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Subject: Ender's Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: Tichu-lite (Crazy Clubs review) rss

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Ender Wiggins
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Introducing Crazy Clubs

Tichu needs little introduction on boardgamegeek, because it is a climbing partnership game for four players that has already proven very popular among gamers. If you're not familiar with it yet, you owe it to yourself to learn more about it, as well its its close cousin Haggis, which is suitable for 2-3 players. If you're not already familiar with Tichu or Haggis, it's highly likely that you have seen a game of Big Two or President being played with a regular deck of cards at some time or other. President is a climbing game that also goes by the name of Chairman, Kings and Asses, A**hole, Bum, and some other unsavoury names, and variations of the game have appeared commercially under names like The Great Dalmuti, Frank's Zoo, and Scum: The Food Chain Game. So it's an established and popular genre that's fun casually in social contexts (President), or when played more seriously with scope for skillful partnership play (Tichu).

Clubs is a newly released game that is being billed as a lite form of Tichu, and I think that's pretty much an accurate description. It offers more strategy and gameplay than President and the like, where the aim is little more than to have fun and try to improve your chair position. Yet it's much simpler than Tichu, and as such is the kind of game that can be played and enjoyed by non-gamers and families. It hits the sweet spot of being able to reach everyone, while offering enough to keep gamers satisfied. By cleverly bridging both the casual and the serious forms of the game, and helped with some good packaging and brilliant name choice with a compelling tag line, I think this game has real potential to go places and be a big hit in the mass market.

Crazy Clubs is a variant of Clubs that has its own BGG entry, and so it deserves a separate review - which is what I'll be doing in this article. Crazy Clubs is basically like Clubs, but with one small rule change that makes gameplay feel quite different, and arguably more fun and more like Tichu than the basic Clubs. Look for a more detailed review of Clubs here, but for now let's tell you more about Crazy Clubs!



Components

Crazy Clubs is included as part of the package that comes with Clubs, both games using the same set of components, with the rule change for Crazy Clubs being described in one of the two instruction booklets. Here's what you get:
● 60 game cards (4 suits of 15 cards each)
● 6 bonus cards
● 2 sets of instructions



Playing cards

There are 60 cards, which come in the four standard suits, albeit with a slightly different colour scheme. Each suit has cards valued 1 through 15. The Clubs have point values assigned to each card - you want to capture these to earn points.



Bonus cards

As well as scoring points from any captured clubs, you'll also get bonus points by going out first. These points are determined by the six bonus cards - the amount you'll use in a game depends on the number of players.



Instructions

To play Crazy Clubs, you'll need the instruction book for regular Clubs, along with the supplemental instruction book that explains how the rules for Crazy Clubs differ. Both sets of rules are available on BGG here and here.



Game-Play

Flow of Play

The basic concept of Clubs and Crazy Clubs is to win tricks that include point-scoring club cards, and to go out as quickly as possible to earn bonus points. The deck is shuffled and each player gets dealt 10 cards. The starting player leads a card or cards in one of two types: either an "of a kind" (e.g. 1 of a kind, 2 of a kind, 3 of a kind), or a "run" of consecutive cards (e.g. 1,2,3). The suits don't matter, and are only important when scoring points with the Club cards at the round end. In clockwise order, players have the opportunity to "beat" the current cards played by playing ones of higher value (e.g. if a run of two is played, you must beat it with a higher valued run of two), until everyone passes. The player who played the last cards wins the trick, collects all the cards (hopefully getting some points via the clubs!), and leads the next trick.

But now here's the twist introduced in Crazy Clubs, and old-timers to the climbing genre may find it somewhat reminiscent of the "bombs" in Haggis or Tichu. A 15 no longer automatically wins a trick as the highest card, because you can beat any "of a kind" by playing an "of a kind" with more cards; or any "run" by playing a "run" with more cards. So for example, a single 14 or 15 can be beaten with two 1s, or with any three of a kind; a run of 13,14 or 14,15 can be beaten by a longer run of 2,3,4 or 1,2,3,4.

To illustrate, here are some examples of how a trick might play out:



Scoring

When a player goes out, they get the highest scoring bonus card available on the table. At the end of a round, each player totals the clubs they've captured, and adds them to the bonus they've earned that round. Note that the last player to go out gets the "zero" and their clubs won't count for anything! First to 50 points is the winner. Most games last around 30 minutes.

Recommendation

Crazy Clubs came about when the designer was exploring various kinds of ways to play Clubs, and came up with two forms of the game that seemed equally excellent. You can read more of the background story in Dominic's designer diary. So why not just publish the game and include both, call one Clubs and the other Crazy Clubs, and let players figure out for themselves which they prefer? I think it's a good move. Mind you, I can see the rationale behind marketing the game with the regular Clubs version, rather than with Crazy Clubs, since the small additional rule change implemented by Crazy Clubs could be confusing for new players in the mass market. In that regard Clubs is slightly simpler than Crazy Clubs, and is the obvious place for first-timers to be introduced to the game as the entry point.

This makes Crazy Clubs a great next step, however, and it has proved to be an enormous amount of fun. We have played both forms of the game numerous times, and the overall response here was that the majority of players actually preferred Crazy Clubs over Clubs. Clubs has arguably slightly more control, and you can set up a series of plays by carefully calculating your hand, and there are going to be people who prefer that - possibly the careful card counters in Hearts and Spades might fall in this group. Both forms of the game have room for skill in that regard, although getting a bad hand is probably more painful in Clubs because you will rely on a careful series of plays, whereas in Crazy Clubs you will need to resign yourself to the unexpected on many occasions, even in the course of a single trick.

