10 Trick Taking Games I’d Love to See Reprinted (Commentary by Chris Wray)

I love trick taking games; it is probably my favorite game genre.  But finding old ones can be tricky (no pun intended): this is a genre of games that tends to be printed in small print runs, and several excellent titles designed in Germany and Japan never get an international release.  Once the first printing has sold out, the only way to find them is on the secondary market, so I find myself scouring various websites on a monthly basis looking for a few of my grails.

I was inspired to create this list by a BGG Geek List which I enthusiastically recommend.  It walks through several rare trick taking games owned by a BGG user, and a few of the games below make the list.

I’ve previously written about my top 10 trick taking games (and there’s naturally quite a bit of overlap with this list), but I wanted to do a analysis of 10 trick takers I’d love to see reprinted, particularly with a North American release.  The list is in alphabetical order, and I enjoy (and recommend) trying all of the games printed here.

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7 Symbols, and 7 Nations

Designed by yio, Muneyuki Yokouchi

Publisher: Takamagahara (Playable with “Seven Playing Cards” out of Japan.  But a Kickstarter for 7 Symbols, and 7 Nations is rumored to be coming from Ninja Star Games.)

Previous Review: None.

Partnership trick taking games have always worked exceptionally well — there’s a reason Spades is so popular — and “7 Symbols, and 7 Nations” is one of the finest partnership games I’ve ever played.

The deck is tiered around the number 7, with seven suits of seven cards each.  Thus, the first suit goes from 1-7, the second from 2-8, the third from 3-9, and so on and so forth.  The goal is to capture the 7s in each suit.  Your team gets one point for the total number of 7s you and your partner have captured beyond that of the other team.  The first team to 7 points wins.

It’s simple.  It’s tense.  The continuous use of the number seven is artful.  The partnership aspect works exceptionally well.  I love it, and I’d play it anytime.

It’s a hard game to find now, but that will hopefully soon change.  Ninja Star Games is reportedly working on a version for release next year, with tentative plans to put the game on Kickstarter.

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Familiar’s Trouble

Designed by Fukutarou

Publisher: Fukuroudou

Previous Review: None.

This is a cooperative trick taking game.  I didn’t think it could exist — frankly, I didn’t think it could work — but it does!

Each round, a goal card is put out, and you play out cards trying to beat the goal.  For example, you and the team (which is always three players) might need to play cards showing a total value of 7 in the color red.  There are three suits in the game, plus cards that are in multiple suits.  You need to beat the goal card, but don’t play too high, because then you’re wasting cards you’ll need in future rounds.

I tend to give a lot of points for creativity in game design, and this is one of the most creative trick takers out there.  We played it over and over when we got it, and I still pull it off the shelf when I want to show somebody the outer bounds of the trick taking genre.

I think there’s a small chance this might technically still be in print in Japan, but I doubt it, and it has always been a hard one to find.

(Update: Eric Martin pointed out in the comments below that Familiar’s Trouble is getting a new edition from German publisher Frosted Games.  That’s certainly great to hear!)

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Filipino Fruit Market

Designed by Peer Sylvester

Publisher: Indie Cards & Boards, Others

Previous Review: None.

I love majorities games, so it is unsurprising that I like Filipino Fruit Market.  There are actually two games in the box.  The first is Tindahan, which is one of my favorites, and it is a cross between a trick taking game and a majorities game.  The gameplay is tense and clever.  I don’t believe I’ve actually played the other game — Bastos — but according to BGG “every player has a suit in which he can never win tricks but which allows him to change the values for the cards won in tricks.”

This was devilishly hard to find a few years ago when I was hunting for a copy.  I think Tindahan is technically in print in Japan, or at least I can occasionally find a copy listed in game stores there, but in the U.S. this is now exceptionally rare.

 

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Hattrick

Designed by Klaus Palesch

Publisher: Amigo

Previous Review: None.

