Design by Dominic Crapuchetttes
Published by Northstar Games
2 – 6 Players, 30 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser
My tastes in gaming run from silly, light party games to deep strategy games that can take hours and hours to play. Generally, the environment and nature of the gathering will largely determine what type of game will be brought to the table. If I am getting together with my family or friends from church or our neighborhood, I will usually bring out lighter fare. When meeting with our East Tennessee Gamers group, however, more often than not the games brought to the table will be deeper strategy games.
With social (rather than gaming) gatherings, I have had great success with lighter card games such as The Great Dalmuti and Who’s the Ass? Most folks grew-up playing traditional card games such as Rummy, Clubs, Hearts and Spades, so it isn’t much of a leap to comprehend and play games such as these. As such, I am always on the lookout for other games that will fit nicely into that niche. Clubs from Northstar Games is one of those games.
Clubs consists of a deck of 60 cards, numbered 1-15 in the four traditional suits of clubs, spades, hearts and diamonds. Suits, however, mean nothing here; rather, it is only the values that matter. Players are each dealt a hand of ten cards, and as with The Great Dalmuti and Who’s the Ass?, the object is to play all of your cards before your opponents deplete their hands.
Game play is quite simple and bears a strong resemblance to the aforementioned titles. The lead player may play one or more cards, but if playing multiple cards, they must either be all the same value (for example, all 3’s) or form a sequence (3, 4, 5, etc.). Each subsequent player must follow this lead by playing the same number of cards, but with a higher value. For example, if Lindsay plays three 4s, Benjamin must play a set of three cards with a value greater than 4. Of course, he can also pass. If Lindsay plays a sequence containing cards with the values of 5, 6, 7, 8, then Benjamin must play four cards with at least one card having a value of 9 or greater. This continues until all players have passed, with the player having played the last set of cards to the trick taking all of the cards and leading the next trick.
The object of the game is to collect the club cards, as they all grant points. The lower-valued clubs grant more points than the higher-valued ones. Thus, one must time the play of his cards properly so as to win tricks containing these valuable club cards. No other cards earn points.
As players deplete their hand of cards, they take the top bonus card available. Bonus cards range in points from a high of 10 to a low of 0. The number and value of the bonus cards in play are dependent upon the number of players. Thus, the earlier one can deplete his hand of cards, the more bonus points he will earn.
The only other twist to the game is the “double or nothing” rule. After dealing cards to each player, a player may call “double or nothing”. If that player is the first to deplete his hand of cards, he will double the value of his points earned. However, if he fails to be the first to deplete his hand of cards, he will score nothing. Experienced players will gain a better knack for determining the value of their hand and will thus be in a better position to attempt this tactic.
New hands are played in the same fashion until one or more players achieve 50 or more points. The player with the most cumulative points is victorious. A typical game lasts about four turns and takes about 20 – 30 minutes.
Clubs certainly falls within the same family of light card games such as the ones mentioned earlier. It is extremely easy to learn and doesn’t require one to remember a large number of meld possibilities or numerous special rules or exceptions. People of just about all ages can play and play reasonably well. It is also compact and easy to carry, making it ideal for playing while relaxing at a local wine bar or bier stube.
To be clear, fans of more complex card games such as Tichu or Chimera will likely find Clubs to be far too easy and light for their tastes. Still, when those same folks find themselves at a gathering of non-gamers, those games may prove too daunting for those unaccustomed to such fare. Clubs is far more suited for those types of events, as well as for light gaming with family, friends and neighbors. In those venues, Clubs is all diamonds.
Thoughts of Other Opinionated Gamers:
Larry (2 plays): I’m one of those fans of more complex card games that Greg is talking about in his summary paragraph. I don’t play much Tichu, but I greatly enjoy other climbing games, as well as trick-taking games like Bridge. From my point of view, Clubs is too simple and not challenging enough. I also didn’t care for the fact that for most player counts, all the cards aren’t dealt out, which diminishes the skill level and greatly reduces the benefits of keeping track of the cards played. I can’t really recommend it to fans of sophisticated card games. However, if you’re looking for a gateway game for designs of this kind, it’s a pretty good choice.
Mark Jackson (4 plays): On the other hand, I’m not a fan of Tichu. I find Clubs a delightful family/non-gamer-friendly climbing game that’s close enough to traditional card games to make it easy to teach, but with some more gamer-friendly twists that make it fun for me to play.
4 (Love it!):
3 (Like it): Greg J. Schloesser, Mark Jackson
2 (Neutral): Larry Levy
1 (Not for me):