A Review of Foppen

Foppen

Designed by Friedemann Friese and originally published by 2F Spiele in 1995; updated and republished by 2F Spiele and Stronghold Games in 2018

Disclaimer: Played sixty times total, perhaps eight of those on a review copy of the new edition.

Review: We’re not going down this silly disclaimer to the disclaimer route again, are we?

Joe: No, wasn’t planning to.

Review: And there will be real opinions this time?

Joe: Yes, sure.

Review: And you’re going to mention that the English edition of the game is now called Fool, rather than Foppen, right?

Joe: Wasn’t planning to. After all, it’s a 23-year old game; everyone knows it as Foppen by now.

Review: No they don’t. Most folks have never heard of the game before, not to mention having experience playing it. And “Foppen” isn’t an English word in any way shape or form. So call it Fool…

Joe: But – the game’s been around forever. Not only that, for a 23-year old game, it has a following. And to me, it will always be Foppen…

Review: Fine, but I reserve the right to correct you every time you call it Foppen. And – sure, some old folks know about the game, but fewer than 400 people have rated it on BoardGameGeek. It’s no Catan.

Joe: Die Siedler von Catan, thank you.

Review: No, Catan. Just because you’re an old fogie who insists upon using decade old names doesn’t mean the readers of this review will be.

Joe: In any event, Foppen…

Review: Fool

Joe: …is a card game which borrows its mechanisms primarily from the realm of trick-taking…

Review: Trick-taking has its own realm?

Joe: Yes, head to Columbus and take a left.

Review: Shouldn’t that be Albuquerque, for the sake of the joke?

Joe: Well, probably, but in practice I’ve just returned from James Nathan’s trick-taking convention which, had I driven to, I’d have driven to Columbus and taken a left.

Review: So you opted for an obscure fact over the more familiar line for the sake of accuracy, when it’s not even accurate anyway?

Joe: Well, no – I flew there. Took a left in Denver, I suppose. But anyway, back to Foppen…

Review: Fool

Joe: (mumbles inaudibly) …it’s a card game where the objective is to rid yourself of cards, through trick-taking mechanisms. Since you’re likely already familiar with the original, I’ll focus on the differences in the new edition…

Review: Hold on there! We already established that folks aren’t familiar with the original.

Joe: No we didn’t. You asserted it. I didn’t agree.

Review: So, the only people who read this are the 300-some who are familiar enough with the game to have rated it on BGG?

Joe: Well – it’s possible.

Review: You don’t think more than 300+ people are going to read this?

Joe: Well – likely not. Sure, Dale and Chris get higher readership than that, but most of what I write is read by a few dozen folks.

Review: Wallow in self-pity much? Buck up, assume at least one person reading this isn’t familiar with the original, and PLEASE DO CONTINUE.

Joe: Well, fine. The clever catch to Foppen…

Review: Fool

Joe: (mumbles semi-audibly) …is that the person who plays lowest to the trick must sit out the next trick. Now, the original claimed a range of 3-6 players, but 3 wasn’t interesting – having just two folks playing to tricks – and while it wasn’t bad with 4 or 6, the game was clearly best with 5.

Review: A handy number to be best with, given the usual trouble of finding a game for that number, I’d think.

Joe: Surely.

Review: Please don’t call me Shirley.

Joe: Anyway – one player leads a card. Players must follow suit if they have a card in the suit; otherwise, they can play anything. Cards out of suit are always considered lower than cards in suit, and in the case of two equal cards the one played later is considered lower.

Review: So why was the game best with five?

Joe: Well – the deck was a fixed 60 cards, with four suits of variable length and four 1s, which always follow suit. With five, everyone held twelve cards, such that there were between 12 and 14 tricks. With four, the range was too large – leftover cards count their face value as negative points, and being stuck with so many cards can leave one too far behind. With six, the range wasn’t large enough – 10 or 11 tricks. Being stuck as the fool…

Review: Ha! You said it.

Joe: …twice was too much to overcome. So, we typically pulled it out with five. Oh, to finish the scoring – going out but taking the… Foppen token…

Review: Fool token

Joe: …resulted in a score of 0; going out without having played the lowest card resulted in a score of +10.

Review: So how does the new edition change things?

Joe: First and foremost: whether playing with 4, 5, 6, or 7 players, your hand is 12 cards; with 8, it’s 11 cards.

Review: Sounds helpful. Is that all?

