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Parlett Watch - "Have I not here the best cards for the game?"

William Shakespeare.
Playing Cards.
David Parlett.

Here you go:
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Sun Apr 23, 2023 1:13 pm
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From Parlett's Oxford Guide to Card Games:

From gallery of trawlerman

From gallery of trawlerman
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Thu Mar 9, 2023 8:21 pm
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Trick-Taking! Climbing! 2! 3! 4! 5! 6!

I recently answered some questions about trick-taking and climbing for a poll. I've since cleaned up the answers and tweaked my rankings a bit. I figured I'd post them here.

What's really crazy to me is that all of these games are new-to-me from the last three years. I may be swimming in the deep end now, but I'm also still not far removed from the "newb" feeling of being overwhelmed. It has been fun and a bit strange to have jumped on the trick-taking bandwagon right before a huge explosion in trick-taking interest. For example, in early 2020 I was able to get just about every major 90s/00s/10s trick-taking game in trades. Because of the increased interest (as evidenced by video channels, podcasts, conventions), many of these games now either can't be found at all or are only available at ridiculous prices. I'm glad to have tried some of these commercial games in order to form my opinion (which I did not have at the start) that traditional deck games are almost always better than commercial deck games. I still keep up with new releases, but not many of them actually interest me. In the future, I'm mostly hoping to continue exploring traditional deck designs, old and new.

Top Trick Taking Games
1. Hearts
2. Coiffeur-Jass
3. Mittlere Jass (and/or Plus-Minus)
4. Twister Jass
5. Barbershop
6. Oh Hell
7. Mu
8. Doppelkopf
9. Cowbell
10. Ziegen Kriegen

Top Climbing Games
1. Dickory
2. Bacon (6p)
3. Haggis
4. Eat or Run
5. Bacon (4p)
6. Ambiente Abissal
7. Ambiente Abissal
8. Ambiente Abissal
9. Tuhao
10. Tichu

Top 2 Player TT/Climbing Games
1. Dickory
2. Haggis
3. Eat or Run
4. Tuhao
5. Barbershop
6. Twister-Jass
7. Nein Nimmt!
8. Vidrasso
9. Jekyll vs. Hyde

At 2p, I like climbing more than trick-taking, but I like other games even more. If the list options were expanded to other card games, I'd add Sea Salt & Paper to the current #1 spot, Scopa at #2 or #3, and Gin Rummy somewhere in the middle (it would have been higher, but right now SS&P is scratching that same itch only even better). Chonkers would also be here.

Top 3 Player TT/Climbing Games
1. Coiffeur-Jass
2. Mittlere Jass
3. Ambiente Abissal
4. Cowbell
5. Nein Nine
6. Hearts
7. Boon
8. Las Vegan
9. Short Zoot Suit
10. Ninety-Nine

Top 4 Player TT/Climbing Games
1. Hearts
2. Back Porch
3. Bacon
4. Doppelkopf
5. Coiffeur-Jass (cheating b/c I haven't played at 4)
6. Arm's Length
7. Oh Hell
8. Bears
9. Ziegen Kriegen
10. Crescendo

Top 5 Player TT/Climbing Games
1. Mu
2. Oh Hell
3. Briscola Chiamata
4. Ziegen Kriegen
5. Hearts
6. Vivaldi
7. Minimisere
8. Strife
9. Knockout Whist
10. Maskmen

Top 6+ Player TT/Climbing Games
1. Bacon
2. Bacon
3. Bacon
4. Bacon
5. Bacon
6. Bacon
7. Bacon
8. Bacon
9. Bacon
10. Bacon

Top Want to Play Games
Barbu, Basho, Tien Len, Speedy Delivery, Mittelmäßig, Noodlin', Nokuso Dice, Dealer's Dilemma, Sasaki, Differenzler, more Parletts

Those "want-to-plays" were off the top of my head. There are at least a dozen more that I'd like to play equally as much equally as soon.

