I Am Lynx is a fairly significant game for me. It wasn’t the first in-hand game I saw or played. However, it was the game that got me really interested in the genre and the game that made me hunt down Palm Island.
The game itself has you create a landscape out of four cards with the draw deck held sideways. One of the cards will always be your lynx, who moves through the wilderness. Cycle through the four seasons without being killed by hunters and that’s the game.
There’s honestly not much to the nine card version of the game. After a couple games to get to know the rules and the way the game works, it’s really just a walk in the woods. But I have gotten a surprising amount of play out of it over the last few years. It’s more of an exercise in relaxation than a game but sometimes that’s what I want.
I have now finally tried the 18-card version. I had been initially thrown by a card that had arrows on it. That turned out to be for saving your place if you needed to stop playing and didn’t have anything to do with actually playing. (Okay, as a beta, there is some fuzziness in the rules in general)
While I Am Lynx is still no Palm Island and 18 cards (really 17 cards since one of them is a bookmark in case you want to stop for a while) is still a micro game, the longer version stretches the game to the point where it feels more like a game rather than a meditation. (Not that there is anything wrong with a meditation in nine cards)
There are more hunters. Hunting for food is _slightly_ more complicated. There are rules about shelters I _think_ I understand.
But what really makes the longer version of the game better is just that it is longer. In the nine card game, you cycle through the seven cards that form the draw pile so fast that you can makes threats (ie hunters) go away easily. A fifteen card draw pile is big enough that you actually have to deal with stuff.
I Am Lynx’s greatest strength is that it gives you an environment to play with. Seriously, there are other in-hand games that give you more choices to make. But the walk in the woods is enough for me to enjoy it.
I Am Lynx’s real importance to me is it got to me to go find honestly better games. But I still like it enough to occasionally play it. And the bigger version is definitely better.
(I couldn’t find a place to comment on this where it felt like it fit but both versions were designed for contests but never actually entered. I believe that means they are effectively unfinished betas. They are pretty fun for games in that state)