White River Junction
t is amazing how many card games exist. For years we have been playing an assortment of card games using various trick-taking mechanisms. Some meet the mark and some don't. What's even more amazing is that Reiner Knizia continues to produce the number of quality card games that he does. This one hits the mark.
Essentially, the deck consists of seven (7) suits. Each suit is in a different color and contains eight cards (numbered 1-8). The deck is shuffled and players are each dealt nine cards. Five cards are then placed face up before all players and the rest of the deck is removed from the game. As is common with many Knizia games, players must make a decision of what to do on their turn. In this game players decide whether to "Swap" or "Knock".
Swapping allows the player to take one of the five face up cards and replace it with one of their cards. Their turn is over and it is now the player to the left's turn. Knocking is for a player that does not want to take or replace any cards from the face up deck and instead knocks once on the table. Their turn is over. The first knock means nothing; however, when the second knock occurs on the table, then the turn will end after each player gets one more turn "swapping" of "knocking".
Scoring is simple. Players that acquire 5 or plus cards of one color receive zero points. Likewise, players that receive 5 or plus cards of one number receive zero points too. The remaining card numbers appearing in the player's hand are scored once (i.e. a 1, 1, 1, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4 would be worth 1 + 3 = 4 points). One special rule: Players who have 5 cards one color AND 5 cards of one number (naturally, with one card sharing in each set) then the player declares "ZERO" and the round is over immediately and scoring is completed.
Players play as many hands as there are players, keeping a cumulative total and insuring rotation of the dealers.
We knew the game wasn't going to be easy when within the first round and on her second turn, Ellen managed to call "Zero" sticking most of us with lots of points. She managed to secure another "Zero" in the second turn we played too - almost guaranteeing her the victory. One observation was that, at least in the first game, very few people "knocked" even one time, but rather won by obtaining a "Zero" eventually. By the second game, this changed dramatically. Players realized the tactical advantage of "knocking" early in the round as a means of intimidating other players. That was used successfully on several occasions by Justin. Brian, however, stuck to low numbered groupings and was able to win based on the small number of points accumulated. A fun, filler game that we'll probably play often.