By Ren Multamaki & Thomas Klausner
Dragon Dawn Productions
1-6 players ages 9+
This is a novel trick-taking game. Hack the system and steal the data before anyone knows you’re there! White Hat is a hacker-themed game, combining trick-taking with a game board.
First, I must say this game was sent to me for a solitaire review. My group is not overly fond of trick taking games (I have to get my fix online) but, I do play quite a bit of solitaire style games. So, I agreed to look at the solitaire game. All of this said, I thought it would be very difficult to review the solitaire game without comparing or looking at the base game. Therefore, I forced my group to play it with me to get a good overview.
White Hat is themed as a computer hacking game that comes with a two-sided board and several modules that you can overlay on the board to give the game more variety. The various spaces track the theme with user accounts, email accounts, root access, routers, etc. Each of the spaces has a point value that you will score at the end of each round depending on where your pieces stand. There are also, depending on the board and modules, special spaces that allow you to mess with other players, randomize the board, lock pieces from further movement, change the values of spaces, etc. Yes, there is a theme there, but like most card games, I was playing cards to advance my pawns on the board and get the best score. I did not feel I was a serious hacker breaking into a system to steal data.
To play the game, you will choose a board side and then add modules as you desire. Each player places their two markers on the starting spaces. Next, you shuffle the card deck with 6 of each number 1 – 13 and 5 jokers. Flip the top card of the deck to determine who gets the white hat card and then deal cards so everyone has 10 cards. The person to the right of the white hat leads the first trick.
Whenever someone wins a trick, they can move one of their two pieces forward on the board or move an opponent forward if they are on a space with a negative number. At the end of the round, when someone is out of cards, you will score points for the position of your pieces on the board and any cards trace points remaining in your hand. The lowest score will win when the end game condition occurs, either a player piece getting to the end of the board, the critical access space, or no pieces can be moved on the board. Typically, you will have several scorings before the end game happens.
Although I haven’t explained how to take a trick yet, there are some clever ideas here about the board movement and when to take tricks. Only one pawn can occupy any space on the board. If you need to move your pawn forward to a space that is occupied, you simply jump over to the next space and you may jump over several spaces if they are occupied. There are times when you really want a trick and times when you don’t and this adds to the tension in the game. If you move at the wrong time you could move to a space that will lock your pawn in and prevent future movement or move from a low scoring spot to a high scoring spot.
How do you take tricks? The person leading can play as many cards as they like as long as they are the same number. For example, one 3, two 3s, three 3s, etc. Everyone that follows in clockwise order must either match the number of cards led or just play one card. Jokers can be played singly as a 14 or with other cards to form a set. The highest value set that matches the number of cards led will win the trick and move on the board. Ties go the player who played last. Pretty straight forward until we talk about the white hat. The white hat acts much like a joker with two exceptions. First, it cannot be played to a trick unless it is in a set matching the number of cards that were led and second, it makes the lowest set matching the number of led cards in the trick win. It does come with penalties. The winner of the white hat trick must take the white hat back into his hand and either all the cards played to the trick, or take the white hat and a number of non-joker cards equal to the number of cards that were led. At a minimum you are going to add at least one card plus the white hat back into your hand.
Play rounds of cards trying to get your two markers on the lowest valued spaces at the right times before each scoring and hope to have the lowest score when the game ends.
The real purpose was to review the solitaire game which is a major change from the base game. The base game has an optional rule for Celebrity Status. In this game you are dealt a random number card from 18- 42 and you want to score points as close to your random number as possible…. not the lowest score overall. I have not had a chance to try this version of the game, but this is more in line with the solitaire game which is to gain the highest score.
The solitaire game is played on the easy side of the board. You play with 8 markers in 4 colors or the equivalent of 4 player’s pieces. Your overall end game score is the that of the lowest marker on the score track. And the game ends when a pawn reaches the critical access space at the end of the board or the deck runs out.
As the solitaire player, you will take a hand of 10 cards. The game system will take the white hat and 5 cards face up from the deck. The solitaire player will always lead the trick. The game system will always try to win the trick and if it cannot, it will play its lowest single card. Very straight forward. At the end of the trick, replace the card or cards played by the system so that the system always has five cards. When the solitaire player runs out of cards, you score and reset the system and deal 10 new cards.
The solitaire system is very much a puzzle activity. If the solitaire player wins the trick, they may move any piece forward on the board. If the system wins the trick, they must move a piece based on a color of a card that won the trick. Your choice, many times, is to force the system to win tricks to move the pieces you want, however, the color of the winning card(s) dictates which pieces move. The puzzle is when to win a trick to get the right pieces moving on the board realizing the system is going to win tricks and move specific pieces.
The solitaire game also uses the tracer (which is an option in the base game). At the end of each round or if a joker is dealt to the system the tracer rings move toward the board and eventually up the board. If they land on a piece, that piece is out of the game. So, you really need to keep pieces moving.
I am generally not a fan of “try to beat your own score” solitaire systems. I would like something more concrete. But within the “beat your own score” genre, sometimes it is nice to have a table of relative value that says, with this score you are an idiot or with this score you are elected king of the universe. This idea helps you feel like you are at least aiming for something. In this game, I am not sure these are necessary. There are 28 spaces on the board with six 3 spaces, and three 2 spaces that you want to get your pieces on while keeping them off the -1s. And, you need to keep pieces moving because it is your lowest score of one set of pieces.
There is a slight nitpick in the solitaire pieces. It is minor but I feel I should point it out. Remember if the system wins tricks, it moves specific pawns based on the color of the cards that won the trick. Well, the “purple” cards move purple but the cards really look blue. The “yellow” cards move black, the “green” cards move white, and the “brown” cards move gold. Again, we are gamers and this is easy to overcome. I just needed to keep the rule book handy for a bit to remember which color did what. Overall, I think it was a nice puzzle activity for solitaire and it plays quickly as it is once through the deck at the most. There is much more to think about than a regular game of 52 card solitaire due to the movement of specific pawns on the board.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- Love it:
- Like it:
- Neutral: Ted C
- Not for me: