Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Family Game Showcase : Category 5

Welcome back! This month, instead of a back-to-school theme like everyone else, and since September is the usual peak of hurricane season, I'd like to show you another of my favorite introductory games. Category 5 is a card game for 2-10 players, designed by Wolfgang Kramer, originally published in 1994 under the German title 6 Nimmt! When it made its way to America, some publisher changed the theme from cattle to hurricanes, which worked extremely well. The deck consists of cards numbered 1 through 104, each worth between 1 and 7 points. Your goal is to collect the least number of points after ten rounds. Each player is dealt a hand of ten cards, and then four are laid face-up on the table, to be the beginning of four rows (think of them as Category 1 hurricanes). Players do not have turns in the conventional sense. Instead, all players select one card from their hand, until all players have chosen a card. Then, all the cards are revealed simultaneously, and are placed one at a time, in order from lowest to highest. Once all cards have been placed, the round is over. Players repeat the sequence, until all ten cards have been played. Sound simple? The challenge is in HOW the cards are placed, due to four strict placement rules that determine where your card will go, as follows: 1. Your card MUST be higher than the last card in the row where it is placed. 2. If there is more than one possible row, your card must be placed where its number is closest to the last card. For example, a 67 would go next to a 52 instead of a 48, if given the choice. 3. If your card is the 6th card placed in a row (Hurricanes only go up to Category 5), you are required to take the first 5 cards, and yours becomes the 1st card in a new row. 4. If you have no legal placement, you must choose one of the four rows to take, and your card starts a new row. After ten rounds, players count up their points. The least points wins the hand. If you play multiple hands, the game ends after someone reaches 74 points (the windspeed that designates a hurricane). This game is quite chaotic with a large number of players, since rows will change very quickly, but with 4 or fewer, it feels quite strategic as you decide whether you can play a card without taking a row. An interesting side note is the card design, with points shown as hurricane flags, and each card showing either potential hurricane names (and the years they would be used), or retired names, in which it shows the location, year, and strength when it made landfall. Well, I guess there was something educational in there, after all. To learn more about and play this and many other board and card games, contact me at

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