Interestingly, at 2p, I like non-tt, non-climbing options, but not so much at other player counts (with the exception, I guess, of Poker at 6+). Can anyone recommend to me any other non-tt, non-climbing games at higher player counts? Are there any? (I'm perhaps unfairly excluding kid/social games; I do like Old Maid, Go Fish, Snap, ERS, Uno, Spoons).
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Fri Feb 3, 2023 8:49 pm
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My Favorite Traditional Card Games by Player Count - 2022 Edition

Don recently made the following comment on my 2p Trad Card Game list from last year.
donatello23 wrote:
John, if you ever in the mood, I would love to see similar list, but for 3-4+ players ? My 2 player card gaming is in halt for quite some time now ? (unless with my 6yo)
Here's my response, shared with everyone here in case it's helpful for anyone else looking for more great card games to play with friends and family.


There's not much chance that I'll get to a full geeklist anytime soon, but here's a quick list for you, my current favorite traditional deck card games by player count:

Eat or Run
Gin Rummy

Coiffeur Jass
Mittlere Jass
Nein Nine
Sheepshead (if I can ever get the rankings straight; I've only played with a Boon deck)
[As an aside: I really like Knaves at 3p, but it's not listed above because I found the hand sizes way too big - I need to try it again modified to be played with a smaller stripped deck, maybe a Jass deck.]


Briscola Chiamata / Vivaldi (I love the simplicity of Vivaldi, which can be played with a trad. deck, but I found that BC's more limited scoring was actually more to my tastes than adding up points for every card.)
Oh Hell
[Sheepshead? (only played at 3p w/Boon deck) My understanding is that most Sheepshead is played at 5p as a more raucous affair than the 3p version.]


Texas Hold'em

3p-13p Party
In Vino Morte (use 2 suits, 1 for wine, 1 for poison)

Egyptian Ratscrew
Go Fish
Knockout Whist
Old Maid
Spoons (Dinosaurs; the game is objectively better played with a dinosaur themed deck and stuffed dinosaurs)

Games I like, but I'm not certain of player count yet, and not certain that they'll stick around as favorites:
Arm's Length
Short Zoot Suit

Games I haven't played, but I want to, and suspect I'll like/love:
2p - German Whist
2p - Hotdog
3-4p - Differenzler Jass (I suspect this might be my 4p Jass game)
4p - Tien Len
5p - Mighty (specifally Sean's Almighty Nappy variant)

And I'm always willing to try a new Parlett game.

If you've read this entire post, please go ahead and leave a comment with your own favorites by player count in the comments below.
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Fri Dec 23, 2022 12:19 pm
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A rather crass pop artist

Um, I designed another card game:
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Fri Feb 11, 2022 8:52 pm
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"there are more hours of amusement in a single deck of cards than in all the world’s movies combined" -RG

I've tagged a lot of climbing games in this post. If that brought you here, then I apologize that I'm not going to write anything useful or meaningful about those games. But I won't lecture you either. All I'm going to do is quote Richard Garfield and encourage you to play a new-to-you card game with a traditional deck of playing cards that you already own. You won't regret it.
Phelddagrif wrote:
When I was in graduate school, I was introduced to a fascinating card game by a friend (who I called “Doctor Chocolate,” but that’s another story). I had never seen a game like it before; it rewarded the player in the lead and penalized the player who was falling behind. The game was played for no other purpose than to play. There was no winner or loser at the end; there was only the longest-lasting “Dalmuti” and the “peon,” the player most talented at groveling.

Later my friends and I introduced scoring to the game and started playing it to get a winner. It was fun. I played it with my bridge club. It was fun. I played it with my folks. It was fun. I played it with gamers, nongamers, young people, old people, all kinds of people . . . and it was always fun. Curiously, this game was fun no matter who was playing. And the most curious thing of all was that no matter who I played it with, once we started playing we couldn’t stop.

Intrigued by this game’s wide appeal, I tried to trace its origin. I couldn’t find it mentioned in any Hoyle, but I kept running into groups of players who played their own versions of the game. It went by different names indifferent locations: “Super 2 Peasant” in Japan, “Rich Man–Poor Man” in Alaska, “Scum” in Utah, among others. My hottest lead was a gambling game that was played in Chinatown in New York City. Though I couldn’t track down its name, I learned that it had been around for a long time, and it had qualities that would seem to make it a parent to all these other games.

