Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Lamarckian Poker - a true diamond in the rough

Lamarckian Poker, occasionally published as Darwinian Poker, is one of my favorite games from Cheapass Games. And it isn't one of their 'official' games, just a rule set that's been on their website and other places.

All you need is a deck of cards. You don't even need a pencil and paper to keep track of scoring. Since a deck of cards is my minimal game kit, it's a perfect travel game.

In a nutshell, Lamarckian Poker is a fishing game that uses poker hands and simultaneous play. Truth to tell, I didn't know what a fishing game was before I played Lamarckian Poker, although I then realized I had already played some!

The goal of Lamarckian Poker is to 'evolve' your starting hand into the best poker hand you can make. Yeah, what it really is all about collecting cards :D (The first time I read the rules, all the evolution terminology completely baffled me. Jargon can be the enemy of communication, particularly when you're talking about a pretty simple game)

Everyone gets dealt out a hand of four cards and then four cards on the table. Then, everyone chooses a card from their hand that they will use to try and grab cards.

Starting with the high card, everyone takes turns claiming cards from the table. You get every card that matches the rank and suit of the card you played but the card you played goes on the table, up for grabs. 

The cards you claim go into your hand for future turns but it is possible to claim no cards, just adding a card for other folks to have a chance at getting. If you run out of cards, you've gone extinct and are out of the game.

After everyone has gone, the table is wiped and four more cards get laid out. When the deck runs out, whoever has the best poker hand wins.

I have played Lamarckian Poker at restaurants, gaming conventions, waiting for D&D sessions to start and while just hanging out. I've played it old friends and complete strangers. And, every time, everyone has had fun.

Easy to teach, quick to set up and dynamic to play, Lamarckian Poker ticks off a lot of things. It takes a deck of cards and gives me a game that feels like a designer game without feeling busy or forced. Instead, it gives me a light, quick game that folks want to play again immediately.

I think the key is the simultaneous play. That makes Lamarckian Poker feel fresh and it definitely keeps the game exciting. It keeps everyone active in the game and make the decisions a lot more interesting.

Lamarckian Poker mashes together three different ideas (fishing, simultaneous play and poker hands) with a rule set that takes up one page and uses a regular deck of cards that everyone has. And the results are genuinely brilliant.




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