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Best combination of simple gameplay and over-the-top premise: Lost Cities

This card game is one of the best casual two-player games around.

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Lost Cities
Dylan Matthews is a senior correspondent and head writer for Vox's Future Perfect section and has worked at Vox since 2014. He is particularly interested in global health and pandemic prevention, anti-poverty efforts, economic policy and theory, and conflicts about the right way to do philanthropy.

Board Game Geek rating: 7.2/10.0 (294th).

In one way, Lost Cities is a game about explorers trekking through the Himalayas, the desert, the Brazilian rainforest, and everything in between. They must invest a certain amount of money in each expedition upfront but can make it back depending on how far they advance in their journeys.

In another, more accurate way, Lost Cities is a color matching game, where you manage a hand of colored and numbered cards and have to play them strategically to maximize your score. The exploration theme is present but hardly important.

If you like games like Rummikub or Set, you’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly. It’s for two players only, meaning it’s a lot easier to get a quorum than for the 3+ player games that dominate this list. The board game edition does allow up to five players, making it ideal for families and the like.

Buy at Amazon: Lost Cities ($13.69); Lost Cities: The Board Game ($34.95).

Buy on iTunes: Lost Cities ($3.99).

Play on Vassal: Lost Cities (free).

Play online: Happy Meeple - Lost Cities (free).