Escalation! Review
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Players: 2-6 (ages 10+)
Playing Time: 15 minutes

If youíve ever seen an episode of Desperate Housewives, you know that suburbia is a battlefield. And in the card game Escalation!, the goal is suburban survival as players try to one-up their opponents.

Each player starts the game with six cards (numbered 1-13)óand the rest of the deck is placed facedown in the middle of the table. One player begins by playing one or more cards of any value. If he or she has more than one card of the same value (i.e., a pair of 6s), any number of them can be played at the same time. That player then draws from the deck to bring his or her hand back up to six cards, and play moves to the next player.

When itís your turn, you need to play either a wild (Neighborhood Watch) card or a card (or cards) with a higher value than the card(s) played by the last player. For instance, if your opponent played a 4, you have to play a 5 or higher. Or, if your opponent played a pair of 6s, for a total of 12, you need to play a value of 13 or higher. If you canít play, you pick up the pile of played cards and place them facedown in front of you. Then the battle begins all over again.

Play continues until there are no cards left in the deck and someone has played all of his or her cards. Players then count the number of cards in the piles in front of them, and the player with the fewest cards is the winner.

Escalation! isnít necessarily a unique game. Actually, itís quite similar in style and rules to a bunch of other card games out there. In fact, it reminds me of a simplified version of Pig Pile. But itís an entertaining game nonethelessóthanks, in a large part, to artist Beth Trottís hilarious illustrations.

Every player will find his or her favorite card in the deck. My brother-in-law, for instance, hoarded the 4s (the cheerleader), while I loved the 12s (the old lady with a bazooka). And thatís what really makes the game fun: the silly cardsófrom the angry blonde with a rolling pin to total nuclear destruction.

Escalation! is an amusing game thatís quick and easy to play. So if youíre the hard-core, super-serious type of game player, youíll probably want to stick to your euchre tournaments. But if youíre looking for a fun and simple game to play while enjoying a few drinks with your fellow suburbanites, Escalation! is the perfect choice.

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