Preorder One Night Ultimate Werewolf now from www.beziergames.com
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
Intro & Background
Let me get something out there right away: Stich-Meister was probably the hardest game to get to the table of all of the loot I brought back from Essen 2010. Even though it’s a relatively short game (and pretty simple in terms of rules), there was a huge hurdle to overcome: There were no English rules available for a long time, and there’s a TON of german text on the cards (about 40 of them). After almost a year of having Stich-Meister taunt me from my gameshelves, I got it to the table. Big thanks to Rick Heli for providing the translation at his spotlight on games site (http://spotlightongames.com/rules/stichmeister.html).
In order to play, not only do you need an English copy of the rules, but you also need a English cheat sheet that lists all of the cards with text on them, telling you what the card actually says in English. And you have to refer to that list constantly throughout the game. This is of course not unprecedented (anyone who played Agricola in November of 2007 had this same issue), but it’s certainly not welcome.
The name of the game translates fairly clearly to “Trick Master” which is a little Euro-y for my tastes, but I get it: the idea is that this is the end-all to trick-taking games, and it succeeds on that level.
At it’s heart, Stich-Meister is a basic trick taking game: There are four suits with cards numbers 1-15 in each suit, and all of them are dealt to the 3, 4 or 5 players in the game. The color led by the first to play must be followed if you have any cards of that suit. The highest card of the led suit wins. If there is a trump, the highest trump card wins the suit. At the end of the hand, everyone counts their tricks and gets 1 point per trick. After a number of hands equal to the number of players, you total your points and the player with the most wins. Simple. If you’ve played any trick taking game before you’ll be right at home with the basics. I like that.
But there’s a twist (you knew that was coming, right?). After receiving your hand of cards, each player also plays a “rule” card that will modify the game in some way for that hand. On our first play, there were groans of “Fluxx the trick taking game” and “this is so random.” By the time we finished our fourth game, no one was making those comments; we had learned that the game is much much better than that first impression.
Each player has three rule cards in their hand, and must choose one of them to play. Because there are always four rules in play, with three players you choose a rule from the deck, while with 5 players the player to the left of the dealer does not play a rule card.
There are three different kinds of rule cards:
Trump: These rules change the trump. The trump can be one of the four suits, or it can be a number. There can be several trumps in a hand. If there are more than one trump in a hand, they are prioritized by the numbers on the rule cards (numbers are always higher in priority than colors). So you could have 5’s and Blue, where the highest trump card would be a blue 5, followed by the other three 5’s, followed by the Blue cards.
Basic Rules: These rule cards change gameplay. For instance, they might require that you play only the first card face up, or when a trick is taken it is given to the player to your left, or maybe if you can’t follow the led suit, you must play trump if you have it. When reading this (and perusing the rules list) initially, this is where most people make the leap to Fluxx, which is unfortunate. Unless you like Fluxx. Regardless, while it seems random and chaotic, it’s really not, as an active player has chosen any of these rules in play.
Scoring Rules: These rules are for changing the value of tricks (and cards) when scoring a round. As previously stated, each taken trick is normally worth 1 point. These rules modify that in some way. For instance, instead of one point per trick, each trick might be worth the number of different suits in that trick. Or a trick with no face cards (11-14) is doubled. Or each “7” is worth an additional 3 points.
Stich-Meister comes in the great little Amigo box (the same as Wizard, Tichu, 6 Nimmt, No Thanks, etc.). There are 120 cards in the box, 60 of them the playing cards and 60 of them the rule cards.
The Playing cards have four suits: Koy, Gate, Fan and Coin. Cards numbers 11-14 are face cards.
The Rule cards are divided into 21 Trump, 19 Basic, and 20 Scoring cards.
The backs of the Playing and Rule cards are both purple, and can easily be mistaken for each other when it comes time to shuffle and deal prior to the next round. That’s unfortunate, and during the games we played there was at least one time where we dealed out a few rule cards in the playing card deck (though it was easily resolved).
The rules, as stated above, are in German, so you’ll probably need to print out the English rules for reference.
Because the rule cards are in German, you’ll need to print out a list of the rule cards and have that list handy throughout the game. Because each hand is different, and there are four different rules per hand, it’s easy to forget one or more of the rules, and this will require looking at the sheet again and again throughout the hand. I’m planning on making my own English set of rule cards to play with.
