Parade is another entry in the series of $10 Z-Man games that provide quality filler games with little more than a deck of specialized cards. In this case, 66 cards are divided into values 0 through 10 in six different colors; all players (from two to six) are dealt five cards, then six face-up cards are laid out to form the “parade” with the empty box is used to indicate which end is the front. The remaining cards are the draw deck.
Each player in turn places a card from his or her hand to the end of the parade, then checks to see if any of the cards currently in the parade leave. Not counting the just-played card of value X, the next X cards are safe from elimination; every card after that leaves the parade if it meets one of two conditions: 1) it shares its color with the new card, or 2) its value is less than or equal to X. Playing a card of higher value than the total number of cards in the parade is therefore a “safe” play, as is playing a low-value card with no matching colors present (depending on the actual value, of course). Cards that leave the parade are collected by the current player, organized into face-up piles in front of him or her. Then that player draws a card and the turn passes to the next. This process continues until either the draw deck is exhausted or one player has collected at least one card from each color. When one of those conditions is met, all players play one more card without drawing (concluding with the player who triggered the end condition) and then scores are tallied.
Players lose the face value of all face-up collected cards, so the object is to score the closest to zero. However there are two additional factors that add to the game’s strategy. The first is that whoever has the majority of cards in a given color (which can be more than one player if tied) turns those cards face-down and only loses one point per such card; in a two-player game, majority must be by two cards rather than one. The second curve ball comes from the remaining four cards in each player’s hand; before scoring, each player selects two of those cards to discard and two to add to his or her scoring tableau. These last two cards will often either steal majority or be two largely meaningless (0 or 1-value) cards — sometimes both.
Parade is fast-playing once everyone has figured out how removing cards from the parade works, which can be difficult to explain (but easier to demonstrate). The game’s dynamics change a little when playing with only two players, as it is much easier to avoid collecting penalties with more players to take them first, but the game scales well and is fun with any number. Don’t be distracted by the Alice in Wonderland theme (each color is represented by a different character from the stories); Parade is more than just a lot of nonsense. It deserves to be kept alongside similar Z-Man games like Escalation! and No Thanks! as solid fillers that will see repeated plays.