The tiniest game on my shelf of shame: Cypher


Sadly the signal is very terrible out here in countryside so I cannot get photos to upload.

However, the last game we brought with us from my shelf of shame is a tiny game called Cypher. This was another charity shop fin that then sat on the shelf of shame being 'not quite as interesting as other games I have'.

However, as this game consists of just 19 cards in a very lovely blue bag it was extremely easy to pack and take with us on a walk.

The aim of the game is to have the highest value set of (usually) three cards down in front of you when someone triggers the end-game by playing the Cypher card.

In the 2P variant on your turn you do the following:

  1. Play a card (you will start each round with 3) and follow and effects that card might have
  2. Draw two cards
  3. Pass one card to your opponent
  4. Discard down to 2 cards

This repeats until someone plays the Cypher card at which point they get to immediately play another card to replace the Cypher card. Your opponent then gets a final go and then you compare to see who wins.

The cards each have 3  aspects:

  • Their value: 0-9
  • Their 'class': Lower, middle, upper
  • Usually some effect, either immediate or ongoing

In general, the Upper class cards are worth more points but have weaker or even negative effects (make you discard certain cards from your area) whole the reverse is true of the lower class cards. Upper class cards are often also more vulnerable for you opponent to steal or discard.

You can never have more than 3 cards in your tableau, so the game is often one of trying to build a tableau that is defensive and keeping one final high value card in your hand for the end game. 


It was fun, like many 2P games it is highly tactical as you are very aware of what you opponent has/might have and all the 'take that' or blocking is between the two of you. 

The game plays very quickly with the occasional wash when on e player just draws a set of high value cards and then the Cypher (although this doesn't guarantee victory as there are card that force you opponent to discard all their upper class cards so you could get ruined) but if that happens you just shuffle and deal again. I'd say our average game was maybe 5-6 minutes.

I don't think this is a game that deep strategies will ever evolve from, or one either of us will be desperate to play at any point. But it is a game you could just carry around (it would genuinely fit in a pocket) while travelling or just out and about and you could play on a coffee table or and airplane tray (when airplanes are a thing again). Will be one I imagine we will take on every trip and play once or twice at most.

If you can get it cheap I would recommend it as an quick easy fix but don't expect too much of it.

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3 months ago

It is very interesting.

3 months ago

For sure, it exceeded my expectations, although it's not going to blow anyone's mind

Supporter3 months ago

Interesting! Is it by Button Shy games? A lot of their games only have 19 cards. 

3 months ago

AEG, I think they did a series of mini games that are very accessible

Supporter3 months ago

One thing I enjoyed about this challenge was how I got hear about games I had never heard of before. This is one of those games. 

3 months ago

For sure, it has been great to see various games come out if the woodwork

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