Years later I found an amazing book that I recommend to anyone interested in games: A History of Card Games, by David Parlett. Parlett suggests that the common ancestor of these Dalmuti-like games is a Chinese game, “Zheng Shàng Yóu,” which literally means “Climbing Up.” Parlett’s book also makes reference to a Japanese game called “Dai Hin Min,” or “A Very Poor Man.” This meaning is ironic since I believe “Dai Hin Min” to be the origin of the word “Dalmuti,” which means something quite different in our game!

If you’ve enjoyed The Great Dalmuti® and don’t usually play regular card games, give them a try. For me there are more hours of amusement in a single deck of cards than in all the world’s movies combined. And I love the movies.

—Richard Garfield
The Great Dalmuti game designer
In particular, today, you should check out the many traditional climbing games that influenced the games that were tagged in this post. This list by Shobu1701 is an excellent place to start doing that:
Chinese climbing card games
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Wed Jan 26, 2022 9:06 pm
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2021 Golden Trickster Finalists / Nominations

I always enjoy when Russ calls attention to the year's Best Combinatorial 2-Player Game nominations. Russ sharing the nominations here: Monthly tournament results (April: Neuroshima Hex) + May = Combinatorial Games of the Year 2020. Russ sharing thoughts after plays here: Monthly tournament results (May: Combinatorial Games of the Year 2020) + June = Mr. Jack Pocket.

I figured I could do something similar here with the Trick-taking Guild's 2021 Golden Trickster.

Below is the full list of nominated games with links to English rules and overview videos (basically, you should be subscribed to Taylor's trick-taking channel). Many/most of these games can be played with card decks and components that you already have on hand. Or as I'm sure someone will mention in the comments, they can all also be played on, which is why I've also included a link to the relevant online play option for each game. Of course support the designers/publishers/artists and buy the games if you can.

These are the games that got the most praise from those who are actively following such games. It comes as no surprise to anyone following along right now that Japanese designers are at the center of a lot of trick-taking innovation.


Nominees for the 2021 Golden Trickster

*Cat in the box
English rules - Taylor video -

ドキッと!アイス (Dokitto! Ice)
Website with info - Zee Garcia video -

*Dog Tag Trick
English rules - Taylor video -

The Fox in the Forest Duet
English rules - Taylor video - not online?

English rules - Taylor video - bga

Hollywood Sensation
No English rules? -Taylor video - not online?

Idle Hands
English rules - Taylor video -

English rules - Chris Yi video - tabletopia

English rules - no video? -

*§egment Trix
English rules - Taylor video -

アナフラ騎士SHOCK! (Knights With Poison)
English rules - no video? -

Trick of Trip
English rules - no video? -


That's it. Try the games out. Join the trick-taking guild.
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Mon Nov 8, 2021 1:18 pm
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Sondereggian Poker - "the figure of a gigantic cat"

Here's what I wrote about Chonkers back in March:
trawlerman wrote:
Hanibal sent me rules to a fun little card game that I think is even better than he possibly realized. It feels like a mash-up of Knizia's Black Sheep or even Schotten Totten (in the sense that you are playing cards to win material for an endgame condition) and a Poker version of Officer's Skat (in the sense that it is a great 2 player game that teaches poker ranking while being fun, involving some skill but also a heaping portion of luck) and something else I'm not quite pegging, maybe even Movable Type, but others as well. I'm thinking of the fact that the "resources" you are fighting over (cards) are used to shape your hand for a final showdown. I only played it 2-player (and think that's how I prefer it, not really wanting to even try 3-4). This rating might even go up. I had a blast playing it with one of my daughters. It's light, quick fun, perfect for playing with kids. (And I've also now played it with an adult friend and taught it to his girlfriend and watched them play a match. It's light and it's quick. I think it holds up as a form of "Officer's Poker"). If Hanibal approves, I'll post the rules.
Hanibal responded in the comments:
From gallery of trawlerman

Since that time, I have not posted the rules. I have instead continued to play and enjoy the game all to myself, making comments here and there on BGG about how much I like it.
trawlerman wrote:
I've played this more than ten times now. I was right that it's not very good (to my tastes) at 3 or 4, but it is exactly right at 2. I like it better than any of Knizia's Blazing Aces poker games that I've played so far. That's right. I just compared Hanibal to Reiner and Hanibal came out on top. This is just lovely to play when you want a quick 2p game with a deck of cards. Somewhere here on the 'geek, Hanibal said that I could post the rules (and that he'd already forgotten what the rules were that he sent me). I should do that sometime.
Revised rating after 10+ plays: 7 (going on 8)
I think somewhere I said that I was hoping to keep teaching the game to everyone I met, hoping that someday in the far future, Hanibal will be in a luxury card game club for old folks where someone will approach him and say something like, "Hey young man, you want to learn how to play this traditional game I know called Chonkers?" Eh, that was the wish.

