FTW Staff Picks - Rummikub

For The Win Board Game Cafe's Staff Picks is a weekly series where we take a quick look at some of the staff's favourite games, old and new. 

Rummikub

Genre: Set Collection

Designer: Ephraim Hertzano

Player Size: 2 to 5 Players

Game Length: 60 minutes

For fans of: Mahjong, Rummy, Dutch Blitz

Rummikub is the oldest Spiel des Jahres winner in our library. The honoured game was just the 2nd game to be awarded the annual Spiel des Jahres in 1980. A melding of Mahjong and Rummy, Rummikub gives players a very simple premise revolving around set-collection and hand-management, while opening them to all sorts of complexity. Turns can be as simple as laying down a few tiles from a player’s rack, or more involved with rearranging already played tiles while adding their own.

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In Rummikub, players race to be the first to play all the tiles on their rack. Each player begins the game with 14 tiles on their rack. When playing tiles to the table, the numbers must assemble in one of two types of sets. The first is a Run, which contains at least 3 consecutive numbers and the second is a Group, which contains at least 3 identical numbers of different colours. The first play each player makes must score a total of 30 points, meaning the sum of tiles played equals or is greater than 30. Each turn afterwards player’s are given a minute to decide if they can play any tiles, or pass and draw a tile instead. After a player has cleared their rack, the points are tallied. Each player with tiles still on their rack receives negative points equal to the sum of their tiles, and the player who cleared their rack earns the sum of all player’s negative points as positive points. The player with the most points after 4 rounds is declared the winner of the game!

There are surprisingly a lot of things to keep track of in Rummikub. Naturally, you will look at your tiles and try to setup a situation where you can play a group of them as your final turn. But you will also find moments where you need to close opportunities for other players, and give up a tile you wanted to use later on. Jokers add a wild element that can be beneficial or detrimental (-30 points for holding it if the game ends). In most games I don’t like to enforce a time limit, but it’s important in Rummikub to hold players accountable. It may not be as fast as Dutch Blitz but it does require a lot of quick-thinking.

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Rummikub is one of those games that gets a lot of play at FTW, and one we had long neglected. But when you get into the groove of it, Rummikub is a great game for both casual and competitive gaming. It brings together 2 games that many older gamers will recognize in Rummy and Mahjong, while adding pace and modern mechanics to them. If you’ve got grandparents who used to play cards, you’ll surely be able to convince them to play a game of Rummikub!