SAKURA in KYOTO 2018 Back to Kansai
I already had a copy of Bambus' Flaschenteufel (Bottle Devil) and had played it before. But at Essen 03, I talked to the designer Gunter Cornett and he very kindly handed me a copy of the new edition. Well that was 6 months ago, and I thought it would be nice to crack it open and have a look at the contents. Plus, Richard likes trick-taking games and this game has a neat twist.
And this edition is... superb! It's an excellent piece of work from a small publisher and if you like card games, grab a copy now. The game comes with German and English rules in one booklet, plus the original story from Robert Louis Stevenson in another booklet in German and English. The deck is a mix of lovely graphics and quotes from the stories in both languages, and the story runs from the low to the high numbers. The cards show coins, which are your scoring points, and the high cards have the most coins. You also get a stylish little wooden bottle and cards to show the colours and numbers in the deck as an aide.
The Bottle Imp story is one of horror! The imp is trapped in the bottle, and whoever owns it gets the treasures they desire, but if you die with it in your possession, YOU BURN IN HELL! The problem is, you can only sell it, and you can only sell it for less than you paid for it.
How does the story relate to the game? Well, the fact that Gunter came up with this game is just brilliant. The deck is numbered 1 to 36 in 3 colours. The Imp starts on the 19 card. Players play tricks, following the colour lead as possible, highest number wins anyway. Except when you play a card below the Bottle Imp's number. That trumps, wins you the trick, but also the Bottle. If you end the game with the Bottle, you score negative points, whilst the other players score positive.
But it's worse. When you trump, your winning card replaces the 19, meaning the threshold has dropped. So it's harder for other players to trump, but also harder for you to get rid of the bottle. But you have a chance. When more than one player trumps, the higher trump wins. So if you drop a 15, I can chuck my 1 out and dodge a bullet later on.
At the start of each hand, each player gives a hidden card to the Imp, which forms the negative trick the sucker with the bottle gets, and players also pass a card left and right.
Well, the first round went nicely, with me foolishly laying an 8 early, but Richard kindly picked it off me and let us dump our worst cards. He won a lot of tricks, but it was all for nought, as his soul went to Hades with the Bottle. But the next round went badly, as Richard had sussed the game, and laid card after card just under the Imp, then let me snag the Bottle before the end. Then the third round went even worse. I was ragging on Richard as the smoke of hell licked around him, the Imp making the bottle jiggle on the table. But he got the last laugh, as my final card in the round won me the bottle! Aaaaargh the flames the flames!
The scores went, Jon 21 Ian 28 Richard (13), then Jon 12, Ian 55, Richard 32 and finally Jon 3, Ian 70 and Richard 84. So Richard gained 39 then 52 points against Ian's 27 and 15. Ouch.
Well, I'm not great at trick-taking, and there's a touch of Hearts/Black Maria to this game , and it seems a bit difficult to actively lose the Bottle. But the way the game works, and the clever way it connects to the story is excellent and I strongly recommend card sharps nab a copy.