It's fun to see Hanibal mention Sean's Jass work in that old comment. This afternoon, I finally played Strohmann Jass (French Hair Salon Edition; WHAT DO I DO???). With a real Jass deck. With turns alternating around the table counter-clockwise (how else do you play a 2p card game, right?). Authentic Jass.

This is my 11yo daughter looking super-serious as she goes about brutally beating her father.
From gallery of trawlerman

This is a picture of me disguised as the UnderFlower, secretly saying "DOWN WITH FLOWERS!" "AND ALSO DESTROY ALL ACORNS!" "AND NO MORE SHIELDS!" "AND NEVER ANOTHER BELL!!!"
From gallery of trawlerman

Because the secret of French Haircuts disguised as Swiss Card Games is that they are incredibly painful. Try to remember that trip to the barber when you were young, when he kept cutting off bits of your ear and the clippings from your bangs kept scratching your eyeballs (um, you didn't go to "The Greek" for your haircuts when you were young?).

So, yeah, I loved it. Even if I did have Phil Och's version of "The Bells" in my head for most of the game. Did I say down with Bells? Down with Bells. Except I do kinda love how catchy this version is (and this live version is the first I heard 20+ years ago and still my favorite).

Yeah, yeah, you're all saying that you've had enough Bells too, and you just want to see some Chonkers.

Well, Hanibal would enjoy Jass talk and Poe talk, so why should I hurry?

What a world of merriment their melody foretells!

For your edification, here is an excerpt from Hanibal's Chonkers Design Diary. If you've heard the rumors, they're all true. Eric Martin did have the chance to publish these and passed on it. The scoop is here instead of on the BGG News blog.

At this point, Hanibal was still referring to the game as "the cat".
E.A. Sonderegger wrote:
One night, returning home, much intoxicated, from one of my haunts about town, I fancied that the cat avoided my presence. I seized him; when, in his fright at my violence, he inflicted a slight wound upon my hand with his teeth. The fury of a demon instantly possessed me. I knew myself no longer. My original soul seemed, at once, to take its flight from my body and a more than fiendish malevolence, gin-nurtured, thrilled every fibre of my frame. I took from my waistcoat-pocket a pen-knife, opened it, grasped the poor beast by the throat, and deliberately cut one of its eyes from the socket! I blush, I burn, I shudder, while I pen the damnable atrocity.

When reason returned with the morning—when I had slept off the fumes of the night’s debauch—I experienced a sentiment half of horror, half of remorse, for the crime of which I had been guilty; but it was, at best, a feeble and equivocal feeling, and the soul remained untouched. I again plunged into excess, and soon drowned in wine all memory of the deed.
It gets better (worse?) from there. Chonkers' origins are perhaps shameful. This is why there is only one copy of the game in existence. Only one. And it is precious. And you all expect me to share it freely. How could you expect such a thing? Who just gives away the gem entrusted to his care? Shall I?
E.A. Sonderegger wrote:
I am above the weakness of seeking to establish a sequence of cause and effect, between the disaster and the atrocity. But I am detailing a chain of facts—and wish not to leave even a possible link imperfect. On the day succeeding the fire, I visited the ruins. The walls, with one exception, had fallen in. This exception was found in a compartment wall, not very thick, which stood about the middle of the house, and against which had rested the head of my bed. The plastering had here, in great measure, resisted the action of the fire—a fact which I attributed to its having been recently spread. About this wall a dense crowd were collected, and many persons seemed to be examining a particular portion of it with very minute and eager attention. The words “strange!” “singular!” and other similar expressions, excited my curiosity. I approached and saw, as if graven in bas relief upon the white surface, the figure of a gigantic cat. The impression was given with an accuracy truly marvellous. There was a rope about the animal’s neck.
That sounds frightening.

