cards, resulting in two five-card sets. That’s the kind of move you aim for in this game.
Since the game is so easy to try, I recommend it to everybody with an interest in card game fillers and two packs of cards to spare. If you like it, buy the game – not only to support the authors, but also because the game is easier to play with the proper pack. The colour-coding where all the same-numbered cards are the same colour is quite helpful.
Abluxxen is currently one of my favourite fillers and I’ll be sure to include the cards in my small box of card game fillers I carry with me every time.
On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Abluxxen gets Enthusiastic.