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Tales of Tricks Taken: The Green Fivura, 12 Chip Trick, Tall Tales, and Tortenschlacht

W. Eric Martin
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Apex
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Board Game: The Green Fivura
In mid-January 2023, I attended a small event focused on trick-taking games. It's the first gaming event I've attended in many years that was for fun, not work, and I think the event worked wonderfully for three reasons:

1. The event had only 35-40 attendees, which meant you had enough folks on hand for variety of who was at the table, yet not so many that you felt overwhelmed.

2. Event organizer James Nathan, who scouts for publishers CMYK and Allplay, has assembled an amazing library of trick-taking games that spans from the obscure to the treasured, from the glorious to the ludicrous. It's not just a greatest hits collection, but more of an actual library that's going for breadth in its contents.

3. The event had a focus, which meant that everyone on hand loved trick-taking games, so you didn't have to futz around too much to find something that everyone was willing to play. We were all in the mindset of playing short games that lasted multiple rounds, unlike at an event like BGG.CON, where I see lots of folks playing three-hour games.

• My most played game of the event was The Green Fivura from designer Taiki Shinzawa, who publishes under the brand 倦怠期 (Kentaiki). The hook of this game comes in two parts: First, every card has a green 5 on its back, and in various circumstances, you can play a card as a green 5 instead of as its front. Usually you're trying to dodge a trick or force someone else to eat one, but sometimes you're preemptively trying to short a suit or ditch a high number.

Why all the focus on not winning tricks? Because second, when you win a trick, you place the winning card on top of the trick, and if the sum of your winning cards is higher than 25, you score -1 points that round. The player with the sum closest to 25 scores 3 points (or 2 with only three players), as well as 1 point for each player who busts. Others who don't bust get a point or two, and whoever has the most points after four rounds wins.

Board Game: The Green Fivura
I'm probably in trouble...

Many trick-taking games, such as the excellent Cat in the Box, which I covered here, have you focus on the number of tricks won. In The Green Fivura, Shinzawa abstracts that concept to care about the sum of the power used to win those tricks. Sometimes two tricks is all you need to bust; sometimes you'll take five tricks and be okay.

With three players, the highest cards are 9, whereas with four players each suit goes to 13 — which ups the danger level, but simultaneously increases the outlets for such high cards. I've now played The Green Fivura five times with both three and four players, and almost every hand feels like a nightmare in the making. If you have lots of purple, which is the trump suit, you risk eating tricks; lots of high numbers, same; lots of green, same due to the tendency of players to lead a green 5 in order to ditch high numbers.

The green suit tends to run dry quickly due to such shenanigans, which means you're likely to win that trick, but better to win with a 5 than a high number — yet if everyone else is playing off-suit because green is empty, then you're letting them ditch high numbers!

Aside from dodging tricks or lowering your sum, another advantage to playing a green 5 is that you have information about a card that's now out of play. You might want to count all the cards in The Green Fivura, but you can't, so you need to go with your gut as to who's pitched what.

As the round progresses and you win tricks, the numbers in your hand start flashing red. Don't win with anything over 10! Now everything over 7 is bad! I still have no idea after five games whether I'm playing well, but the tension is still there every hand and I want to play more, so that's a win.

Board Game: 12 Chip Trick
12 Chip Trick (12チップトリック) is a three-player-only trick-taking game self-published by root (ルート) in 2022, and it resembles The Green Fivura in that you're trying to collect just enough of something.

The game consists of only twelve wooden discs: six red ones numbered 4-9 and six black ones numbered 1-3 and 10-12. Shuffle the discs face down, then give each player two discs of each color. The round's start player plays a disc of their choice face up, then each other player in order does the same. Whoever played the highest disc collects one of the played discs and sets it aside face up out of play, then each other player in order collects a disc and adds it back to their hand face down; if any red disc is present in the trick, you must collect a red disc.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Not a photogenic game

The winner of the trick leads to the next trick, and you keep playing until someone has four face-up discs in front of them. Everyone then sums the numbers on their four discs. If your sum is 20 or less, score that many points; if your sum is over 20, score half that sum rounded down. After three rounds, with each person leading once, whoever has the most points wins.

I played 12 Chip Trick twice, and it's a neat challenge, especially since you start with no information, then learn bit by bit who has which numbers in hand, which gives you more information to go on in terms of what to play. You don't even necessarily want to win tricks! You just want to have a sum of 20 in your hand, so you're playing the odds of who has what and which numbers they're gunning for in their quest for 20.