Joe: Not at all. When playing with 7 or 8, there is now a second – token, so that two people have to sit out for playing the lowest cards. And finally, the “1” cards – which there are more of, when playing with more than 5 – now count -5 points each, instead of -1, to encourage folks to use them.

Review: OK, this playing the straight man is for the birds. Fool…

Joe: Foppen

Review: …me once. Aargh. That’s it, I’m out of here.

Joe: Good riddance. In any event, the changes to Foppen…

Review (faintly, walking away): Fool

Joe: (mumbles very loudly, but inarticulately) …result in a game that works every bit as well with 7 or 8 as it used to with 5. In fact – because of the second Foppen token…

Review (very faintly): Fool

Joe: (Throws a plush meeple.)

Review (barely audible): Missed.

Joe: …anyway, the second token means that players can’t back off on a trick simply because one low card has been played. Which makes the game more interesting – and, arguably, a bit better with 7 or 8 than with 5 or 6. And, in my book a winner.

(A plush meeple knocks Joe on the head.)

Joe: So, are you likely to enjoy Foppen? Well, that all depends. I know folks who don’t like it, and the reason they don’t is – oddly enough – related to the reason some folks don’t like Bridge. They don’t like sitting out – even if it’s just one trick, but particularly when holding a bad hand and sitting out nearly every other trick. This hasn’t changed from the original, and if you don’t like that in the original – or just don’t like the sound of it – I doubt the game will resonate with you. If that doesn’t bother you, however, and if you enjoy clever card games – Foppen is worth checking out. The artwork for the new edition is not the same as the funky artwork of the original – but it feels like an homage to the original, and works quite well. (Actually, a complete aside, but – there was a Japanese edition printed in a magazine there that is quite hard to come by, but which also features different, and unique, artwork. I don’t usually really notice the artwork on a card game, but Foppen has managed to inspire three different and notable sets over its lifetime. And so in conclusion, Foppen…

Review (stage left): Fool

Joe: …FOPPEN is better than ever, and well worth trying if you like card games and aren’t bothered by having to sit out some tricks. It’s great to see this classic game widely available again.

Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers

Dale Y: I also think that addition of the second FOOL token makes the game interesting. But I have only played it once with this many players (I hope to do that again at the upcoming trick-taking convention that Joe alluded to). With a more normal number of players, this is an interesting exercise in getting your cards played. I guess the question remains whether there is anything you can do or not if you get a hand filled with 2s, 3s and 4s – as you’ll likely not ever get the lead. But, the game remains an interesting exercise in figuring out how to play most often, even if you don’t necessarily win the tricks.

Alan H: I have played the original game over 100 times, nearly all with 4 players and it is one of my favourite fillers. The new version is the same but I have not played at the new higher player counts. Something I will rectify soon. Just superb fun.

Craig M: An absolutely fantastic game that deserved a reprint. I don’t have too many games in my collection that have been played every year for the last 15+ years, but this is one of them.

Patrick Brennan: Haven’t played it for years and years, but only because I couldn’t get hold of a copy. Best with 5, ok with 4. Good hands really help, as will card counting. Things that help are keeping a strong suit to play out the mid-game, knowing who’s short in what suits, tracking what’s left in each suit, knowing when to play high to stay in, and when to play low to keep yourself strong for later. But a high hand means you don’t have to worry about much!

Simon Weinberg: I played Fool, or Foppen, with 8 players the other night, almost all of them non-gamers, and it was a lot of fun. Since I had never played it before, I wondered how well it would scale down and in fact played it with 4 and found it to be just as good. It’s just a little bit different than any other trick-taking way and the fact that a person (or two) is out during a round means you don’t have complete information about who can play what card, which is the cleverest part of the game in my opinion.

Dan Blum: It still is a little too easy for my taste to get beat on every other trick for too long, but it’s still decent fun if you don’t take it too seriously and the new edition is an improvement.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
I love it! Joe H., Craig M., John P
I like it. Dale Y, Erik Arneson, Patrick Brennan, Simon W., Dan Blum
Neutral.
Not for me…

This entry was posted in Essen 2018, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to A Review of Foppen

  1. Geoff says:

    Brilliant!

    As someone Joe knows who detests Foppen – I don’t like it because of the randomness and lack of choices. I’ve had multiple hands with zero options that led to getting the fool token, while other players never get the fool token. Getting the fool token in that case guarantees you are out of the running. (I have experienced this in multiple games of Foppen; I played during a break from logging plays on BGG.)

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