Editor’s Note: My full review of Elefant will be published shortly. What follows is an abbreviated version.
The literal translation of this Michael Schacht card game would be “The Elephant in a Porcelain shop”. Clearly, in English, the corresponding phrase would be “Bull in a China shop”, which has the meaning of bumbling around and making a mess of things. Surprisingly, the theme isn’t a complete stretch, as it is woven into the mechanics, albeit a bit loosely.
The basic idea of the game is to collect china and avoid having elephants destroy your most valuable pieces. The problem is that players cannot completely avoid elephants, so they must accept the fact that some of collection will be destroyed on a regular basis. The idea is to properly time the taking of elephants so as to minimize the damage to your collection. This is FAR easier said than done!
A player’s turn is quite simple: take a china card, take an elephant card, or use his “push” card to pass.
Take a china card. The player takes one of the face-up china cards and adds it to his face-up cards, sorted by suit. He must pay one gold card to take a china card. If a player has two gold cards, he MUST take a china card.
Take an elephant card. The player takes one of the face-up elephant cards. These cards will depict one or more elephants, either colored to match one of the suits or neutral gray. The player must discard china cards matching the number and color of the elephants. As compensation, a player takes one gold card from supply.
Push. Once per game, the player may play his “push” card and pass. This passes the round to the next player. This can be an extremely valuable tactic when there are only extremely harmful elephant cards available to take. However, since the card can only be used once per game, deciding when to use it is a tough decision.
An important aspect of the game is that the line of china and elephant cards is not replenished each player turn. Rather, they are only replaced once all five have been taken. So, an undesirable elephant card may still be there when your turn comes around again. Sometimes it is better to suffer the pain now, hoping the cards will be replaced by the time your turn comes around again. Further, since each player’s money cards are public knowledge, you can sometimes accurately judge whether opponents will be forced to take elephant or china cards. This can certainly affect your decisions.
There are four scoring cards in the china deck, one appearing after every ten china cards have been taken. When they appear, players must make a choice on how to score the china cards they possess. They must score one of the following four categories:
• The smallest card in each suit
• The highest card in each suit
• All cards of one suit
• All cards
A player must score a different category each time a scoring card surfaces. Choosing which one to score can be a difficult choice.
There is no denying that the game has a considerable amount of randomness to it. Further, on many turns, a player’s options are limited, and choices are easy. Still, there are enough turns wherein choices are difficult to keep the game interesting. I also enjoy the scoring choices a player must make, and players can plan their choices accordingly.
Elefant likely won’t set the gaming world afire, but it makes for a fun filler and a good selection when gaming in a family environment.
Rhonda had an uncanny knack for taking elephant cards that didn’t affect her. She also scored an amazing 32 points in the “All” category on the final turn to capture the win.
Finals: Rhonda 80, Kevin 69, Greg 68, Gail 55
Ratings: Gail 7, Kevin 7, Rhonda 6.5, Greg 6.5