Cards, Anyone? 

There are as many interesting and unique designer card games being created as board games. Circus Flohcati is a game that works well for very young children through adults. The name is a combination of English and German and refers to a flea circus. If you don't know what a flea circus is, ask your parents (or grandparents, if necessary). You won't believe the answer.

In Circus Flohcati, there are 10 suits in different colors numbered zero to seven, illustrated with 10 different names and types of flea circus acts. The first player flips over the top card and takes it if he or she wants. If not, another card is flipped. As long as the suit of the new card is not the same as a card showing, it may be taken by the player or added to the display. Players continue to flip over cards until they take one, or until a card of a suit that is showing is flipped, in which case, that card is discarded and that player's turn ends without him or her getting a card.

The game ends when someone has collected one card from each suit. That player gets a bonus, but everyone adds up the face value of his or her cards. There are three action cards: two that let players steal a card from another player and one that allows the players to keep rolling cards until they get a match, discard it and still draw a card. Each game generally runs 10 to 15 minutes and has lots of replay value.

San Juan is a card game version of a board game called Puerto Rico, but works very well on its own whether you have played Puerto Rico or not. This is an innovative game of city building and economics in which cards represent buildings, which are worth victory points and have additional functions. Some cards produce goods, which can be sold for more cards, while others have unique abilities that aid players. San Juan is a race to build 12 buildings but all players will add up the value of their buildings to determine a winner. The game usually lasts 20-30 minutes and works well for two, three or four players.

Another fast and fun card game is called No Thanks! It is very simple and fast but has a bit of bite to it. Play includes a deck of cards numbered three to 35, and each player gets 11 chips. The deck is shuffled, and nine cards are randomly removed from the game unseen. A card is flipped. If a player wants it, he or she takes it. If not, it costs a chip. When players takes a card, they get it and all the chips players have paid to avoid it. Chips are worth a point, and cards are worth minus the face value in points. However, in the case of consecutive numbers, only the lowest numbered card is counted against the player. The fun in the game is making others pay to take a card that you want, but they can't really afford to take. The game always unfolds nicely, accommodates three to five people and takes about 10 minutes to play.

Circus Flohcati is by Reiner Knizia and published by Rio Grande Games. San Juan is by Andreas Seyfarth and is published by Rio Grande Games. No Thanks! is by Thorsten Gimmler and is published by Z-Man Games.

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