Design by Wolfgang Kramer
Published by Amigo / Mayfair Games
2 – 10 Players, 30 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser
In the board gaming world, a game that has been in continuous print since 1994 is a rarity. There is a seeming insatiable urge to publish new games, with hundreds, if not thousands released each year. Often a game is in print for a year or less, quickly vanishing from a company’s catalog before it has a chance to even be noticed. If a game doesn’t make a splash immediately, it is usually given little marketing effort and is sent packing to the island of forgotten games. Even games that are successful often go out of print in just a few years. A shame, really.
Fortunately that fate was not suffered by Wolfgang Kramer’s entertaining 6 nimmt! (Take 6 in English). This little card game was popular when first released back in 1994, garnering a nomination for the coveted Spiel des Jahre and receiving accolades from other game publications and awards. Its popularity never faded and it has been published by over two dozen publishers, often under different names and in several different guises. It once even had a hurricane theme (Category 5)!
The latest version by Amigo and Mayfair Games returns the game to its original artwork and theme. Gone are hurricanes, Sponge Bob Square Pants, and a variety of other themes and art. Now, it is a return to the bulls, which is even touted with a tagline proclaiming “Not a game for the Bullheaded!”
Most folks who have been immersed in the hobby for any length of time will be familiar with the game. However, for those who may not have played, a description is in order.
Take 6 consists of 104 cards, conveniently numbered 1 – 104 in large, easy-to-read numbers. Each card has a bull head in the background, with each card also depicting 1 – 7 smaller bull heads. The object is to avoid collecting cards, especially those with multiple bull heads. These more damaging cards have alarming background colors, making them easy to spot, but not so easy to avoid.
The game is quite simple to play. Four cards are dealt to the table, beginning what will become four rows. Each player is dealt a hand of ten cards and the chaos begins. Each turn all players play a card face-down to the table and simultaneously reveal them. Beginning with the card with the lowest value, each is assigned to one of the four rows.
Which row a card is assigned to is determined by a few simple rules.
1) Ascending Order. The card must be placed in a row where it has a higher value than the last card already in the row.
2) Lowest Difference. If there are multiple rows that meet the “Ascending Order” rule, the card must be placed in the row whose last card is closest numerically to the card being played.
An example is in order. Assume the last card played in the first row has a value of 14, while the last card played in the second row has a value of 21. If a player plays a card with the value of 23, it must be placed in second row, as it is closer numerically to the 21 than the 14.
If a card does not meet the Ascending Order rule, the player must pick-up any one of the existing rows and begin a new row with his card. For example, if the player plays a “2” and there is no card lower than that on the face of each of the rows, the “2” is unplayable.
Each row can hold five cards before it is in danger. If a sixth card needs to be added to a row (following the above placement rules), the player must take the five existing cards of that row and begin a new row with his newly placed card.
Now, picking up cards is normally not a good thing. You see, ultimately the player collecting the fewest bull heads wins the game, so in most cases players want to avoid collecting cards. Sometimes, however, it may be wise to play a low valued card that won’t legally play, as this allows the player to take any of the existing rows. This often allows the player to take a row that only has a few bull heads, thereby avoiding a row that had multiple bull heads. Sometimes a little pain is worth it to avoid a lot of pain!
Any cards taken are set aside into a “Bullhead Discard Pile” (scoring pile). A round ends once all players have played all ten cards, at which point players tally the number of bull heads depicted on the cards in their scoring pile. If someone has exceeded 66 bull heads, the game ends and the player with the fewest bull heads is victorious. Otherwise, a new round is conducted until someone reaches a cumulative total of 66 or more bull heads. Usually this takes several rounds.
That’s it. The rules are incredibly simple and game play is usually lightning fast. Since all players play cards face-down and reveal simultaneously, there is a healthy dose of luck involved. Even so, with dozens and dozens of games under my belt, I firmly believe a player does have some control over his fate. I like using the term ‘hand management’ to describe the task (or challenge) of properly managing the hand of cards you are dealt so as to achieve optimum results. No, you can’t completely control your fate here, but deciding upon which card to play in what round, based on the existing contents of the four rows, is an important skill in this game. A player who manages this properly will most assuredly beat a player playing randomly nearly every time.
That being said, there is a large amount of randomness and chaos. Normally, I disdain these elements in a game, but it is acceptable in a light filler, which is exactly the category within which Take 6 fits. Indeed, it is this chaos that is the main contributor to the fun of the game. There is glee in successfully slipping a card into a row, forcing an unlucky opponent’s card to become unplayable, thereby forcing him to take a row of cards. This glee is increased when the row contains several multiple bull head cards, causing even more pain to your opponent! Of course, when this happens to you, it is not nearly as much fun!
Take 6 never fails to elicit moans of frustration, shouts of glee, and tons of laughter and good-natured teasing. It is a light, easy-to-learn and fun-to-play card game that has certainly stood the test of time, especially by board game standards. I hope it never goes out of print.
Thoughts of Other Opinionated Gamers:
Patrick Brennan: Simultaneous revelation, where you’re guessing what other people might play so as to avoid placing the 6th card in a row. It works fine as a semi-random, semi-mindless filler if you have just 10 minutes up your sleeve, but there doesn’t seem a lot of other point, and I’d never want to play rounds and rounds. The problem is that the primary sensation it generates is woe, and there’s no counterbalance of joy when you guess right – the max you get is a sense of relief. So it’s rare to come away from the game feeling happy that you’ve played.
Fraser: Granted it is not a grand strategic game, but I have enjoyed playing this since well before the 10th anniversary edition came out and I see the 20th anniversary edition is available now. There’s a lot of fun in trying to work out what other players are likely to play to see if you can push one of them into placing the 6th card on a row instead of you. Also when taking a stack with a low card which one is the best one to take both for your points and to cause mayhem to the other players? It was one of the top pick lunch time card games at work along with Gang of Four and Tichu.
Rick Thornquist: 6 nimmt! is easily the game I’ve played the most – hundreds of plays – and with good reason: it’s one of the best, if not the THE best, filler game out there. If you’re going to play it, though, I suggest the Terminal City Gamers variant: Deal four cards onto the table and then deal half the deck to the players and play them. When done, deal out the rest of the deck (leave the table cards as they are) and play them. After that, the game is over and whoever has the least bull heads wins. It makes for a shorter and tighter game.
Larry: My opinion on 6 nimmt! is pretty close to Patrick’s: fairly mindless, fairly random, pretty much a time-waster. The only difference is if people really want to play a hand, I don’t mind sitting through it and making wild-ass guesses along with them. Maybe I’m a bit more tolerant because the game rarely comes out with us. But if my group had a hard-core fan or two, I’d probably resist the suggestion more, as I feel there are quite a few fillers that are just as short and are much more enjoyable to play. Still, the game’s been around for over 20 years, so I guess it must be doing something right.
4 (Love it!): Greg S., Fraser, Rick Thornquist
3 (Like it): Erik Arneson, John P
2 (Neutral): Larry
06 (Not for me): Patrick Brennan