I like board games that are easy to learn but hard to master. Go and Reversi (Othello) are good examples.
A board game enthusiast friend recently introduced me to such a game: easy to grasp but challenging because, well, others are trying to win too (I know, right?). It's called "The Number" and originates from Japan. It's for 3 to 5 players, anyone can play.
The objective is to score the highest points.
The game has two rounds, each with five turns broken down into three phases. I know, it sounds scary, but stick with me; it's simpler than it sounds.
In each turn, players accumulate points, offering ten chances to improve your final score.
Players have a tile with permanent numbers 0-9 in front of them, an empty tile, an erasable marker, and a board for tallying points.
Phase 1: Number Selection
Each player writes a 3-digit number between 000 and 999 on their tile, making sure others don’t see it. Then they place it face-down on the table.
Phase 2: Elimination
The tiles are flipped. Players arrange them in descending order and initiate elimination: if the largest number shares any digit with any other number, it's eliminated. The player erases it.
Note: identical numbers are placed side by side; they don't cancel each other but can still eliminate (or be eliminated by) others.
Phase 3: Point Tally
Remaining tiles are used to calculate each player's points. You score as much as the leftmost digit in your number (e.g., 489 equals 4 points).
Additionally, the player scoring the most points in each turn gets a bonus, increasing with each turn (2, 3, 4, 6, 8 points, respectively).
Players note down their points, erase the used digits and prepare for the next turn. If you exhaust all digits before the fifth turn, you're out of the round, scoring zero for remaining turns.
After two rounds of five turns each, total scores are summed. Players also get one extra point for each erased digit at the end of the fifth turn. The highest score wins.
Winning strategies? I've yet to find any. I've got some basic rules, but nothing too sophisticated:
- Ensure your second and third digits are in ascending order. For instance, 934 is better than 943, as we eliminate a player choosing 943.
- Zero is valuable. Setting up a 900 in the last turn could beat anyone with 9xx. Save zero if possible.
- Observe the digits erased by opponents (which are always visible). If you choose a high first digit and digits your opponents can't use, you enhance your chances.
In my opinion, the game offers a good balance between luck and strategy. It’s available in physical form or online on Board Game Arena.