All of my reviews aim to offer a brief overview that allows people to get a good feel for what the game may offer them. I feel that other reviews can be sought if detailed game mechanics is what you are after.
In Xactika, SET Enterprises has taken the concepts found in Wizard and extended them to a higher level that is really designed to push higher teens and adults. The standard deck of cards is replaced with a deck of 81 cards that have a value ranging from 4 to 12. Each card also has a number of shapes in the form of balls, cones, stars and cubes (and these can differ – 2 balls and 3 stars for example). The total number of shapes determines the numerical value of the card.
Each player is dealt 8 cards per hand and the game ends after the 8th hand with the highest score winning. After the cards are dealt each player must declare how many tricks they will take, ‘ala’ Wizard. The difference though is that the dealer (who declares last) cannot select a number of tricks that brings the total number of tricks around the table to 8. In this way it is impossible for all players to secure the number of tricks they declare.
This will become an increasingly important consideration, as players will need to secure and lose the lead at certain points during each hand to avoid securing too few or too many tricks. When a card is lead by a player they must state one of the shape combinations on the card – for example 1 star or 2 cubes. This sets the trump for the trick. Other players must play a card with that shape combination if possible. If they can and the numerical value of the card is higher than any other card played they will win the trick and can lead the next card.
Because only 1 shape combo is used to determine the trump suit of the trick, it is easy to think that the other shapes have no bearing. But of course they will, as the more shapes on the card the higher the cards value, which is important in beating another player’s card to win the trick.
Scoring is simplified to allow the game to flow quickly. One point is awarded for each trick if the stated number of tricks was taken. One point is subtracted for each trick above or below the stated number if this was unachieved.
The Final Word
Xactika is a neat little game that will appeal to most traditional card players out there. The combination of shapes and numbers within the deck will have players mentally calculating their odds of pulling certain tricks each hand and they offer players a multitude of decisions each turn. Xactika takes a little longer to grasp than the other games in the SET Enterprises series but once understood it should be a fulfilling game experience for many.
Quick correction: The ranks of the cards go from 4 to 12, not 5 to 10 as the reviewer states. As I recall, there are one 4 (one of each symbol), one 12 (three of each symbol) and four 11's (each with two of one symbol and three of the others).