Allen recently gave me his second copy of Plato 3000, and it was then that I realised he had two copies of the black box edition of Glory of Rome. Each copy of this black box edition came with a copy of Plato 3000. That spare unopened box of Glory to Rome is very very tempting...
Plato 3000 is a rummy-like game, much like games in the Mystery Rummy series, which I have played a lot of. A game lasts several hands, with players scoring points in each hand. The game ends when one player reaches 100pts. Within a hand, players play cards into the playing area in front of them and try to use up their cards, i.e. "go out". Played cards are worth points. When there is only one player (or team) left with cards, the hand ends, and everyone does scoring. Cards still in hand are worth negative points.
A player's turn is very typical of rummy games - draw a card, play card(s), discard a card. Here are some of the notable differences. When drawing a card from the draw deck, you draw two to pick one, and the one which you don't pick goes to a different discard pile. The game has two discard piles because of this. You are only allowed to play one meld (a set of three cards of the same type) per turn. So you can't keep multiple melds in your hand and then surprise your opponent by playing all cards at one go. Melds give you special abilities, depending on the type of card used for the meld. For example one meld type lets you draw any single card from any discard pile when you need to draw a card at the start of your turn. Another meld type lets you draw three instead of two cards when you draw from the draw deck. Yet another meld lets you remove one card from any player's play area.
There is a special card type called Theories which can be played as single cards. They trigger a special ability when played. Only one Theory can be played per turn.
Layoffs (playing a single card which already has a meld on the table) are not restricted.
What makes Plato 3000 unique is the various meld abilities. They are important tools to help the player win.
Very compact and convenient packaging.
Some of the cards. The first two cards are Theory cards, which can be played as single cards. The top-right card is an Engine card, i.e. a joker, and it is worth negative points. The cards in the bottom row are Job cards, cards which form melds.
I like the artwork very much.
The biggest feeling I had when playing Plato 3000 was a comfortable familiarity. I used to play Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper a lot, and I have played quite a few other games in the series. So playing Plato 3000 is like meeting the younger brother of a very close friend. We click immediately.
Rummy games are not complex games. There is a healthy dollop of luck. In Plato 3000 you don't really decide which meld abilities to go for. You just go with the flow and see what fate brings you, and then try to make the most of the melds that you manage to play. It's very much about taking some chances, doing a little card counting, trying to read your opponent, and making small gambles here and there. It's a little like mahjong - some luck, some skill, and once you get familiar with it it can be played mostly on autopilot while chatting about other things.
A 2-player game in progress. You can see the draw deck in the top right. There are two discard piles next to it, one parallel and the other perpendicular to it.
What sets Plato 3000 apart from other rummy games I have played is the meld abilities. Overall, I don't find it significantly better or worse than others that I have played. One thing which it doesn't have compared to those in the Mystery Rummy series is the shutout, a special game-end condition which is hard to achieve, but if you succeed in it, you score a lot of points while denying your opponent from much scoring. It is an additional layer of strategy to think about.
I can easily imagine Plato 3000 being a go-to game for couples, families, flatmates, colleagues (over lunch), drinking mates, girl friends. It's something you can conveniently whip out when you have some spare time and feel like having some casual relaxed games. It's something you can easily and comfortably slip into when you feel like spending time with friends and family - like mahjong. I don't think it's something intense gamers plan ahead to play, but it will work as a filler for boardgame sessions, and it will also work when you feel like taking a break from heavy games.