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Subject: Die Sieben Siegel Review rss

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Mitch Willis
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Kathleen
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Overview
Die Sieben Siegel (literally translated as The Seven Seals) is a trick taking card game for 3 to 5 players. It was designed by Stephan Dorra and published by Amigo games; Simply Fun has re-printed it in English, along with a different look and a different name as well (Zing!). The premise of the game is to take only those tricks you’ve bid; taking tricks you didn’t bid, and failing to take tricks that you did, result in penalty points. The player with the fewest penalty points wins the game.

Out of the Box
The game comes in a small box with 75 cards, 27 cardboard seals, and 1 cardboard saboteur figure. The cards come numbered from 1 to 15 in each of 5 different colors (red, blue, yellow, green, and purple). The seals are broken down by color as well, with 5 red, 3 blue, 3 yellow, 3 green, 3 purple, 4 white, and 6 black. Playing time is listed at 30 minutes; that seems close but our games have ran just slightly longer. The rulebook comes in German; but the English translations available here on BGG are simple and easy to follow. There isn’t really much of a theme to the game.

Set Up
With 3 players, you only use the 1-9 cards of each suit, with 4 you use 1-12 of each suit, and with 5 you use all 75 cards. Each player will be dealt 15 cards. All of the seals will be placed in the middle of the playing area, along with the saboteur. The player to the left of the dealer will start play.

Game Play
The game will last a number of rounds equal to the number of players; the exception would be a 3-player game in which twice the number of rounds would be played (6 rounds). Game play starts with the prediction; this is when each player, in turn, will either make a bid or take the saboteur. To make a bid, you take the number and color of seals of the tricks you think you’ll take in this round. For example, if you thought you could win 3 red tricks, 2 purple, and 1 green, you’d drag 3 red seals, 2 purple seals, and 1 green seal over in front of you. Instead of bidding, you also have the option of selecting the saboteur. To do this, you just take the saboteur figure and place it in front of you. When taking the saboteur, you don’t take any seals; the saboteur’s job is to hinder the other players’ bids. If you bid a suit in which all its seals have been taken, you take the number of those seals bid from the players who have them, and they get a white seal in its place. For example, suppose you bid 1 green and one of your opponents has already bid 3 green and thus has all 3 green seals; you’d take one of his/her green seals and he/she would take a white seal in its place.

After the prediction, the player to the dealer’s left plays down a card in a suit of his choice. Going clockwise, each player must follow suit, if possible, until a all players have put a card in play for that trick. If you can’t follow suit, you can either trump it with a red card (red is always the trump suit), or throw off a card of any other suit. Unless trumped, the trick is won by the highest card in the suit that was led; of course, if trumped then the highest trump card wins the trick. When you capture a trick you bid, you return the seal for that particular suit back to the pool. For example, if you win a blue trick, you return a blue seal. If you win a trick by playing a trump (red), you have the option of returning either a red seal or a seal of the suit that was trumped. A white seal is like a wild card; it can be returned upon the taking of a trick of any suit. If you take a trick, that you did not bid (i.e., don’t have a seal of that color), then you must take a black seal. The saboteur never takes any seals, regardless of the number of tricks that he/she takes.

After the last trick of the round is taken, scores are recorded, the seals and saboteur are put back in the middle of the table, the cards are shuffled in preparation for the next round.

Scoring
Scoring is done after each round and is dependent upon the seals you have left in your play area, unless you are the saboteur. Each seal in the colors of the suits (red, blue, yellow, green, and purple) count 2 points against you. Each black seals count 3 points against you while each white seal will set you back 4 points.

Scoring for the saboteur is different. A saboteur starts off with 4 penalty points; for each black seal that an opponent has to take during the round, 1 point will be subtracted from this, not to go under zero. For example, if during a round with a saboteur declared, the total number of black seals given out was 3, the saboteur would receive 1 penalty point (4-3). All points are accumulated and recorded before the start of the next round. After all scores are totaled after the last round, the player with the least amount of penalty points wins the game.

