"We talked a little more of Milesians and Firbolgs; but I do not write what he told me here, as it is at variance with things I have written already, as is often the case with legend, whence comes a pleasing variety." -Lord Dunsany
"All history is made up. Good history is made up by good historians; bad history is made up by the others." -David Macaulay
Hol's der Geier is a quick little filler game of bluff and skill. Very simple in its components and concept, there's still a lot of little game here. It has been put out in many formats, but here I'll just mention the German edition with vultures and mice.
The game has fifteen animal cards: five Vulture cards ranging in value from -1 to -5, and ten Mouse cards ranging in value from +1 to +10. Each player also has his/her own deck of fifteen cards, ranging in value from 1 to 15.
Simple Set Up
Everyone starts with all fifteen of their own cards. The animal card deck is shuffled and placed face down in the center of the table. The top animal card is turned face up and the game begins.
Object of the Game
The object of the game is to have the highest score at the end of a specified number of rounds - one round if you're pressed for time, but three rounds is a better game and only takes about half an hour. Each Mouse card you win counts its point value for you, and each Vulture card you take counts against you. Since everyone knows the range of animal cards (-5 to +10), and everyone starts with the same hand, it's a game of skill.
Course of Play
Once the first animal card is turned face up, players decide which of their own cards to play. You choose one card and play it face down in front of you. When all players have chosen a card, they are revealed. If the animal card in question is a Mouse (positive value), the highest player card played wins the trick. If the animal card is a Vulture (negative value), the lowest player card played wins the trick. So your high cards are always good: you can win positive points and avoid negative points with them.
Once the winner is determined and has collected the animal cards, the player cards that were used that round are removed from the game, the next animal card is turned over, and the players choose a card to play from their remaining hand. Continue in this vein until all fifteen cards have been played, and the round is over. Count up your Mice, subtract your Vultures, and record the score if playing more rounds.
That's basically the game - it's very simple in concept. There are only a few special rules. For example, if two or more players tie for high card when trying to win a Mouse, the next highest card played wins the trick. Likewise, if two or more players tie for lowest card when trying to avoid a Vulture, the next lowest takes the trick. And finally, if all cards played are matched, the played cards are discarded, a second animal is added to the trick, and another round takes both cards.
Why It's a Good Filler Game
For such a simple, quick game, it actually has lots of bluff and strategy opportunities. When the 10 Mouse comes up, for example, you can be pretty sure that high cards will be chosen. But if you choose your highest card, a 15, you may not win it - there may easily be another 15 chosen, and the next highest card played will win. So you think about playing your 14 instead, hoping two other players will play the 15, and you'll have the only 14. But what if someone else decides the same thing? And so on - lots of agonizing "What will they do?" decisions to make. The more you play, and the more you play with specific opponents, the better the game becomes. In this sense, it's related to poker: it's not so much the card you play as what you project to the other players you're playing, if that makes any sense ...
At any rate, if you like bluffing and outwitting games, this is a quick, fun one.
-This review originally published 1999.
This is a great game! I love the guessing aspect of each hand as you desribed in your review. Should you play the 10? What if someone else does and a 9 wins the hand....each hand has a certain amount of tension associated with it.