Hattrick is one of the few trick taking games I like with five or more players.  There are three suits in the deck, going from 0-20.  Two tricks — of two different colors — can be open each trick (leaving out a color).  The highest card of each color captures those cards.  The color a player has the most cards of is worth positive points (1 point per card),  but the other two suits are negative points (1 point per card).  If you can’t or don’t want to play in one of the tricks, you can pass and discard a card, but this is worth negative two points at the end of the game.

It’s simple, its tense, and its fun.  It reminds me a bit of Sticheln, in that it can be a bit think-y and mean, but that shouldn’t be a surprise, because it is the same designer.  I just discovered this one last year, after a recommendation from OG-er Alan How, and it is quickly becoming a family favorite.

This went out of print long ago.  With the old-style Sticheln decks (which are also out of print) you could play this because those decks had the 0-20 you needed in three suits, but those are getting hard to find too.

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Pala

Designed by Jeff Allers

Publisher: Cambridge Games Factory

Previous Review: None.

Most trick taking games have a theme, but in general, the theming is nominal at best.  The theme in Pala — that you’re art students mixing pigment to make new colors — works in a beautiful way, as you’ll actually combine cards of different colors to have the same effect as what they’d mix to form.  Plus, there are two different ways to play — Pointillism (a trick bidding game) and Impressionism (a trick avoidance game) — and both are excellent.

I just find the gameplay exceptionally clever.  Trick taking games tend to be variants on a few different rules, but designer Jeff Allers (who writes for this blog) worked in some fresh mechanics I hadn’t seen before.

The publisher didn’t get many copies out the door before closing shop, so this is now hard to find.

Sticheln.jpg

Sticheln

Designed by Klaus Palesch

Publisher: NSV in Germany

Previous Review: On BGG

This is hands down my favorite trick taking game, and it is my second favorite card game (behind Tichu).

The rules are simple:  Each player takes a card from their hand at the start of the game to represent their pain suit, and these are all revealed simultaneously. All cards collected of this suit — including the card selected by the player — will be negative points at face value.  Each other card taken (i.e. all cards not in the pain suit) is worth one point.

Any card can be played at any point.  Zeroes never win unless all cards played in the trick are zero (in which case the first card wins).  All suits not led are trump.  The highest trump card played (by number) wins. If no trumps are played, the highest card wins. If there is a tie (i.e. cards of the same number in different trump suits), the first player to have played the high value wins.

That’s it… in the entirety… the rules are incredibly simple.

I credit Sticheln for leading to a wave of modern trick taking designs.  It is the game that threw out all of the rules.  One trump suit? Nah… every suit not led is trump. Must follow? Nope… play any card at any time. And let’s vary the number of suits — and the number of cards in a suit — for the number of players.  It’s clever, can be a devilishly mean, and is the right amount of think-y for me.

I don’t think this ever got a United States release, which is a shame, because it is rumored to have sold tens of thousands of copies overseas.  Technically this is still in print in Germany, so you can find it pretty easily (on amazon.de for example), but I’d love to see the older decks (with cards going from 0-20) reprinted, and I’d especially love to see a North American version.

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Stich-Meister

Designed by Friedemann Friese

Publisher: Amigo

Previous Review: None.

Stich-Meister is one of Friedemann Friese’s many trick taking games, and my favorite of his bunch.  There are two decks in the game — the 60 cards showing 1-15 in four suits — plus sixty rule cards.  Each player has three rule cards in hand, and they each play one for each trick, giving variable goals and gameplay.  Some cards alter trump; others alter scoring or basic rules.

As you’re probably able to tell from previous entries, I like trick taking games where the goals shift from hand to hand.  It keeps it fresh.  Friedemann has been described as a “mad scientist” kind of game designer, often experimenting on the edges of endless replayability (504 comes to mind), and that shows through in Stich-Meister, which has an obscene number of possible game combinations.