You'd really rather hear more about Strohmann Jass?


In the most recent Trick-taking Quarterly, I tried to outline why I think Dickory is so great as a "just one more" quick game (and Dickory is so far my game of the year; as much as I do enjoy and recommend Chonkers, it doesn't even come close).

This element that I love about Dickory is even more true about Chonkers. Chonkers is quick. If you don't immediately hate it, if you are in fact charmed by it, you will want to play it multiple times in a row.

Not Strohmann Jass. Strohmann Jass (French Hair Salon Edition, don't forget) is a LONG game. 14 hands total, with the possibility of a sudden ending sooner. But even with the sudden ending, it's still pretty long (I suppose the shortest it could get is 6 hands). Chonkers is a refreshing snack. Strohmann Jass is Old Country Buffet.

Every hand is 17 total tricks. And the game plays pretty snappy. But... there are Analysis Paralysis pauses at times, especially in the picking of the contracts.

There are 7 different types of Contracts.
Acorn Trump
Bell Trump
Flower Trump
Shield Trump
No Trump Top Down
No Trump Bottom Up (card rank is reversed)

(I decided that I didn't care enough to keep the language authentic when I read on Pagat that "Undenufe is pronounced with the d and the f silent." Who are these monsters that use rough consonants so silently?)

There are weird Jassian wrinkles like the Unders (Jacks) and 9s getting super powered in the Trump suit and the 8s finally discovering their own self-worth when Trump isn't around. Let's pause to celebrate my ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED moment. I played this game with its weird rankings and weird point changes and with its foreign suits and I WAS NOT CONFUSED AT ALL. Wow.

Anyhow, some weird Jass bits. Otherwise, it's pretty straightforward trick-taking variations. Must follow. Always may trump. Highest in lead suit wins the trick unless a trump is played, in which case highest trump wins the trick. Those previous sentences would have been gibberish to me in the not-so-distant past. What have I become?

Like I said above, what makes all of this especially painful is what happens in the French Hair Salon. In the French Hair Salon, no one EVER does the same thing twice unless they're just joking around, in which case they can do EXACTLY ONE thing that they've already done. So, each time that it is your turn to pick the contract, your options contract. [Neat wordplay, huh? I like to think that Hanibal is continuing to approve as I focus on Jass when I've baited you all with Chonkers.]

The thing about Strohmann Jass is that it needs to be a long game to be a good game. The (exquisite) tension of the game is in the diminishing choices, figuring out when to go "all in" with a decision and when to be flexible, when to possibly take a round you know that you'll lose in an attempt to get a better hand to use your Joker round on next time.

I almost want to schedule a weekly Strohmann Jass game with my daughter. It's the sort of game that will only get better with more plays. It's the sort of game that seems perfect in the middle of Autumn when one is anticipating a long Winter inside. Then I think, no, I need to teach another child how to play so that we can all then move on to "true" Coiffeur-Jass with STICKS AND POTATOES! "Each player has to play each of a number of different contracts in the course of the session, which consists of thirty hands." Doesn't that just make you yearn for a snow day, trapped indoors with nothing to do but play cards?

But really I'm just dreaming. Getting longer games, any sort of longer games, played at home is usually tough to do. Everything aligned just right this afternoon to make it happen. It isn't often so.

So I'll dream about playing longer Jass games while I continue to experience quick, enjoyable plays of Chonkers, a truly great little game... which I'll provide more information about.... next time. What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!

External image
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Mon Oct 4, 2021 12:45 am
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Knizian Poker

Responding to Sean's comment here instead of clogging up the trick-taking list with poker game talk.

seandavidross wrote:
I would like to hear more about Chonkers. And Portland. And Sacramento.


I added all (but one) of these Knizia games to the database earlier this year. It looks like since then, someone has cleaned up the entries and added nicely cropped snapshots of the rules summaries as found in Blazing Aces.

