Review: 5211

Designer: Tsuyoshi Hashiguchi
Artist: Chris Quilliams
Publisher: Next Move Games
Category: Hand Management
Players: 2-5
Price: $17.39

5211 is a small game of hand management and simultaneous card play. With a particularly interesting scoring system, it is a fun family game, and it especially shines with more players.


5211 is a charming little card game. Coded in its numerical title are the game’s simple instructions:

  • Start with 5 cards
  • Play 2 cards
  • Play 1 more card
  • Play 1 final card

Each round, players execute the above steps in order, simultaneously revealing 2 cards, then 1 card, and 1 card again. Every card bears a color and either a number or a kododo (lizard) icon.

These card characteristics are used in scoring, which takes place at the end of every round. After the titular steps have been carried out, each player will have 4 cards in front of them. Interestingly, the way a round is scored depends upon what cards were played. The scoring works like this:

First, players check to see if an exact number of kododo cards were played. If there are kododos exactly equal to the number of players plus 2, then ONLY these cards are scored. Each player with 1 or more of them adds them to their score pile, to be counted at the end of the game.

Otherwise, round scoring is based on card colors instead. Players check to see which color is the most common among the played cards. This color is scored, UNLESS:

  • It is tied for most common color, in which case all tied cards are discarded and the next-highest color is considered, OR
  • There are too many of that color, and it meets or exceeds the “limit.”

A color’s limit is always the number of players plus 3. If the most common color meets or exceeds the limit – for example, 6 cards in a 3-player game – that color is not scored. In certain situations, it is possible that no cards are scored!

Players continue executing the 5-2-1-1 process until the deck is exhausted. After playing a final round with the cards remaining in their hands, the values of all cards in players’ score piles are totaled (kododos are worth 1 point), and the player with the most points wins!

5211 is an odd specimen, both in aesthetics and gameplay. I have not seen another game that looks or plays like it. It takes a couple of rounds for the scoring system and game tactics to “click,” but when they do, it becomes quite addictive to play.

Of course, the unique scoring system is what makes the game, instilling a psychological meta-game of “will they or won’t they?” It’s interesting how the experience changes at different player counts – with less players, it is easier to predict how the round will unfold since there are fewer cards in play, but more players presents the challenge of trying to read as many as 4 other people! (Personally, I prefer it with more; it gets chaotic in a good way.)

The best way I can describe 5211 is “weird, but cool.” I think a lot of people will like it, especially folks who enjoy games that are just… different. With a low price point and a small footprint, this game packs a lot of punch. Check it out!

A review copy was provided by Next Move Games.

The Bottom Line

5211 is a weird-but-cool card game. Definitely worth checking out.