Phase 10 Review
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Players: 2-6 (ages 8+)
Playing Time: approx. 45-60 minutes +

This year, the popular card game Phase 10 celebrates its 25th anniversary—and it’s not hard to see why this game has stood the test of time. I remember playing it with my college roommates whenever we had some free time—and it’s still as fun to play now as it was then.

Phase 10 is a unique card game that adds a twist to standard rummy games. It’s played in several rounds—but each one is different. To begin, players are each dealt 10 cards. In the first round, players must complete Phase 1 by collecting two sets of three cards (two sets of three-of-a-kind). To do so, they take turns drawing one card—either from the draw pile or from the top of the discard pile—and then discarding one card. Once a player has completed the phase, she places her cards face-up on the table. Then it’s a race to get rid of the rest of her cards—by playing them either on her own cards (for example, playing more 5s to go with the three 5s she’s already played) or on the cards that an opponent has played. The first player to get rid of her cards wins the round. She scores zero points for that round—and all other players add up their points, according to the number of cards left in their hand.

At the beginning of the next round, all players who were able to complete Phase 1 move on to Phase 2 (one set of three and one run of four). Any players who were unable to complete Phase 1 in the first round, however, must try to complete Phase 1 in the second round—and they won’t be able to move on to Phase 2 until they’ve completed Phase 1.

The first player to complete all of the phases—in order—wins the game. If more than one player completes Phase 10 in the same round, the player with the lowest score is the winner.

Though my description of the game play may seem a bit complicated—and though Phase 10 may take a few minutes longer to learn than the average card game—once you figure out the rules, it isn’t really all that difficult to play. In fact, it’s easy enough for the younger members of the family to pick up without much of a problem—and since it’s based more on luck than on skill or strategy, they’ll have an even playing ground.

There’s definitely a lot going on in this game—with all the rounds and phases and scoring and things. But as long as you keep your handy cheat sheet nearby—to help you keep track of the phases—you’ll have no problem keeping it all straight. And though it does take some time to play (45 minutes or more, depending on the number of players and the luck of the draw), it doesn’t take a lot of skill or concentration—and that makes it a great game to play with friends or family (or college roommates) on a relaxing Friday night.

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