Here they are:

Oregon is a simple solitaire game, fun enough, but really just an ingenious way of learning and internalizing the poker ranks.
Board Game: Oregon

Portland takes that same solitaire system and makes it a multiplayer solitaire system with each player having their own entire deck. It could be played with any number of players, but I wouldn't play it with more than 2.
Board Game: Portland

Nugget is a very simple "draw and discard" game, with the choice of drawing blind from the deck (keeping it or discarding it and keeping the next blind draw) or drawing someone's previous discard (without discarding yourself).
Board Game: Nugget

Bonanza is similar to Nugget, with everyone drawing from a replenishing river of cards instead of any blind draws from the deck. There is no discarding.
Board Game: Bonanza

Sacramento is the most interesting of these Knizia games so far. It introduces a drafting element. For 1-4 players, Knizia recommends a stripped deck. For 5-6, a full deck. We played 3p with a stripped deck, 7-A. Deal everyone one card. Then deal more cards face-up to the center of the table. The rule is ten cards for the first player, plus 6 cards for each additional player, which will always result in four leftover cards when the game is done. Players take turns drafting from the center, attempting to make the best poker hand. The wrinkle is that everyone sees what everyone else is doing, so there's a delicate balance between pursuing one's own ends and working together to stop others.
Board Game: Sacramento

All of these games have points tables and it's recommended that you play multiple hands which score points depending on your 1st-2nd-3rd-etc placement (with last player usually scoring 0). I'd have to look at my notebook. I think we played all of them using the points (playing games equal to number of players at the table). I can take photos of the points tables and share them if anyone feels inspired to play one of these.

As for the real star, Chonkers, the light family poker game that is better than all of Knizia's light family poker games, that game that everyone is going to love to hate soon enough, well, you just wait...
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Sun Oct 3, 2021 8:18 pm
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Vivaldi: A Great 5p Card Game For Any Season

Short version: I'm still relatively new to traditional trick-taking card games. I've spent most of this year exploring the genre. Vivaldi is one of the best I've found.

From gallery of trawlerman

Trick-taking games are more prevalent than most ever realize. At least more than I realized. David Parlett's The Penguin Book of Card Games is full of them, and for each new game, you'll see at least half a dozen variant ways to play.

Vivaldi is very much a traditional game. It is self-consciously and purposefully an adaptation and updating of the classic Italian trick-taking game Briscola Chiamata.

Let's take a look at Brisocla Chiamata. Fortunately, I don't have to spend much time doing so. Go ahead and watch the SU&SD boys tell you how good it is:

I haven't played Briscola Chiamata, but if you do, I strongly recommend that you follow the SU&SD recommendation of A-10-K instead of the traditional Italian A-3-K. There is no reason for the 3 to be there except that the traditional Italian deck has no 10. If you're playing with a French deck and have a 10, use the 10 (play with a shortened deck of 5-A; remove the 2,3,4,--or 7,8,9--instead of the 8,9,10 as Pagat recommends). Not only does this make more sense, but it will have carry-over to other Ace-Ten games that you can (and should?) learn: These standard card values apply: Ace=11, 10=10, K=4, Q=3, J=2, everything else is worthless.

As you may have noticed, this already involves a lot of messing around with the deck, learning the ace-ten ranking, and learning the ace-ten card values. Surely this process could be simplified?

Once you have learned those things, you're ready to play Briscola Chiamata, which begins with an auction to determine which player will choose the trump suit, also determining which other player at the table will become their hidden partner, working together against the other three players at the table.

So much for Briscola Chiamata.

What does Vivaldi do differently than this?

From gallery of trawlerman

The deck is still 40 cards, but instead of the weird ranking that the uninitiated have trouble with, the 4 suits of 10 cards each are simplified to an easy-to-understand 1-10. No court cards; just numbers 1 through 10. What are the values of these cards? The number on the card is the value of the card. Rank=Value. This is a significant departure from Briscola Chiamata.

