Designer’s Corner: WYSIWYG

Our stable of writers at Opinionated Gamers includes a bunch of talented game designers.  So to give them a chance to expose some of their creations to the world, we’ve started a new feature called “Designer’s Corner”.  The first entry is WYSIWYG, a card game from Larry Levy.  Enjoy!

Let’s take a trip in the Wayback Machine to the year 2000.  Gaming was very different back then.  The Geek had just been launched.  The hot new game was Tikal.  And there were practically no commercial 2-player trick-taking games to be found.  In fact, there were very few new trick-takers of any kind—there just wasn’t that much interest in them from most players.

That’s the world I was living in during one quiet Sunday, in which I was passing the time by thumbing through my well-worn copy of Hoyle’s Rules of Card Games.  (In those early days of the Internet, such an activity was more common than you’d think—at least for me.)  I came across a trick-taker designed for 2 called German Whist.  The game’s main feature was that, prior to each trick, the top card of the deck was revealed.  The winner of the trick replenished their hand with that card, while the loser drew from the deck.  This immediately struck me as a missed opportunity.  I mean, that second card could be anything:  maybe crap, but maybe a considerably better card than the winner got to take.  That didn’t seem fair.  Wouldn’t it be much better, I thought, if the top two cards of the deck were revealed?  Then the players would know what the stakes were prior to each trick and the winner would take the card of their choice, leaving the other card for the loser.

This was such an obvious concept that I spent the next 20 minutes ruffling through the book, until I confirmed that no such game existed (at least, not according to Hoyle).  “Well,” I thought, “I guess I’ll just have to design that game myself!”

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Dale Yu: Review of Samarkand Bazaar

Samarkand Bazaar

  • Designer: Sid Sackson
  • Publisher: Eagle-Gryphon Games
  • Players: 2-5
  • Age: 9+
  • Time: 30-45 minutes each
  • Played with review copy provided by publisher

Sid Sackson’s classics Samarkand & Bazaar are now combined as two games in one box with this new edition of both games.   There is a nice double sided board, with one side used for each game.

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Dale Yu: Review of Get On Board New York and London

Get On Board New York and London

  • Designer: Saashi
  • Publisher: IELLO
  • Players: 2-5
  • Age: 8+
  • Time: 20-30 minutes
  • Played with review copy provided by Flat River Group (distributor)

“Ah, here’s the bus! Hurry, grab a seat, and get out of the rain! Just like every trip, you’re fascinated by all the other passengers on board: tourists, professionals, students… They’re all traveling together, though they each have different destinations. This bus line is truly special, but will it be able to transport everyone safe and sound?”

Get On Board: New York and London is a new reprint of an old favorite, Let’s Make a Bus Route.  In the game, you have twelve rounds in which to build the best bus line in town. Each round reveals a new card that shows each player the route shape they must complete. Place your bus accordingly on the central board. Take the passengers where they want to go by connecting them and their destination to your bus line, avoid traffic, and gain as many victory points as possible!

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Tricks and Trumps #2: Variations on the Classics (1967-1990)

Tricks and Trumps #2: Variations on the Classics (1967-1990)

This is our second entry in a thirteen-part series featuring trick taking games.  You can find the first entry here and the series introduction here. This entry will focus on trick taking games from the mid-1960s to the early 1990s, which tended to closely resemble the classic, public-domain trick taking games.  Games included in this entry are Sextet, Coup d’etat, Ninety Nine, Black Spy, Wizard, and Where’s Bob’s Hat?.

As we explained in our first entry, we put an enormous number of trick taking games into a ratings spreadsheet, giving each Opinionated Gamer the chance to offer their rating.  We decided to write about any game that was (a) rated by more than five people, and (b) had an “average” rating at least as high as the midpoint between our “like it” and “neutral” rating.  I’ve also added a few games that are historically significant.  The games are ranged roughly by the year of origin.  

This post concludes trick-taking week here at The Opinionated Gamers, but this Tricks & Trumps series will continue, with the remaining eleven parts being published over the course of the rest of this year.  

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What makes trick-taking so enduring? And is it the most popular game mechanic on the planet? Eight trick-taking designers weigh in!

Trick-taking is one of the oldest card game mechanics: the first entry in our Tricks & Trumps series was Pitch, which dates to around 1600. I also have a theory that trick-taking is the most popular game mechanic on the planet: trick takers and their climbing/shedding descendants are widely played in Asia, Europe, and North & South America.

I asked several noteworthy trick-taking designers what makes trick-taking so enduring. Their responses are below. These are some busy members of the gaming community, so an enormous thank you for them taking the time to weigh in. Their answers are fascinating! A few disagreed with my premise that it is the most popular game mechanic, but even they thought it was popular.

Responses are in approximately the same order I received them. Links are to a game or two designed by each designer, so check them out! And I did not show each designer the others’ responses.

Here is the precise question I asked:

I have a theory that trick taking is the most popular game mechanic. I think more people play Hearts, Spades, Bridge, Euchre, or any number of classic trick taking games than play many of the games frequently talked about in board game media. And the mechanic has been around for centuries! What do you think it is about trick taking games that makes them so enduring? What draws gamers to them?

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Cat in the Box: Deluxe Edition (Game Review by Chris Wray)

  • Designer:  Muneyuki Yokouchi (横内宗幸)
  • Publisher:  Hobby Japan, Distributed in the U.S. by Bezier Games
  • Players:  2-5
  • Ages:  13 and Up
  • Time:  20-40 Minutes
  • Times Played: > 5 (With additional plays on the original Cat in the Box.)

Cat in the Box: Deluxe Edition is the latest mega-hit on the trick-taking scene. It was arguably the hottest game at Gen Con 2022, and it has been wildly popular in the months since then. Nearly 5,000 people report owning the game on BoardGameGeek, and since most gamers don’t log their collection (or aren’t even BGG members), that means sales are already in the tens of thousands, if not higher. 

Nonetheless, Cat in the Box is not exactly a new trick-taking game. It was released in 2020 by Ayatsurare Ningyoukan, and in fact, it won the Trick-Taking Guild’s award for that year. The game already feels like a trick-taking classic, and its new mechanism — allowing players to basically pick the suit of each card — will doubtlessly inspire numerous other games. 

This review is of the Deluxe Edition, which is what was released last year. It adds components for a fifth player, and it features nicer components. To my knowledge, the Deluxe Edition is also the only available edition: the first version is out of print.  

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