Designer: rikkati (りかち)
Times Played: 14
EN Rules: Google Drive PDF
In January 2019, my friend kumagoro held an exhibition titled これはトリテなのか (Is this a trick-taking game?). Designers submitted games that pushed the boundary of what could be considered both a game and a trick-taking game. マストフォローソリティア (Follow-the-Suit Solitaire) was one of the entries. There were quite a few entries (you can buy a bound copy of the Japanese rules here), and at least two of them have received commercial releases, including Zimbabweee Trick.
In general, when kumagoro holds such events the games use a standard deck of cards, or a subset of one, and maybe a few other components, but they’re intended as something you can play at home. For this one, I’ve linked to the EN rules Kazuma made at the top; you need a standard deck of cards and one joker.
Follow-the-Suit Solitaire is solo trick-taking game, and, like 悪霊退治 (Demon Extermination) that I talked about yesterday, has you playing against a bot of sorts. Here, things are a bit different though, as the game is more of a speed run. It feels classic and folksy. Like a game that is passed down as an oral tradition. Your grandmother taught it to you in a rear pew during church to keep you occupied and cut down on the squirming.
The card play and trick resolution is mostly straight-forward: follow suit and the high card of the trump suit wins, otherwise the lead suit. But if you’re playing against a bot that will rotely play the top card of a deck,… it would be trivial for the player to lead in ways that would likely result in the deck not following suit and being unable to gain the lead for much of the duration of the game.
That’s where the twist is. The deck always leads. You will never lead.
To start, shuffle and burn ten cards. Then deal yourself another ten.
This is your “turn zero” moment. Well, half of it. Look at your hand and make the decisions that will guide your run. First up, you may discard any of– wait, let’s learn how things work a bit first, we’ll return to this.
As I said, the deck will lead each trick by revealing the top card. Then you play one, following suit (though you may always play the joker, the highest card in the game). The highest card of the trump suit (which you’ll choose) wins, otherwise the highest played card of the lead suit.
If you win? The cards are removed from the game. You win the game if you run out of cards in your hand.
If you lose? The cards are added to your hand. (But you win the game if you run out of cards in your hand.)
(Can you see the issue yet?) OK, so our goal is to run out of cards. Got it. Back to our hand. The second thing we will decide is a trump suit (or no trump), but first, you can discard cards to draw replacements, but you’ll draw 2 for every 1 discarded.
Let’s do the math. 53 cards, we burned 10, that’s 43, we have 10 in hand, that’s 33 in the deck. We need to run out of cards, which means for now, winning 10 more tricks than we lose (as you’ll add a card to your hand for each trick that you lose.) If we discard 8 cards, we’ll draw 16 replacements and be at 18; the deck will be down to 17….subtract the 2, carry the 1…that won’t work. Strategy tip: don’t discard more than 7 here.
What to discard. (Can you see the issue yet?) In our hand above, you probably don’t want that 3. You’ve got two options with that 3: beat the 2 of hearts or make hearts the trump suit. If the 2 of hearts is in the 10 cards we burnt, the game is lost. You’re tempted to get rid of the 4 and the 5 too, but there’s a risk. It’s the one we talked about before: you can discard your lousy cards, but you’re going to make it harder to win. (Fate will probably deal you the 2 and 3 of diamonds anyway.)
So you decide what to discard. Your second thing is deciding a trump suit, and, well, if you have a 2, pick that one. Otherwise, you’ll have to think about it. I have opinions, but there’s a bit of nuance there.
The deck leads, you play a card.
The deck leads, you play a card.
The deck leads, you play a card.
You had those early decisions, and there are some here too, but it’s a smooth motion. It’s gliding across a swimming pool with a clean stroke in the way that I can’t. It’s a standard deck of cards, sure, but this is also where it gets its traditional feel. It said 14 plays at the top! There’s a routine you fall into.
Some of your remaining decisions will be when to lose. Some cards may be worth capturing to strengthen your position. (How many tricks can you lose? How many discards did you take?)
One of these decisions will be how many trump cards do you need, as the “issue” I keep alluding to is what happens when you can’t follow suit. Well, not that, but that and are out of trump cards. The bot plays the 6 of clubs and you’re out of clubs, trump, (and joker)? Now it’s in your hand and can only beat four other cards –have they gone by already? You’ll need trump cards equal to the amount of times you can’t follow suit, so be careful with that discard: shorting could be deadly.
In this aspect, it reminds me of that climbing game feel: you’re confident in how you’ll dispose of 85% of your hand in a charming manner, but how are you going to deal with the dregs? (Don’t look at me, I’m terrible at climbing games!)
That’s the hook here as well. Getting down to 1, 2, 3 cards won’t be a problem. How will you get rid of that last card? It has to rank higher and match the suit of mystery meat! Save your trump.
I said before that you win and lose depending on if you run out of cards, but that’s not quite complete. You also get a score. Well, that’s not it either as you only get that score if you win. Points are the number of cards remaining in the deck.
But, uh, victory has mostly been elusive. For me, my mode is -3. See, when I lose, I count how many cards I have left in hand and subtract from 0. :)
How can you do?
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
I love it!
I like it. James Nathan
Not for me…
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JaNate, I officially love this game! And that’s after only two plays!
In my first game, I was dealt quite a strong hand. Enough so that I said, “What the hell, let’s take a chance” and didn’t discard any cards. It was still a nail-biter and I won with only one card in the deck!
The second game was 180 degrees from that one. My opening hand was miserable and I made a bunch of swaps. Unfortunately, I kept drawing cards that were guaranteed losers, so I had to keep going. Finally, I was able to stop after 7 discards, the maximum possible, and still didn’t have the Joker in my hand. Naturally, the very first card the deck led was the Joker! After losing that trick, that meant I had to win the last 18 tricks in a row. And I did it! Suits magically became void before the top cards appeared, so that I could use my long trump suit to win. It came down to the last two cards, with my hand consisting of the Ace of Clubs (the trump suit) and the 8 of Diamonds. The latter was obviously a worry, but then the deck led the 7 of Diamonds! Winner, winner, ramen chicken dinner!!! I laughed out loud.
This is a perfect solitaire game. Easy to understand, but still with some decisions to be made. Elegant rules, but different than anything else you’ve played. As you say, it has a classic feel, but still feels unique. It’s a great time waster that doesn’t make you feel as though you’ve wasted your time, if I might coin a phrase. And it’s super fast. Thank you so much for posting this. Now, for another few games before I go to bed!
Ha! That’s wonderful. So glad it started you off with such a memorable run.
Gave this a try and really enjoyed it! It manages to keep much of tthe feel of a trick taker, and combines it with some enjoyable press your luck. Thank you for posting about it!
You’re welcome! Glad you enjoyed it.
So just want to confirm a proper understanding of the rules. One must never start a game with two 2’s in their hand as that will guarantee a loss, correct? And if you start with one 2, it must be of the trump suit?
Hi Steve – Yes, I believe you have that correct.
So if anyone’s interested in getting a copy of the rules, I just uploaded them to the files section of the “Follow the Suit Solitaire” forum on BoardGameGeek.com. While a Web link to them had already been posted there, I took the liberty of wordsmithing the rules a little to hopefully make them a little clearer.