Lost Cities is a 2-player card game that puts you and a fellow explorer in competition towards completing several expeditions to famed lost civilizations. Each player draws cards at the start of the game. Most cards feature a value between 1 and 10 and are color coded to correspond to a particular lost city. A few feature colored handshakes (investment cards) that work as multipliers and symbolize a further commitment to a particular expedition.
Each player takes turns. First, playing a card from their hand and then drawing from the deck or one of the expedition discard piles. This reverse play order is an interesting game mechanic that definitely adds to the challenge of the game.
Players need to invest a minimum of 20 points in an expedition. Once they surpass that fulcrum, each point above 20 counts toward their score in the end, while each point below is counted against. Scores are amplified by any extra commitment played on an expedition in the form of the investment cards. Each investment card acts as an incremental multiplier on the scoring of an expedition; the first multiplies the score by 2, then 3 and finally by 4.
The challenge comes in deciding where to commit your attention. It does not pay off to try to play all the expeditions, instead you need to choose a few on which to focus your resources. Also, your investment cards must be played before you can start to lay point cards down. Add in the play before you pick mechanic and the fact that the other player may be working on the same expedition as you and you have one focused game.
Lost Cities tends to minimize the banter as you spend time working out the math in your head trying to make sure you can max out your final expedition above 20 points before the last card is drawn from the deck, thereby ending the game.
Overall, it is a great addition to an upper-middle or high school game library for a few reasons. It is a nice two-player offering, which do not come up as often. It requires the player to be selective about their actions in order to be successful and you really flex your math muscles as you work your way towards scoring positive points in the end.