Strategy
As with any card game, luck can play a significant factor, but this can be somewhat balanced by skillful bidding. Also, the occasional poor hand can usually be overcome by selecting the saboteur during the prediction phase; that way you are guaranteed that the absolute worse you can do for the round is 4 penalty points.

I’ve found that the toughest part of the game can be bidding, especially if you’re bidding early and the saboteur has not yet been claimed. When I have lots of tweener cards (cards that might win a trick but, then again, might not), it’s tough for me to bid ‘em when I’m not sure if the saboteur is going to be in play. In general though, in our limited play thus far, I now tend to be more aggressive in my bidding since we’ve seen many more penalty points doled out to those who underbid, usually via black seals.

As far as the card play, I’ve found myself trying to get most of my tricks later on in the round. I’ve been burned several times when I got my tricks early and then, especially with the saboteur in play, had trouble in getting out of the lead, gathering a plethora of black seals in the process. Having lots of trump is beneficial in more ways than the obvious; when trumping a suit, remember that you have the option of giving up either a red seal or a seal of the lead color. Finally, don’t take your white seals for granted; although they’re the easiest to get rid of, if you wait too long and get stuck with any, they’ll set you back more points than any of the other seals.

Conclusions
Being a fan of trick taking games, I like Die Sieben Siegel. I’m still learning some of its intricacies, so I’ve still got a lot to learn. It’s challenging, forcing some tough decisions, plays fairly quickly and, most importantly, it’s fun. As I play and get more experienced, I could easily see my rating rise, but as of right now I rate Die Sieben Siegel a "devilish" 7.
 
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"There isn’t really much of a theme to the game."

Padawan, you have much to learn.

Until you fully understand the treachery in this game you won't understand the theme. The diabolical theme is exceeding appropriate. This game ranks up there with Intrige.

Let me give you an example.

Say you're first to bid in a five player game and you have 15,14,13,2,1 of yellow. Try bidding one yellow. If no one else bids yellow, lead the 1
and watch the fireworks.

There are so many nasty things you can do.
 
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Mitch Willis
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Kathleen
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GlennG wrote:

"There isn’t really much of a theme to the game."

Padawan, you have much to learn.

Until you fully understand the treachery in this game you won't understand the theme. The diabolical theme is exceeding appropriate. This game ranks up there with Intrige.

Let me give you an example.

Say you're first to bid in a five player game and you have 15,14,13,2,1 of yellow. Try bidding one yellow. If no one else bids yellow, lead the 1
and watch the fireworks.

There are so many nasty things you can do.


I see your point, Master...

I've experienced some of that nastiness you've described in a recent game. Thought I had a good hand, was sailing along, and then very unexpectedly got stuck with 3 black seals on the last 3 tricks...but I somehow missed tying it to the theme...
 
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Should have mentioned, that was a very good review overall. In light of the new Zing theming for Siegel, you'll be begging for the old theme back.

Of course it's just artwork. You can substitute a plain deck of cards. We sometimes play 6 player with a Sticheln deck. The colours align nicely. The balance is not as bad as you would think.


Oh, let me add a little comment on control at the end of the round. You'll find experienced players will grab their tricks early. There are two reasons: (i) so you don't get trumped (ii) so you don't get control at the end. The most dangerous situation is when the round has been greatly underbid (there are supposed to be 15 tricks in total). Someone has to take those tricks. You need to avoid taking control near game end at all costs in that situation. It is better to take a black early rather getting stuck with control at the end.

Here's an example:
Say all that's left is one person with a green chit and there are
4 tricks to go. 3 yellow tricks have already been taken. You look at your hand and you have:
8G 1G 10Y 9Y
Green is led and you are last. The highest green played was 7G. You can duck but it is better is take the black with 8G and lead back the 1G. If you duck with 1G and that person with the green leads 2G you're toast. You're probably the only one with yellow back at this point.

For suits where you have a lot of mids (12-5) you'd better be paying attention to how many of the color gets played, or control will get dumped on you.
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