Board Game: 12 Chip Trick
New version from Mandoo Games

The sum of all the numbers in play is 78, so landing at 20 is rough. Alternatively, you can shoot for high numbers since the four largest numbers sum to 42, which when halved is 21. Fail to hit that total, however, and you've almost certainly helped one (or both) opponents to stay below the threshold, which means they might score better than you.

Korean publisher Mandoo Games has announced that it will release 12 Chip Trick in a new edition in Q2 2023.

Board Game: Tall Tales
Tall Tales is a trick-taking game for 3-4 players from New Mill Industries and designer Rand., who helps source games for the open play areas at PAX conventions. The idea behind the game is that you're all telling stories to one another, and as the rounds progress you take story elements from others and re-tell them, sometimes embellishing the stories to make them grander.

In game terms, you have a four-suited deck, and everyone starts with a hand of cards and one card in front of you in a "memory" area. Additional piles of cards in the four suits stand in the middle of the table. On a turn, a player leads, and everyone must follow suit if possible.

Whoever has played the largest card of the suit led takes a card from another player's memory and places it in their discard pile, then the player of the next highest card does the same, etc. If players play off suit, they draft cards based on the value of their played cards from high to low after all those who played on suit have drafted. Whoever played the worst card in the trick drafts a card from the top of one of the central piles — and the numbers on these cards escalate over time. Essentially, you told a terrible story, so you're like, "Oh, yeah, well wait until they get a load of this whopper!"

The final card in memory is discarded, then the played cards are moved into the memory slots, then the trick's winner leads to a new trick.

After all cards have been played, you take the cards in your discard pile as your new hand, then play another round. After the second round, you score points based on the value of cards in your discard pile. After the fourth round, you again score based on the value of your discard pile, then whoever has the most points wins.

Board Game: Tall Tales
Mock-up with Rand., who is not mocked up

I'll note that development on Tall Tales is still being finalized ahead of a crowdfunding campaign in 2023, so some details of gameplay might differ from what I have here, but the gist of the game will remain the same: Use your cards to get "better" cards, with better encompassing both high and low cards since sometimes you want to win a trick to claim a high card from someone else's memory and sometimes you want to draft a new card.

Cards enter and leave the game each round, so as in 12 Chip Trick, you can try to track who has what, but the hand sizes are larger and the values keep changing, which makes tracking here a far bigger challenge. I played only once, so maybe additional plays would help. We'll see!

Board Game: Tortenschlacht
• I'll close this post by highlighting Tortenschlacht, a self-published trick-taking game for 3-4 players from 1988 that has three registered owners on BGG, one of them being James Nathan.

"Tortenschlacht" means cake battle, and you are battling others with layer cake and sacks of flour. The cake cards have values that range from 2 to ⅛, and they come in two colors: red and yellow. The flour sacks are also red and yellow, and one of the sacks in each color is a joker that can also be played as 2 cakes.

Each player gets a hand of seven cards, with two cards being placed face up, then the dealer asks everyone in turn if they want to play the round on their own. If no one goes solo, then the dealer asks in turn for a partner. The solo player or the partner can pick up the face-up cards or remove them from play. Players can then make declarations like "The solo player will lose" or "The dealer will win", with these declarations adding to the points for whichever side wins the round.

You must follow the lead card, if possible. When a player leads cake, whoever flung the most cake of that color wins the trick. When a player leads flour, the last player to play flour of that color wins the trick. Whichever side collects four or more tricks wins the round and scores points: 1 for each trick, with bonus points for declarations.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
The guffawing sack is the joker

We played Tortenschlacht only once with four players, possibly because I repeatedly got ridiculous hands, which made the game seem dumb. In the fourth round, for example, the player to my right dealt, and I had both joker flour sacks and both 2-cake cards — which meant that I could declare myself the solo player, set aside the face-up cards, declare that I was going to win, then win four tricks immediately. Boom!

I would be happy to give Tortenschlacht another go to see whether it turns out the same way, but that would entail first finding a copy among the used game vendors at SPIEL. Fat chance of that, I think!

•••

I'll cover a few other games played — most of them being non-trick-taking titles — in a separate post later, but I'll close by noting that it was also fun to watch games being played, including a game that took place off site...

From gallery of W Eric Martin
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