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Subject: How does this compare to Wizard? rss

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The Grouch
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Both Xactika and Wizard are trick-taking games based on the same premise: that you must take EXACTLY the number of tricks you bid; going over hurts you as much as being under.

Wizard (which plays 3-6) does this by using a standard deck of cards and adding four unsuited "uber-trumps" (which always win a trick) called "wizards" and four unsuited "anti-trumps" (which always lose a trick) called "jesters". Wizard adds the additional twist of everyone starting with one card in the first hand, two in the second, and so on until all cards are dealt out in the final hand. In each hand except the final, a card is turned up from the deck after dealing but before bidding to determine the trump suit for that hand (no trump in the final hand).

Xactika takes a different approach. Its deck has 81 cards distributed into TWELVE suits and numbered 4 through 12. Each card belongs to FOUR suits which are (confusingly) one sphere, two spheres, three spheres, one, two and three cubes, one, two and three cones and one, two and three stars. While the cards are evenly distributed amongst the four shapes, they are NOT evenly distributed among the numbered variants of each suit. This is quite confusing and requires reference cards to keep straight. Unfortunately, only three of these cards are provided for a game which can play 2-10.

This odd distribution of cards takes some getting used to and certainly foils those inclined to count cards. Another quirk is that while a card may be your strongest in some suit, if someone leads a stronger suit in one of the other suits your card belongs to, you are well and truly screwed, which is very frustrating.

Unlike Wizard, players are always dealt eight cards in a hand of Xactika and eight hands are played in each game. This does have the effect of making Xactika - like Wizard - somewhat of a challenge to fit in a lunch hour if you are playing with new players or those prone to analysis paralysis.

Finally, there are the rules, which seemed somewhat condescending to me: they assume the reader has absolutely no clue what a trick-taking game is and suggest a first practice game in which everyone tries to as many tricks as they can - quite dull. But that's not all: then the rules suggest a SECOND practice game in which everyone tries to take no more than three tricks in a hand. More than that scores zero. Only then does one graduate to the full game. An extensive example of this follows. While this is useful for players new to trick-taking game, it is rough to wade through the lengthy rules set looking for the meat of the rules if one is an experienced gamer. A quick summary at the beginning for those familiar with trick-taking games would've helped a lot.

Overall rating:

My advice if one is looking for a trick-taking game that penalizes not exactly making your bid is top buy Wizard, not Xactika. The only advantage this game has is supporting a wider range of players. It's not terrible, but it's not very good, either.
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Snooze Fest
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I haven't played this very often -- only twice -- but I also immediately made the comparison to Wizard. To me, though, Wizard is just too difficult: especially because of the rule-breaking Wizards and Fools, I cannot seem to make my exact bids very often. Here, though, it seems easier to make appropriate bids. The little summary card (yeah, I dunno why they would only included 3!) is helpful: it gives you some guidance about which suit you should call for when leading a trick. I also prefer having 8 cards per hand, instead of the gradually escalating hand size in Wizard -- an interesting idea, but the early hands seem almost completely random to me.

So have you played this and Wizard enough to decide which one is harder? It sounds like you play a lot of these games, so perhaps Wizard is better for you; but what about those of us who are just bad players?
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Jeff Chunko
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I played this tonight. After a bit of thought it became clear that this is a far inferior game to wizard. There are two real problems:

You have 12 suits and only 8 cards. After the first trick or two, You are very likely to have exactly one card in the suit led, removing all choice from your card play.

You get no points from a bid of zero. That means that weak hands can only hurt you, no matter how skilled a player you are. In Wizard you get 20+(num tricks bid) for made bids, so you can still make progress even with a hand full of crap.

I have to admit, I'm befuddled that you found wizard more complicated than this - several players had a really hard time wrapping their heads around Xactika, while I'd consider Wizard a game of little thought.
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Snooze Fest
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Jeff Chunko wrote:
I have to admit, I'm befuddled that you found wizard more complicated than this - several players had a really hard time wrapping their heads around Xactika, while I'd consider Wizard a game of little thought.

Are you talking to me? Are YOU talkin' to ME?!

If you are: I don't think Wizard is more complicated -- the rules are pretty straightforward -- just that it is more difficult to play well because those damn Wizards and Fools keep messing with my tricks! I would certainly not call Wizard a game of little thought, but maybe that's just because I'm so terrible at making bids about exactly how many tricks I can take.

If you are not: ignore.
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Jeff Chunko
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Unlike the traditional card game it's based on, Wizard is designed to encourage "screw you" plays. (The fact that you can play a blue card on any trick means you can duck or win at will. Intelligent players will use that ability to prevent others from making their bid.) So don't feel bad that you aren't making your bids in Wizard - with good play, it should be hard.
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Jeff Chunko wrote:
Unlike the traditional card game it's based on, Wizard is designed to encourage "screw you" plays. (The fact that you can play a blue card on any trick means you can duck or win at will. Intelligent players will use that ability to prevent others from making their bid.) So don't feel bad that you aren't making your bids in Wizard - with good play, it should be hard.

Yeah, I feel like I should like it more than I do. Maybe with more practice, but there are so many other games I end up playing instead!
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Brian Torus
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Jeff Chunko wrote:
You have 12 suits and only 8 cards. After the first trick or two, You are very likely to have exactly one card in the suit led, removing all choice from your card play.


It's also fairly luck based from this perspective, since there's much less ability to duck going on. It's sort of like the first few hands in wizard, when you're hoping you can duck/overplay, but there's not much you can do about it.

Jeff Chunko wrote:
You get no points from a bid of zero. That means that weak hands can only hurt you, no matter how skilled a player you are. In Wizard you get 20+(num tricks bid) for made bids, so you can still make progress even with a hand full of crap.


Players who have played wizard know small bids can be nice since you can take a few tricks and duck the rest while the other players fight over them.
 
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