JERICHO (Abacus Spiele, 3-5 players, ages 8 and up; 15 minutes +; about $8)

   Joshua fought the battle of Jericho and the walls came tumbling down. From that biblical event springs the new and aptly named card game from Abacus, designed by Tom Lehmann: Jericho.

  The game consists of a deck of 110 cards divided into 75 wall cards (in denominations of 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7 in red, white, blue, yellow and brown), 22 trumpet cards and 3 scoring cards. Wall cards and trumpet cards are shuffled together and all players dealt a starting hand of 7 cards. Remaining cards are divided into six approximately equal piles. One scoring card is shuffled into piles 2, 4 and 6. Then piles 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 are combined to form the new deck. 

   Each player chooses one card and places it, face down, in front of himself. This will be the first card in his wall building. He also chooses one card from his hand to donate to the supply and places that, face down, in the center of the play area. With all players revealing their first wall card, the game play begins. 

   A player has several choices each turn. The first option is to play a wall card. Wall cards are placed in front of the player. If he has already played a card in that color thereby starting that color wall, the new card is added to the wall. If this is a new color for him, a new wall in that color is started. The second option is to play a trumpet card. 

   All trumpet cards have a value of "2" and display all five colors.  When a trumpet card is played, the player declares which color it represents. At that point, the player with the HIGHEST valued card on the table in that color LOSES that card to the supply.  If more than one player has the same high valued card, they ALL lose it! (If a wall remains with only trumpet cards in it, the entire wall collapses.) The trumpet card is then added to the active player's wall of the declared color. (If he doesn't already have a wall in that color, the trumpet card is simply discarded since walls cannot stand with only trumpet cards.)

   The final option available on a turn is to simply add a card to the supply. Regardless of option chosen, at the end of a player's turn, he draws a card from the deck and play moves clockwise and continues until a scoring card is drawn.

   When a scoring card appears, the cards in the supply are turned face up and sorted into color. (Any trumpet cards in the supply are discarded). The player with the LONGEST wall (i.e. highest value) in each color wins the supply cards of that color. Won cards are placed aside. If there is a tie in wall value, the supply cards are divided up equally with any remainder staying in the supply, ready to be claimed at the next scoring round.

   Now players, once again, feed a card to the supply (reducing their hand size by one) and the game continues. With the second scoring card appearance, the supply is again divvied up with all players contributing another card from their hands to the supply further reducing hand size. When the third and final scoring card appears, once again the supply cards are given out but now, there is an additional scoring source. All players separate from their walls the 1 value cards (noted by the number encased in a "gold nugget") and get 1 point for every one of these. (Walls now left with only trumpet cards collapse and are discarded.) Players add that total to the number of cards won from supply (each card also valued at 1). The player with the highest total wins! (In case of a tie, the player with the most cards left in his walls wins!)

   The beauty of the game is the tug of war you sense during play. You are, of course, trying to build the "strongest" wall to score the most cards. Yet, by doing so, you become the prime target for those plentiful trumpet cards that can leave your walls in ruins! My biggest gripe with the game is that those scoring cards appear much too fast for my taste! Long range planning is not the way to go here. You need to strike, strike fast and then strike again to maximize your score.

   Jericho is a marvelous example of a game mechanic fitting a theme. As the game progresses, you really do get the sense of walls tumbling down! And, as walls collapse and the supply begins to fill, players need to calculate how best to round up those valuable supply cards when the scoring cards suddenly appear. While the walls all around you may crumble, rest assured that Jericho is a clever little card game on a very solid foundation.  - - - - - - - - - - - - Herb Levy

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