Dale Yu: Review of Stichtag

Stichtag

  • Designers: Emely, Inka & Markus Brand
  • Publisher: Ravensburger
  • Players: 3-5
  • Age: 10+
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Times played, at least a dozen different “days” on copy purchased by self

stichtag

Stichtag was one of the games I was most looking forward to from SPIEL 2021.  Sadly, I couldn’t make it there in time, but the great people at Ravensburger said they’d ship me a copy.  That copy got lost somewhere along the way (maybe it ran aground on an Evergreen ship), and to this day remains lost…  I managed to order a copy from Amazon.de, and after some delay, that eventually made it here.

The game is in German only – and as of now, there has not been any mention of an English Language version – so I then had a bunch of translating to do.  My goal was to get it ready for our local Trick-taking convention weekend, and I did just barely manage to hit that goal.  Since then, we’ve played it off and on, and I finally feel like I have enough experience with it to write about the game.  Admittedly, I have played less than 1/30th of all the games in the box, but frankly, there is no way that I (or really anyone) would play all 468 different games!

stichtag in play

So, wait – there are 468 games in the box? What?  Let me take a step back.  Stichtag is a trick-taking game that uses a three-part calendar to state the rules for any given day.   There are some rules which are always in effect – it is at its heart a basic trick taking game with 6 suits, numbered 0 to 11 in each suit.  Unless changed, the game is must-follow and the red suit is trump.  Of course, as I mentioned earlier, there is this calendar which changes things!

PXL_20220516_005046918 (1)

The month gives a special rule which uses special icons found on the cards.  There are 12 different icons which can appear on a card, and the distribution is different for each icon (based on the rules for that particular month)

The tens unit of the date gives the goal (win condition) for the game

The units number of the date gives a particular trick taking rule that is in effect.

The rules tell you to set the calendar for the particular day, read the rules off from the calendar and then play the game.  In this way, each day you play the game, you’ll play the trick taking game that is unique for the day.  And if you go somewhere with an alternate calendar system, you can play games up to the 39th of each month!

The first couple of times that we played (at this trick taking convention), we just followed the rules and played the game of the day.  The only rule which changed from day to day was the units.  So one day, we played a game where anytime someone played a 1 card, that player could name the trump suit for the next trick and onwards (until it was changed again!).  The next day, the hands are dealt, and then you must first play all of your even cards first (and only considering your even cards to determine if you are void or not), and then when those are all played, you pick up your odd cards and then play those for the rest of the hand.

It was interesting, but we wanted a bit more excitement – so the next thing we did was to play people’s birthdays instead.  I’ll outline the rules for a few of the games so you can see how varied the games can be:  (remember that unless otherwise specified, the trick taking game is must follow, red is trump)

March 10:

March – Special Rule: Spring is a Blast!  If at least one explosion lands in a trick, it renders the entire trick worthless. The trick does not go to the winner, but is immediately put on a discard pile and is not scored. The right to lead the next trick remains with the winner of the trick with the explosion.  (Explosion icons are found on the 6 “0” cards in the deck).

1: Goal of the game: Whoever has the fewest points at the end of the game wins the game. In the event of a tie, all tied players win. The game ends after exactly 3 rounds. At the end of each round, the points are noted. For every trick that a player could win, he receives one point.

0: Rule of the game: Blind!:  The players play their cards face down.  All players must continue to follow suit (if they can). In turn, they also play their cards face down and announce their respective color. They also do not mention the value or any symbols on the card. When everyone has played a card, the cards are revealed, beginning with the starting player and then in order of play, and the trick is scored.

PXL_20220516_005155716

October 31:

October – Special Rule: Happy Halloween:  Whenever a player wins a trick with ghost cards, he must display all ghost cards face up. When the 3rd ghost card is collected, he is out of the round. The player puts his hand cards on the discard pile. The lead goes to the next player. All tricks and special points achieved up to the elimination are of course included in the hand scoring!  If only one player has cards in hand at the end of the round, each hand card counts as 1 won trick  (Ghosts are found on every 4, 7 and 10)

3: Goal of the game:  The game ends immediately after the round in which a player reaches exactly 12 points, but at the latest after 4 rounds. For every trick that a player could win, he receives 1 point. If a player exceeds the total value of 12 at the end of the round, all points for this round are not added, but subtracted. If no player manages to reach exactly 12 points after 4 rounds, the player who is closest to the total of 12 wins.

1: Rule of the game: Make a wish!  If a player plays a 1 in the trick, he may choose a new trump suit, which will apply from the next trick. This applies until the next 1 is played and, if necessary, a new trump suit is determined. If there are several 1’s in a trick, the player with the last 1 played chooses the new trump suit. Red remains trump until the first 1 is played.

