Pepper Review
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Players: 3-5 (ages 8+)
Playing Time: 5-15 minutes (or more, depending on how competitive you are)

Once again, another summer holiday gave me the opportunity to try out a few new games on my favorite guinea pigs, my family. And, loaded down with a shopping bag full of games fresh from two days at Origins, I had plenty of options. Since I’d already had the opportunity to play a quick round of Pepper before—taught by the game’s creator, no less—I was already pretty sure it was something my guinea pigs—er, parents—would enjoy. So that’s where we started.

Pepper is actually based on Four Square, the old playground game. To begin, each player is dealt five of the 52 cards (numbered 1-5, in each of five different colors, plus two 6s thrown in for a little extra excitement)—and the rest of the cards are set aside. The dealer goes first, playing a card in front of any one of his opponents. Once a card is played on you, you can do one of two things. You can play one of your cards on someone else—one that’s either the same color or a higher number than the one that was played on you. Or you can pick up the cards in front of you (the cards that have been played on you—or, to keep with the theme, the balls that have been thrown at you), add them to your hand, and play any one of your cards on an opponent.

The object of the game is to get rid of all the cards in your hand—but it’s not as simple as it sounds. When you play your last card, you have to play it on an opponent who won’t be able to respond by playing one of his or her cards (the same color or a higher number). If he or she can play a card, you have to pick up your cards and start again. If not, you win.

Pepper is a game that’s easy to learn—and hard to stop playing. It’s simple enough for the younger members of your family, but it’s exciting enough to keep older, more experienced game players sticking around for “just one more game….” Even Mom—who isn’t really much of a game player—caught on quickly and didn’t have much of a problem keeping up. And the rest of us soon began formulating our strategies and ganging up on our opponents.

Pepper is a fast-paced yet easy-going card game. If you want to figure out strategies, you can, but it’s not really necessary. And that makes it a great game for all the game players in your family—from the youngest to the oldest, from the casual player to the most competitive.

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