There are several crucial strategies to playing Lost Cities - each player will have to determine which one is best suited to his style of play, and each are somewhat dependent on the initial cards a player draws and how the game progresses. Usually the biggest problem a player faces is dediding whether to play a card to his field or discard it. At the beginning of the game, a player usually will have to decide whether to commit to taking a particular expedition or abandon that option to his opponent. There is no easy choice . . .
A first thing to remember is that it's very hard to rack up a LOT of points if you are playing cards in every expedition. What will generally end up happening is that you lose a few points in one or two and gain a few in the other, and if you're lucky, perhaps get 20-30 points in one of the expeditions. It's extremely unlikely that you will get 8 cards in one expedition because of an inability to focus. It's far better to play cards in two or three expeditions and make each one count for more points.
Another thing to remember is that it's OK to play a couple of losing cards on a weak expedition that ends up losing you five or more points than to give these cards to your opponent who uses them to score double, triple, or even quadruple the points and which get him closer to the twenty point 8 card bonus. If you're less than half-way through the deck and you're looking at 10 points worth of blue cards in your hand, you don't have a lot to lose by playing one of them. Odds are you will get one or two more and not lose points. More importantly, you don't want to give these points to your opponent.
Don't commit yourself too early. If you can hold some cards in your hand that are sure winners, such as three or four cards in one suit, don't reveal this to your opponent. If you can play some other cards while you build up a powerhouse in a different color, your opponent might just discard something you can use. Once you're getting toward the end of the game, you can play these cards one after another and either run out the clock (drain the pile) or use the cards you have received during play to top off the rest of your piles.
Here's a picture of the back of the game box . . .
If you should have a large number of cards in one suit, do whatever you can to delay placing one until you can get at least one or preferably more handshake cards. If this means possibly extending yourself too thin in one or more other expeditions, it's probably worth it in the long run. A 4X multiplier can easily score 100 points if you have enough cards, and this will almost surely score the 20 point bonus as well. This game is all about risk, and you will surely need to take quite a few if you're going to be competitive in this game.
One risk is to discard a low card in a suit in order to gain the chance to make another play later. This is especially effective if you already have several high cards and are searching for one or more handshake cards. You also might want to consider discarding your second lowest card - if the plan doesn't work out and you decide to just play out your cards, you can play the lowest card first and retrieve the discard at that time. Otherwise you will be forced to make some other play in order to retrieve your card. Remember, sometimes just having a card to play in this game can sometimes feel like a luxury - don't make it any harder on yourself by making a dumb play.
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