And finally,  June 7

June – Special Rule:  Thunderstorm:  For each card with a thundercloud in a winning trick, the victorious player must discard any card from his hand face up on a discard pile.  Through this, it can happen that players take turns less often in this round. If at the end of the day only one player has cards in hand, each card remaining in his hand counts as 1 won trick.

0: Goal of the game: Whoever has the most points at the end of the game wins the game. In the event of a tie, all tied players win.  The game ends after exactly 3 rounds. At the end of each round, the points of each player are noted. For every trick that a player could win, he receives 1 point.

7: Rule of the game: Veto!:  The player to the right of the player who took the first trick receives the veto card. The veto card can be used at any time in the game against a card that has just been played. The played card is then immediately put on a discard pile and is no longer taken into account for the evaluation of the trick. The player whose card has been removed receives the veto card and can use it in a future trick. This means that only one veto is allowed per trick.

It should be fairly clear that each of the 9 rules outlined above definitely changes the way the game is played.  Even games from two consecutive days might be quite different…  Though, sometimes, they don’t.  Some of the months and tens-rules are so strong that they seem to over-ride the others.

Having played at least a dozen different days, I have come to the following conclusions.

PXL_20220516_005224929

First, like 504 (from 2F spiele), the audacity of the game idea is worth mentioning.  It’s a great concept, and I really think that the way they have set it up is great.  Putting a few icons on each card helps make the units rules easy to apply.  The back of the rules also has a very helpful chart which outlines which cards have which icons so that everyone understands the possible distribution of cards.  

Second, like 504, not all the games are fun.  For me, I have a hard time with the 30s rules (where you must score exactly 12) as well as the 10s rules (essentially making the game into a null-game).   Right off the bat, that already places half of all possible combinations on the not-for-me pile.  OK, it might be a bit harsh to say that, but man, I’d certainly always choose the 00s or 10s rule over the 20s/30s rule.  The game has lots of interesting rules, but when the game now wants you to take the least number of tricks, it really just feels less fun.  I’m also not a fan of the 00 rule – where you play blind.  For me, this takes the game out of the realm of trick taking and just makes it a guessing luck-fest.  I’ve seen people like this sort of thing, but it’s definitely not for me.  On the flip side, there are plenty of combinations that have been pretty good, and I’m keeping a list of them at the bottom of the last page of my translation so that I can re-visit the games that I thought were “funner” than others.

Third, relying on the calendar to choose the actual game is so not for me.  I’ve since added a d4, d10 and d12 to the box. If we want a random set, I’d rather just roll for it.  Otherwise, we’ve had fun just having people pick days to play… Or, as I’ve put my translations in card sleeves; we have three different people secretly and simultaneously choose the month, tens and units and then reveal them and play. 

PXL_20220516_004947677

Fourth, a lot of work was put into the ergonomics of the game, and it really does work well.  As mentioned above, the icons on the cards are well done as is the summary chart.  This makes all of the month rules work out well.  Additionally, there are plenty of extra cards to help you for the other rules – you don’t have to remember things that are changing, the box will give you the necessary tools to play.  

In the end, like 504, this game seems like a great idea in the theoretical sense, but thus far, none of the particular varieties has knocked me off my feet (the same remains true for 504).  As there is limited experience with this in English, there has yet to be a thread started on BGG telling me which days are good!   I will pull this out to show off the cleverness of the design, etc – as I really do appreciate the inventiveness and cleverness behind the design idea; but if we’re looking for a 30 minute trick taker, I’m much more likely to pull out a “regular” trick taker that manages to do its one game very well as opposed to one that does 468 adequately.  But, like 504, this game will remain in my game collection as a testament to the audacity of the design.

PXL_20220516_005303658

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

Joe Huber (1 play): Meh.  The game works, but the trick taking games which I enjoy all have some spark that sets them apart.  And for me, the spark of “the game is always different” is better covered by Stichmeister.  I often use the abbreviation YATTCC for the plethora of undistinguished (for me) trick taking games around; Stichtag offers a _lot_ of YATTCCs – but nothing that seemed likely to rise above that level for me.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it.
  • Neutral – Dale Y, John P, Joe H.
  • Not for me…

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
This entry was posted in Essen 2021, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Dale Yu: Review of Stichtag

  1. Jonathan Franklin says:

    I am a fan of On the Cards by Sebastian Bleasdale ( https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/105864/cards ) for a variable tt. It has wonderful variety and structure, in that there are four rule types – how the cards are dealt, how you play, how you win a trick, and the goal of the hand. Only one of the four changes each hand, as I recall, so it is not as if every hand is a new game. Would be in my Desert Island game bag.

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