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Subject: Very unique trick-taking game rss

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Carlos Robledo
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Atlanta
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Overview

I went to a friend's game night last Saturday and got to experience this very fun cards game. Null and Void (Null & Nichtig) is a very simple game in essence and at first gives the impression of not having a lot of strategy and being all luck. But after a few rounds you can tell that having a sound strategy is the only way to win. It is somewhat of a trick-taking game, but its not played in pairs or anything like that.

What you get in the box



Like many other card games, the box contains... a deck of cards, a rules insert, and a score pad! The deck contains cards from 0-11 in 5 different suits, with duplicate zeros in all suits (so 12 cards per suit). Nothing distinguishes one suit from another other than color, so colorblind gamers beware! Other than that, the card stock is standard Amigo quality and the rulebook is pretty simple (though in German).

Setup and Gameplay

In a 5 player game, cards are shuffled and the deck is dealt out to all players. With less players, there will be a few cards left out (making card-counting harder). Then each player chooses 3 cards to play as their "starting score piles" and the player to the left of the dealer starts leading the first trick. WE will assume for this explanation that it is a 5 player game.

Tricks are played normally, the leading player playing one card and then the player to their left plays their card and so on, until all players played a card. Whoever played the HIGHEST number of any suit wins the trick. Ties go to the player who played the tied number first. Now here is where it gets interesting.

The player who won the trick collects the card they played FIRST, and adds it to the top of their score pile of that particular suit. Then they take the card from the player on their left and add it to the top of the score pile of that color, and he continues to do so around the table clock-wise. This means that some higher value cards may be replaced with lower value ones! The player who won the trick then leads the next.

When all players have emptied their hands, the round is over and points are scored. All players score the top card of every suit collected.

For example, your initial score piles are:
Red-3
Blue-8
Yellow-2

You win the first trick of the game with a Green-11, and the next cards clockwise are Red-2, Yellow-8, Red-6, Purple-0 and Blue-0. You pick the cards up in order, producing the following score pile:

Green-11 (first green card collected)
Red-6 (your 3 got replaced by the Red-2, but afterward it got replaced again by the Red-6)
Blue-0 (8 got replaced)
Yellow-8 (2 got replaced)
Purple-0 (first purple card collected)

If you did not win another trick the whole round, your final score would be 25 points (sum of all 5 cards at the top of the piles).

Impressions

Here are some of my impressions:

1. For a concept so simple, it was hard to teach. Some of the players didn't seem to get it outright and needed to play a practice round in order to grasp the concept. I think it is because it doesn't follow common rules in trick-taking games (likes suits don't matter while playing the trick, only scoring and; no trump suit).

2. There is a high chance of player collusion and king making. If you see the person in first place taking a trick, people can load his piles with zeros easily.

3. There is a chance to play the avoidance game. If your initial hand is 3x elevens and a bunch of low cards (or something close to this), you can play the elevens as your initial piles and never win a trick getting you 33 points, which was actually the highest score anyone got in any rounds (this was done by normal means, not the play described above).

4. As stated above, hard to play for colorblind people without some modifications from our pal Sharpie.

End of the day, it is a great game, fun to play and relatively quick (you can play as many rounds as you like, though the rules suggest 5). For fans of trick-taking games, this is one of those hard-to-get gems.
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