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Pairs: A Review


Hearts, Clubs, and Solitaire are classic games that have remained popular throughout the years.  Pairs,  a new push your luck card game, reminds me of these classic game that has stood the test of time, even though it is less than a year old.

Components / Set-Up

A Pairs is a triangular deck of 55 cards.  The deck has cards numbered 1-10.  There is one, 1, two 2, three 3 and so forth until you get to ten 10.  There are a number of games that can be played with the deck.  I will cover two.  To start both games, shuffle the deck and discard five cards face down.
Game Play

To play, first deal each player one face-up card.  The player with the lowest card goes first.  If two players tie, give each tied player a second card.  Repeat this if necessary and if a paired card is given, discard the paired card.

On their turn, players can choose to hit and take a card, or fold.  If a player hits they want to avoid getting a pair.  If they do pair, the player takes one of the paired cards and scores that many points.  If a player pairs with sixes, they would score six points.  Instead of taking a card, a player may choose do fold. If they do they take the lowest card in play.  The player will score that many points.  Once a player folds, the round ends.  Players discard all the cards in play, face down into the middle, and start another round.  If the deck runs out, reshuffle and discard five cards.

Once a player has reached the target score, which depends on the number of players, they lose.  There is only one loser, no winner.

Another way to play the game is Continuous Pairs.  In Continuous Pairs, when a player pairs, only that players cards are discarded.  Everyone else keeps his or her cards.  The player who folded is still in, but they have an empty stack.  They still may take any card in play when they fold.  Once a player has no cards, they must always hit.

There are also other variants available with the different decks.  You can also find them online here: http://cheapass.com/sites/default/files/PairsCompanionBook.pdf.

My Thoughts

The super simple rules and quick game play has made Pairs a popular game with my family and friends.  The nice quality of the cards, the small package,  and the price point makes it an easy game to put in a bag and take it along  with you.

With 11 different versions of the game, anyone can find a deck design they enjoy.  The artwork varies depending on the deck you choose, as does the graphic design.  I have found both the Modegan and Fruit deck easy to read and play with.  I really like the artwork on both these decks.  I also like that the word Six is written, instead of just showing the number in the Fruit deck.  This makes it easy to distinguish between the sixes and nines.  With so many choices, you will probably find a deck you enjoy.


The rules are very clear and easy to learn.  You can teach the game and be playing your first round in only a few minutes.  I really enjoy that push your luck element and that moment of tension right before your new card is revealed.  You hope not to see another 10, but you usually will.  Even if you end up losing the game, the quickness and fun make you want to try at least one more round.

After players get used to the game play, you can add a bit more depth by playing the continuous version.  I enjoy both variations of the game.  I feel the continuous ads a bit more to game play and makes it a more thoughtful game.   I have not tried the other variations.  This incredible variety shows the versatility of Pairs.  The variations and your imagination will insure that the game will never grow stale.

Someone looking for a deep strategy game will not find it in Paris.  Paris is a light, push your luck game that can be played with two to eight players. I would say that while it says it can play with two players and work much better with three or more players. I really enjoyed it with four players.

The price point, quality, and endless variations make Pairs a great addition to any board game collection.

Quick Statistics

Designers: James Ernest, Paul Peterson
Artists:  Brett Bean, Echo Chernik, James Ernest, Phil Foglio, Kaja Pgolio, John Kobalic, Nate Taylor (I), Nate Taylor (II), Pete Venters, Cheyenne Wright
Publishers: Cheapass Games
Players:  2-8
Game Length: 15 minutes

Ages: 6 and Up

Picture credits:  from www.boardgamegeek.com W. Eric Martin (W Eric Martin)

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