The Briscola Chiamata rules have each suit worth 30 points (see above for relative card values). This new system of card rank equaling value results in a much higher total suit value, with each suit now worth 10+9+8+7+6+5+4+3+2+1= 55 points. In order to win the round, your team will have to score more than half of those points. The other twist with Vivaldi is that each suit now has an opposite "pain suit" determined at the same time that the trump suit is declared. These cards in this suit are now worth negative points. Effectively, 165 positive points to be had in the three positive suits, minus the 55 negative points, which brings us back to 110 points, which is close to the 120 total points of the traditional game, only now calculated in an extremely simple and intuitive way for anyone, even those new to card games altogether. Just add up the values of all of the cards from the tricks you've won, subtracting the values of those cards from the pain suit. That's it. Add the cards of the teammates together. Team with the highest total value wins the round.

From gallery of trawlerman

Those cards up top determine the trump and negative suits.

What this means in terms of gameplay is that now those small cards are not worthless. Winning a lot of small tricks can be better than winning a few high tricks, or high tricks with negative points mixed in. Avoiding negative tricks seems all-important, but it can actually be a distraction. Sometimes it's better to just suck it up and take the negative points, netting 1 or 2 points on a turn, which is still overall a positive increase.

What I haven't mentioned yet is that players never have to follow suit. Any card can be played in response to any other card. Other normal trick-taking rules still apply. Highest card in the lead suit wins the trick unless a trump is played, in which case highest card in the trump suit always wins the trick. This ability to play any card allows for some of the pleasant "take-that" that I enjoy in these sorts of games. Someone on the other team looks like they're in a strong position to win the trick? Why not offload your 10 in the pain suit as a gift to them?

Alright, but what about that initial bidding phase, or, why might hanibalicious like this game when he doesn't like bidding in other games?

In my experience, there are two kinds of bidding in trick-taking games. The first is bidding on how many tricks you'll take. That is not what this is. The second is bidding on the right to a certain position in the game. That is what this is. In this game, you are bidding to be the Caller, the One versus the ugly Many. The heroic Caller gets to determine the trump suit and gets to choose a secret sidekick, but then becomes the hated target of the other three villains at the table.

What I love about the bidding here is how simple it is. In something like Skat, you bid an assigned number that represents a suit and then multiply that by the number of trump cards you already hold, add in other multipliers. It's all really stupid. In Vivaldi, there is nothing abstract about it. What you are bidding is a number between 10 to 1 that concretely represents a numbered card held by the hidden partner in the trump suit that you wish to name. Higher numbers are obviously better, so the subsequent bids must be for lower numbers. If the bidding gets down to 1, then the bidding starts to increase by number of points difference you think you will crush your opponents by.

This leads me to the only part of the game that I was a little confused by.
From gallery of trawlerman

Are these extra points awarded no matter what the increment was that was called? For example, if the Caller wins the bid with 1+15, does he still score 4x if the Caller's team scores 75 more points than the other team? That's how I'm reading it, that as long as any points difference is named, then these bonuses become "unlocked".

Scoring is always zero sum. If the Caller's team gets the most card points, the Caller wins 2 game points, the helper gets 1 game point, and the others at the table each lose 1 game point. It's the reverse if the Caller's team loses--Caller loses 2 points, helper loses 1 point, everyone else gains 1 point.

I've only played once, so this review is not from any place of expertise or experience. I'm just smitten by the game right now and want to keep playing it.

We all know that I'll continue to get distracted by getting through the piles of unplayed games, but if I continue to be disciplined, then that pile will disappear by late 2021. After that, I'll be left with only the games that I love in my collection, that will be begging for repeat plays. Right now, Vivaldi has a permanent spot in my collection. If I'm sitting down with 5 players for a trick-taking game, it is the game that I will reach for first and every time (I'll note that Texas Showdown is in the pile of unplayed games; I have high hopes for it being a great 5p trick-taking game).

If you're in Europe, there's no reason not to order Vivaldi. Do it now. If you're in the States or elsewhere, it's a little more difficult to find in domestic shops. I ordered the last copy from Noble Knight. I like it enough to recommend importing it from Europe, but the astute reader will have probably already realized that this game can be played with a traditional deck or with a Rage deck. If you just want to try the game, it's easy enough to do with materials you already have.

Chartae has been a hit for me. Vivaldi is now another one. XVgames is now high on my radar as a small company to keep watching. It looks like their love for small abstracts is tailor-made for me. I only wish their games were easier to get here in the States.
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Sat Nov 21, 2020 2:29 pm
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