DESIGNER: Alexander Kneepkens, Inge van Dasselaar
PUBLISHER: Jolly Dutch Productions
TIME: 30 – 45 minutes
TIMES PLAYED: 4, with a copy I purchased
t’s great being quarantined with a spouse who is a gamer; I mean, it’s not great being quarantined, of course, but I appreciate that I have the opportunity to get some physical games to an actual table. So many games turn out to work well for two players. However, one genre that is nearly impossible to do with 2 is trick-taking; with the exception of Fox in the Forest, I haven’t been much of a fan of the 2 player trick-taking games I’ve tried over the years. Hope springs eternal, though, and when I came across this Kickstarter a few months ago I decided to give it a shot, and I was happy to see it arrive on my doorstep. We broke it out almost immediately.
Herrloff is set in the time of Vikings, and you and your opponent are fighting for the right to be king. Your goal is to be the first player to 50 points.
Each player is dealt 15 cards; the remaining cards are placed in the middle of the table and the top card is flipped over to determine trump. The color of the suit will be trump, unless it is one of the special cards, in which case there will be no trump. Each player gets their own scoring/bidding sheets.
Each player evaluates their hand and decides how many tricks they think they will take during the round. They write this number in the appropriate round on the sheet and keep it hidden from the other player. Play then begins, following the rules of most standard trick-taking games. You must follow suit if you can; the highest card of the color played wins, unless a trump is played.
There are some exceptions, though.
You can always play an N card, which will be the lowest card played on the trick unless 2 N cards are played, and then the 1st one played wins. The loser of the trick leads the next one.
You can also always play a triangle card; this card destroys the trick and it is removed from the game. If two triangles are played a new trump is determined by flipping over the top card of the deck
- If you win a trick with a 1, you may steal a trick from the other player.
- If you play a 3 you draw the top card of the deck and then discard any card from your hand to the bottom of the deck.
- If you win a trick with a 6 you may steal a card at random from your opponent; you then give them a card from your hand, or return the one you stole.
- If you win a trick with a 9, your opponent leads the next trick.
After all the tricks are played each player reveals their bid and determines their score. You get one point per trick taken; if you made your bid exactly you get a bonus of 10 points. If you only took 3, 4 or 5 tricks, you get a 5 point bonus, regardless of whether you made your bid exactly. The game ends after at least one player has more than 50 points.
There is a 3 player variant, but times being what they are I haven’t had a chance to try it. It works essentially the same way, but you deal 11 cards to each player, play to 40 points and when a card refers to the other player you can choose who it applies to.
Other cards have special powers; you play them normally, but if you meet the conditions you may use the power. These cards have a symbol on them to remind you that they are special.
MY THOUGHTS ON THE GAME
I am enjoying the game quite a bit so far. I grew up playing a lot of card games, and I still love them. This one may not have reinvented the wheel, but the mechanics included make it interesting. It’s not enough to be able to be a sharp card player who can finagle winning or losing a trick, because there are some random elements that can change the game one way or the other and you have to be able to adapt. Opponent stole the top trump card from your hand? Well, how are you going to make up that trick? However, they aren’t too random; it doesn’t completely disrupt the game, but instead just keeps it from being predictable. The N and Z cards also give you the ability to dodge a situation that is not favorable to you.
This game would definitely have appeal outside the boardgaming community. I have many family members who will tell you they aren’t good at games, but they will play if we tell them it’s just a card game. It’s much easier to get them to play something that seems familiar to them, and this would fit that bill.
I also see this as a great game to take with you and pull out when you find yourself with unexpected down time somewhere; it comes in a small box that seems fairly sturdy, and it doesn’t take up much room.
Where the game loses points for me is the quality of the cards. After the first play you could see wear and tear on some of the cards, even though neither of us is a particularly rough shuffler. By the second play a few cards seemed bent, and on the third play you could feel cards bending while you were shuffling. I bought 2 copies thinking I would use one as a gift, so I could sleeve the 2nd copy to protect it, but this isn’t the kind of game I want to do that with. I want to be able to grab the box, take it with me anywhere and play a quick game, and even if I could find a way to have it still fit in the box, shuffling sleeved cards is annoying when you have to do it 5 or 6 times. Enough of the cards are showing wear that it doesn’t allow you to know what a card is based on its damage, but after 4 plays it looks like we’ve played dozens of times, and I am not sure how it will hold up.
RATINGS FROM THE OPINIONATED GAMERS
- I love it!
- I like it. Tery
- Not for me…