Isolation Day 255 Games: Catan Junior, Seven Dragons, Fast Flip Pizza, Escalation!

It occurred to me today that these aren’t days of isolation, per se.

When I first started the Isolation Games posts (way back on Day 12… remember those crazy days when everything was weird and scary and toilet paper was bizarrely being hoarded but we figured if we all just did the right thing we’d hopefully crush the viral outbreak in a matter of weeks or maybe a couple of months?), we were actually in “isolation” mode. But now it’s more like… Wear Masks And Just Stay Distant Whenever You Can mode.

But since that doesn’t trip off the tongue as readily, and since I’d like there to be some consistency among these pages for searches I or others may do, and since the day everything was closed and everyone was told to go home is a handy starting point for counting these days, I’m gonna stick with the header phrasing anyway. By all means, call it Pandemic Day Games in your heart, if that’s better for you. Godspeed.

So… it’s been quite a while since the last time we played any games, beyond my daughter’s masked/socially distant birthday party.

As I’ve already covered Catan Junior, Seven Dragons, and Fast Flip Pizza, I’ll just get to the one I haven’t touched on previously: Escalation!

In this quick card game, players act out a comically flavoured neighbourhood war, where each illustrated character wants to outdo everyone else with ever-increasingly dangerous weapons (note the gramma with a bazooka in the photo at the top of this post).

Players use a common deck and are dealt six cards that have numbers 1-13 printed on them, as well as some “joker” cards (worth 1-7) and Neighbourhood Watch (skip a turn) cards.

A random person begins and places one or more cards of equal value face-up next to the draw deck. The following player must play a card (or set of equal cards) of a higher value than the one previously played. Then the following player must play something higher still, etc.

After each turn, players draw the same number of cards they played, thereby keeping all hands at an even six cards for the bulk of the game.

When a player doesn’t have a card, or combination of same-value cards, that can beat the current value, she must take the whole stack of played cards and put them aside and start the played card pile from scratch.

The draw deck depletes until there are no more cards to take from it, at which point the players keep going until one of them isn’t holding any more cards, ending the game. Players add up how many cards they had to scoop during the game, along with however many they’re holding, and the player with the fewest cards wins.

As simple as the game is–drawing some similarities to other popular standard deck card games–it does involve a bit of planning and strategy to do well. If you need to beat the 9 the last player put down, do you pair up two of the three 5s you’re holding to make 10 to get through your turn (but leaving you holding a single, pretty low card which could then be hard to get rid of)? Or would you rather keep that whole set for a later round when you may need some higher numbers to get out? Should you use the 1-7 wild card and pair it with something to make the total higher than 9, or hold off and pair it with an even higher card if needed later on?

It’s a pretty fun, quick game suitable for any players who are old enough to appreciate the difference between aggressive-looking characters with weapons, and over-the-top violence meant in a playful spirit.

I wouldn’t count Escalation! among my favourite games, but it’s quick and easy to play in between longer games or as a light winding down to an evening.