Plays: 2Px4, 3Px2, 4Px1.
I'm pretty sure Red7 is the result of Carl Chudyk seeing the recent trend of microgames and deciding he wanted in too, and what a pleasant surprise that result is. Red7 has 49 cards, numbered 1 to 7. There are seven cards for each number, and they come in seven different colours - the colours of the rainbow. When comparing two cards, naturally the higher numbered card wins. When the numbers are the same, you compare colour, and the colour closer to the red end of the spectrum wins. So Red 7 is the strongest card, followed by Orange 7, Yellow 7 and so on. The weakest card is Purple 1.
I am very pleased with the component design. The cardboard insert fits one deck of cards nicely, but once you sleeve the cards, they won't fit anymore (this photo). However if you remove the cardboard insert, everything fits perfectly! See the next photo.
In the basic game, the objective is to be the last man standing. Everyone starts with seven cards, and a random card in the play area in front of him. The player with the strongest card in his play area is the current strongest player. On your turn, you execute one action, and you must end your turn with yourself being the strongest. Else you are not allowed to take your action at all and you lose immediately. You have three options on your turn. (1) Play a card into your play area. (2) Play a card onto the discard pile. This may change the domination rule, i.e. the rule which determines who is strongest. The domination rule changes depending on the colour you play. E.g. orange means whoever has the most cards of the same number is strongest. Blue means whoever has the most cards of different colours is strongest. (3) Do both - play a card into your play area, then play a card onto the discard pile. Naturally choosing the third option means you are using two cards, which is costly. Players take turns taking actions. Eventually one by one they will be eliminated because they are unable to modify the game situation to make themselves strongest. The last remaining player wins. In case you use up all your cards, the next time your turn comes again, you automatically lose.
This reference card lists the seven colours and their corresponding domination rule.
I have just described the basic rules. It takes about 5 minutes to play a game using the basic rules. In the full game, two aspects are added, and the game is longer. The first aspect added is scoring. You play a number of hands, as opposed to just one hand. The winner of a hand scores points, and the game only ends when one player reaches a target score. When a hand ends, the winner scores the cards in his play area which meet the current domination criteria. E.g. if the domination rule is most even numbered cards, then the winner picks up all the even numbered cards from his play area and puts them in his score pile. This means some cards are removed from the game, which will affect the subsequent hands. Due to this scoring rule, it is now a valid strategy to concede during a hand. Sometimes even though you are able to play cards to make yourself strongest and thus stay in the game, you may want to concede instead and let your opponent win with a low score. You can avoid the risk of losing anyway later and allowing your opponent to score big. This is damage control.
The second aspect added is drawing cards. In the basic game you never draw cards. In the full game, whenever you play a card to the discard pile, you may draw a card. If the number you play is higher than the number of cards in your play area, you draw a card from the draw deck. This means it is easier to draw cards in the early game. It gets harder as the game progresses because you will have more and more cards in your play area. This card drawing aspect creates another layer of strategy.
In addition to the basic rules and the full rules, there is also a variant rule, where some cards have special abilities. I have not tried that yet so I can't comment.
The rules are simple. The number of actions you actually get to do is very low - at most seven in the basic game. However this little filler can be quite thinky. The moment you see your hand of cards, you need to analyse it and strategise how to play the current hand. What kind of tableau should you build? Which cards will you use for building up your play area, and which will you play to the discard pile to modify the domination rule? Once the hand gets going, you need to consider how others are building their play areas, and you need to adjust your strategy accordingly. There are seven different domination rules, so even if you can't beat the others in some of them, hopefully you can find others which can help you survive. There is some luck. If you get a good hand, winning can be very easy. However it is when your get a lousy or mediocre hand that things become interesting, because that's where the challenge lies. That's when you really need to think hard and try your best to "make lemonade".
The rules are simple enough to play with children. There is some strategic depth, so younger children may not grasp all of it, even if they can follow the rules. They just may not do as well as the adults.
I have three cards in my play area. If the domination rule is highest card, I will be dominant because of my Red 7. If the domination rule is having the most of one number, I will be in a good position too because of my two 7's.
Shee Yun (10) likes the game and we have played the full game a few times. She understands the strategies and jas beaten me a few times.
She plays a yellow card to the discard pile to change the domination rule.
The cards tucked under the reference card are scored cards, i.e. they are now out of circulation.
Red7 is a compact, unique game. Short, yet a little thinky. I prefer the full game, which requires playing a few hands. It is no longer a microgame when played in this format, but it has a bit more strategic depth this way. If you want to play it as a filler, go for the basic game. It still gives you some challenge and something to chew on. The game is most satisfying when you get to the point where you are able to analyse and plan upon looking at the hand you are dealt. That is the point where you appreciate the quirks of the game. There is some luck, but I don't mind it in such a short game. In fact I think being too lucky is no fun. It is when your cards are mediocre that you feel challenged and you need to work hard to do well.