The downside is that this has never been released in English, but you can find translation materials over on BGG.  And now it is getting hard to find German copies.

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Sticht Oder Nicht

Designed by Thomas Nezold

Publisher: Pegasus Speile

Previous Review: None.

This game has terrible BGG ratings — they’re below 6.0 — but I can’t tell why!  This is probably my family’s favorite trick taking game, and I know it is my sister’s favorite.

Like with many games on this list, players select the goals of each hand before the start.  You might get points for collecting certain cards, lose points for collecting others, have a trump, etc.   There are four stacks showing the possible rules of a hand — and the card on top of each stack is random — but only two rule sets are selected.  Because the choices are limited, the game goes a bit faster.

Most trick taking games — like Stich-Meister or Was sticht? — where you draft your goals can get a bit complex for people who don’t play a lot of trick taking games, but I like Sticht Oder Nicht for its approachability.  This is simply easier to play than other games with shifting scoring and gameplay.  The game also plays quickly and is well produced, two nice bonuses, though now it is very challenging to locate.

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Tezuma Master

Designed by Hinata Origuchi

Publisher: None. (I believe it was self-published in Japan.)

Previous Review: None.

At the start of each hand, you draft your scoring card (showing one of many ways to score points) and special power.  Otherwise, this is standard trick taking fare, but drafting different goals and powers for each hand is something I hadn’t seen before.

In most trick taking games, there are common goals, and you’re at the mercy of the cards you’ve drawn.  This alters that, since you pick how you score plus a special ability.  This design gives the players a lot of control.

This is also the most beautiful trick taking game I’ve seen.  And each game is (seemingly) hand made/assembled, which might be why this one has become so hard to find.  I know quite a few gamers for whom this is a grail card game, and whenever I see one on a Japanese site, I always try to pick it up.

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Was sticht?

Designed by Karl-Heinz Schmiel

Publisher: Rio Grande Games (As part of the Mu & Lots More set.), Others

Previous Review: None.

“Was sticht?” has several twists.  First, there are two trumps: a number and a color.  Second, you draft your goals (such as “take no tricks” or “take no green cards”) at the start of the hand.  But the biggest twist is that you have a sort of drafting of the cards you’ll be playing.  All of the cards are put out, and then the dealer (who knows the trumps) declares which card would win the trick.  Players use this to deduce trump, so this is a trick taking game mixed with a deduction game.  Players draft the cards in each of these cards before the hand is played.

In many ways, this is trick taking for the “no luck” crowd (though there is still luck).  You have a good idea of who has what cards, you draft your goals, and deduction can win the day.  It’s longer than most trick taking games — I’ve had plays go 90 minutes or more — but it is a one-of-a-kind design with some cool features.

Standalone versions of the game exist, and that’s what I’d like to see reprinted, perhaps with the artwork and style of what Iello did with Nyet.  The easiest way to get a copy currently is in the Mu & Lots More set, which is almost a must-have for any trick taking fan, but even those are getting pricier and harder to find.

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5 Responses to 10 Trick Taking Games I’d Love to See Reprinted (Commentary by Chris Wray)

  1. David Brain says:

    Sebastian Bleasdale’s On The Cards does a similar thing to Stich-Meister – abstracting the concept of rules so that they can change from hand to hand (they came out at about the same time; a classic example of convergent evolution.) The main difference is that On The Cards is built around a standard deck, which makes it a little more accessible.

  2. Familiar’s Trouble will have a new edition from German publisher Frosted Games. We recorded a short talk with Matthias Nagy at Spielwarenmesse 2018 about this item: https://www.boardgamegeek.com/video/166454

  3. Hinata Origuchi’s games are published under the label 桜遊庵 (Ouyuuan). It’s the designer’s own label, which is often the case with games from Japanese designers.

  4. Pingback: James Nathan: Curling Dice!: Panic Bridge and ordering titles from abroad. | The Opinionated Gamers

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