Pairs by Cheapass Games

If you have a Kickstarter account, and you are reading this blog, then it’s likely that you backed Pairs by Cheapass Games in February or March of 2014. It’s one of those projects that got ever so slightly overfunded to the tune of 2700% of its goal. It had some things going for it to get there, mostly its impressive pedigree including James Ernest (whose twitter handle makes us all wish our name was James) and Pat Rothfuss (not linking his twitter because I’m still not sure which is really him) among those involved, directly or indirectly, in its marketing and creation. These are impressive people so it’s no wonder that the project overfunded.

Gameplay Summary

Pairs is eminently simple. It’s a triangularly distributed deck. That is, there’s one 1, two 2’s, and so on up to ten 10’s. You’re dealt a card and then you go around the table, starting with the low card. On your turn, you can draw or fold. That’s it. If in drawing you make a pair, you must keep one half of it and a new hand starts. If you fold, you keep the lowest card on the table in anyone’s hand, and a new hand starts. When someone reaches a number of points (determined by the number of players), that person loses. Everyone else doesn’t lose. Then, most likely, you play again.

To draw or not to draw...

To draw or not to draw…

The game goes fast, and is easily morphed into a drinking game or a party game, and earns its subtitle A New Classic Pub Game without doubt. I’d be hard pressed to play it just once of an evening. Better still, there are no fewer than twelve different decks, each with its own art and gameplay variation. 432 people paid $120 apiece for all 12 on the Kickstarter. I want all the variations too, although I only bought the Name of the Wind deck. That is, the Modegan deck, as there are three Name of the Wind decks. Also, read The Name of the Wind).

The lovely Modegan deck by Shane Tyree

The lovely Modegan deck by Shane Tyree


The theme will vary based on your personality and which deck you’re playing with. Mostly the theme is probably drinking. When we play, it has been and will be. I will take this game to pubs and use it to decide who buys the next round.

Final Thoughts

Pairs is a fantastic game. It’s a game you will rarely if ever play only once in a sitting. It’s not deep, but it’s satisfying, and only the snobbiest of the snobs will actually bemoan its lack of depth. In drinking terms, it’s a Notch Saison. Notch really sparked  the session movement in the US, and I think Pairs will really popularize this brand of semi-light pub game and spawn many imitators. You will enjoy it over and over again in an evening without feeling like your time was wasted and without regrets the next morning. It’s good and can be consumed in quantity if you maintain control.

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