Review: Red709 Nov 2016 0
Released 11 Oct 2016
Red7 is a card game that recently arrived at the App and Google Play stores. The game calls for a steady stream of one-upmanship. You must take the lead on your turn or take a hike. If you aren't winning at the end of your turn, you're out of the game.
In Red7 there is a deck of 49 cards. There are seven colors and each has cards running from 1 to 7. Your goal in any round of Red7 is to have the best card. Cards are ranked from high to low, so a 7 is greater than a 6, and equal-valued cards are ranked based on color. Red is the highest and Violet the lowest.
The game supports two to four players and each player starts with seven cards (I'm sensing a theme here). Players take turns playing cards from their hand to their Palette, the space on the game board just in front of them. At the end of their turn they must be winning the game or are forced to resign. Winning means having the highest ranked card on the table, so a Red 7 trumps all. If you are not winning you can either play a better card, or failing that, change the rules of the game.
There are seven different rules in Red7, one for each color. Red is highest card, Orange is cards of the same number, yellow is same color, green is even cards, blue is different colors, indigo is cards in a row, and violet is cards below 4. To change the rule you play a card from your hand to the Canvas. The rule changes immediately based on the color of the card played and this constantly shifting objective is the real meat of the game.
You can play Red7 against the AI or real-life humans, and it is more fun the more players you have. The AI has three different difficulty levels and can provide a reasonable challenge. Against humans you can use play-and-pass or challenge mode. Challenge mode is an invite-only system. You send invites to up to three friends who own the game (or are willing to buy it) and wait for them to join. There is no "play random strangers" option.
There's a lot to like about Red7. It is easy to learn and rounds are very quick, just a couple of minutes, which makes it a good game for short play sessions. There's also a satisfying amount of tactics packed into such a seemingly simple game. You need to plan ahead beyond the next turn—what cards should you hold to change the rule later and which should you play? How do you use your turns effectively to set yourself up for the win and to mitigate whatever your opponents might throw at you?
On the downside, AI turns can be agonizingly slow. At times even go-grab-a-snack slow. I saw this mostly on my phone and at the higher difficulty settings but on some decisions that seemed pretty cut-and-dry, like playing a better card under the same rule. It certainly didn't happen all the time or every game but often enough to be worth mentioning here. On my iPhone I also found it far too easy to drag the wrong card from my hand to either the Palette or Canvas, which led to a lot of undoing. This wasn't a problem on my iPad where the cards were much bigger, so I'd certainly recommend playing on a tablet.
ADDITIONAL MODES OF PLAY
There are three additional modes of play that can be switched on to add more complexity to Red7. Advanced mode, playing with points, and playing with actions can be added separately or in tandem to change up the experience.
Advanced mode opens up the opportunity to draw additional cards during your turn. If you change a rule and the value of the card used is greater than the number of cards in your palette you get to draw a card at the end of your turn. This helps in those scenarios where you end up with fewer cards in hand than an opponent and need to both change the rule and play a card to get ahead.
Playing with points makes the game longer. Multiple rounds of Red7 are played until one player reaches a set point goal and wins. The points required scales downward based on the number of players. With two players 40 points is required, 35 points for 3 players, and 30 points for four players. When a player wins a round points are awarded based on the final rule. Each card in palette that supports the rule earns points based on its value. Scored cards are removed from the deck and you won't see them in future rounds of that game.
Playing with actions assigns special rules to odd-numbered cards. When one of these cards is played a required action is triggered. When you play a 3 you draw a card, and if you can't take the lead after doing so you must resign. A 5 requires you to add an additional card to your palette and a 7 means you must discard a card from your palette to either the top of your deck or to the canvas, changing the rule. Playing a 1 means you must choose an opponent with fewer palette cards than you and discard one of their palette cards to the top of the draw deck.
I like the variety of these rule options. Advanced mode in particular is an easy add. The infusion of more cards into the game makes things much more interesting. I also recommend points for any play session with friends, unless you are just looking for a quick couple of rounds. Actions is by far the most complicated optional ruleset, but certainly creates a great deal more interaction between players.
Red7 is quick, fun, and challenging. It's easy to learn and shouldn't be a problem getting new players competing right away. There's just the right amount of tactical thinking involved to make it an ideal game for a gathering or virtual-game night at home.
There are a couple issues with the digital version that detract from the experience, though they aren't necessarily deal-breakers. The AI decision-making speed can make single-player games a bit of a pain and dragging the right card into play can be frustrating on smaller screens. The options to play also make it tough to get the most out of the game. Red7 is ideally suited for three or four human players, which is more realistic to arrange for some than others via the invite-only system. There's a pass-and-play mode, but at that point I'd prefer to just buy and play with the physical deck of cards on my dining-room table.
Hopefully these issues are addressed in a future update of the game. For now, Red7 is still a solid gaming choice if you can get some friends together to play. It is available on iOS and Android.