The card quality in my set was actually quite poor. Each of the playing cards had a 1/2” band of smudged area along one side, which was quite noticeable. It didn’t interfere with gameplay, but it was unpleasant and slightly distracting. The decline of the quality from both Cartamundi and LudoFact continues to be evident in recent releases, which still surprises me: the quality of Chinese manufacturers is now often better than those premiere German firms...why are they letting this happen?
Optimal number of players: 4
We played Stich-Meister with both 4 and 5 players (but not 3), and it was very good with both numbers. Because everyone gets to play a rule card with the four player version, and since it’s slightly faster (four rounds instead of five), I’d lean towards four as being optimal. My guess is that 3 players is still good, but with the introduction of a random rule card (for the fourth rule), it takes a little more control out of the players’ hands.
With 5 players, the game lasted about an hour with reasonably fast play and no particular A/Pers. With 4 it was about 45 minutes. Theoretically the game should always be the same length, because with three players you play three hands of 20 cards (60 tricks), with four players you play four hands of 15 cards (60 tricks), and with 5 players you play five hands of 12 cards (60 tricks), but the additional time it takes for the extra player to play, as well as the additional time it takes to shuffle, deal, and play (and understand) rule cards, each player probably adds about 15 minutes to the game.
With a game that has constantly changing rules, can there really be a strategy? The answer is yes. Because you always choose which rule cards to play after you know your playing cards for that hand, you definitely have some control. Now, it’s certainly possible that other rule cards will thwart your efforts, but you can make intelligent choices that more often than not will benefit you more than your opponents.
Rating and Summary
I really like trick taking games. I’ve played dozens of them, and have played games like Wizard hundreds of times. The variety of each hand is very compelling here, and the number of combinations is staggering (I think it’s 60*59*58*57 which would equal just under 12 million, but someone with better math skills than me can correct me).
Once I have my homemade “english” deck done I’m looking forward to seeing how well the game works and how much faster it plays. Right now the constant looking up of the rules is annoying and slows things down. And the rule combinations can sometimes make your head hurt....but in a good way.
I’m kicking myself for not playing this sooner, but now I’m looking forward to Stich-Meister being inserted into our regular rotation of card games.
- Last edited Tue Sep 13, 2011 7:46 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Tue Sep 13, 2011 7:04 pm
One of Alabama 3's finest songs, especially the versions on the single this image is from...
Sweet Pretty M*th*rf*ck*ng Country Acid House Music - All night long!
It's a good and interesting game, but you can't take it very seriously.
The level and distribution of scoring can vary so much between rounds that the game is often better treated as a series of disconnected exercises in trick-taking/climbing flexibility and skill, rather than a serious game where everyone has a fair chance of winning.
For that purpose, it makes a good (if longish) filler for those who are experienced (jaded) trick-taking/climbing game players. We often find ourselves deliberately choosing rules to push the game into weird places and shapes, just to see how it'll play out.
While a full-English version would be simpler, after a couple games, the rule card cheat-sheets become second nature, and don't present any real issues, or slow things down.
- Last edited Tue Sep 13, 2011 11:22 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Tue Sep 13, 2011 11:20 pm
The variable scores between hands is an issue easily solved by giving 4-2-1-0 points for first through fourth places each hand in a four player game.
Do not shed tears over throws of the past, roll again!
Click here for free games.
Thanks for the review, I'm picking this one up next week and looking forward to trying it out.
Random question: do you know what size card sleeves I'll need? I want to print out the English rule card rules and stick them in the sleeves with the original cards.
The card quality in my set was actually quite poor. Each of the playing cards had a 1/2” band of smudged area along one side, which was quite noticeable. It didn’t interfere with gameplay, but it was unpleasant and slightly distracting. The decline of the quality from both Cartamundi and LudoFact continues to be evident in recent releases, which still surprises me: the quality of Chinese manufacturers is now often better
than those premiere German firms...why are they letting this happen?
I received my set today and it hat the same "smudges". I checked again and found that the smudging es EXACTLY the same on all the cards, including the back. Also, the numbers and symbols in the corners are on top of the smudge, covering it up. Additionally, the same smudge is visible on all the playing cards in the rules as well, and also on the cards depicted on the rules cards, to which there can only be one reasonable answer: It is not a smudge of dirt, but part of the artwork of the card background, trying to give the cards a bit of a "papyrus" look. Cartamundi's reputation stands tall. ;-)
- Last edited Tue May 12, 2015 1:50 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Tue May 12, 2015 1:47 pm