Crazy Clubs is simply more unpredictable than Clubs, since a 15 won't win a trick, so you never know when your high cards will be trumped. If they are high singles, which might win a trick in Clubs, they almost certainly will see someone play a two-of-a-kind to beat them in Crazy Clubs. This obvious result is that you have more options on your turn, and one immediate advantage of this increased flexibility of choice is that you won't feel quite as hamstrung by your cards. It also leads to more surprises, because there's slightly less control, and you never know what your opponents might do!

Also, because of the greater number of ways to beat out your opponents, tricks tended to go on longer in Crazy Clubs, and thus include more cards - making the point scoring with club cards potentially more lucrative. As a trick progresses, the stakes can go higher, and the level of excitement can rise.

For us at any rate, all this made Crazy Clubs turn out to be more fun - especially when combined with ample trash talking, bluffing and bluster. Do bring your poker face - you might need it! While Crazy Clubs feels slightly more casual and less calculating, it seems just right for the intended audience, and appropriate given what this game sets out to do. But both forms of the game are certainly excellent to play.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, both forms of Clubs have a good measure of skill as well as luck, and are best enjoyed somewhat casually. But the fun factor just seemed to be a notch higher with Crazy Clubs, and it will be interesting to see which form of the game people prefer over time. I can see that more serious and staid gamers might prefer the original Clubs, but that Crazy Clubs may well prove to be the version that is most enjoyed by casual players, despite having an initial hurdle to overcome for new players because of the additional rule. Either way, I think this game is set to become a big hit! Tichu fans won't want to miss a game they can introduce to non-gamers who are familiar only with classic card games, without having their friends' eyes glaze over due to complex rules, and yet a game that has enough going on to be fun for themselves as gamers too. Crazy Clubs may have crazy in its name, but make no mistake, this is top shelf stuff! Highly recommended.

NB: Check out my review of Clubs right here. And to find out whether people prefer Clubs or Crazy Clubs see this poll.



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mb The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596

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Luke Warren
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Re: Ender's Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: Tichu-lite
Ender,

Thanks for the fantastic review! I love Crazy Clubs too for all the reasons you mentioned.

I just wanted to point out that you mentioned in both the "Playing cards" and "Bonus cards" section you incorrectly state that you get points for spades. In the rest of the review you note correctly that you get points for clubs.

So in case anyone is confused, you get points for capturing clubs, not spades.

Cheers,
Luke
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The Soot Sprite
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Re: Ender's Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: Tichu-lite
Thanks for another great review, Ender. Clubs is definitely on the wishlist.

I'm curious to see what your 'regular' Clubs review will add to this one!
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Derek Stephenson
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Re: Ender's Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: Tichu-lite
Great Review! Had been eyeing this after the contest and just ordered it.
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Carl B
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Re: Ender's Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: Tichu-lite
Great review, thanks! I was wondering if you tried playing much with two players (Clubs and/or Crazy Clubs) and if so, how that was. Would you recommend it as a two-player game?
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The Soot Sprite
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Re: Ender's Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: Tichu-lite
CarlB wrote:
Would you recommend it as a two-player game?


I'd like to see some responses to this, too.
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Ender Wiggins
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Re: Ender's Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: Tichu-lite
CarlB wrote:
Great review, thanks! I was wondering if you tried playing much with two players (Clubs and/or Crazy Clubs) and if so, how that was. Would you recommend it as a two-player game?

I've played both forms of the game with two-players. The rulebook says "Crazy Clubs is especially good with 2-4 players, whereas Clubs shines with 4-6 players" and I'd have to agree with that assessment. Crazy Clubs is certainly the one to pick when playing with just two.

In the two player version of both games, the player who goes out first gets a five point bonus, while the other player still scores points for clubs won in tricks. As a result, scoring points with clubs becomes more important, and while you'll lose the five point bonus if you aren't first to go out, at least you'll still score some points.

When playing with just two players, however, you're only using 20 out of the 60 cards in the deck, so this means that the card draw becomes a more important factor in determining the outcome. There are more cards out of the game, so a "lucky" starting hand of multiple high cards can automatically become too strong in a two player game, at least when playing regular Clubs. With Crazy Clubs, however, you have more options, because a simple pair can beat those high singles. This increased flexibility helps keep things from being too unbalanced. Luck is still a stronger element than when playing with four players, but to compensate for that a round is over much more quickly, so you just deal another hand and hope for better cards the next time around.

So our preference for two players was definitely Crazy Clubs. And while Crazy Clubs is even more fun as a four player game, for a light and casual climbing game it still enjoyable enough as a two player game, and seems to work just fine. I've played a lot of Haggis as a two player game, and that obviously has a lot more going on and is more strategic. Crazy Clubs is attempting to be a much more casual game than Haggis, and as such succeeds reasonably well even with just two players.
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The Soot Sprite
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Re: Ender's Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: Tichu-lite
Thanks for the reply and for spelling out your reasoning.

And have some for the preemptive comparison to Haggis!
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Ender Wiggins
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Re: Ender's Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: Tichu-lite
lukewarren wrote:
I just wanted to point out that you mentioned in both the "Playing cards" and "Bonus cards" section you incorrectly state that you get points for spades. In the rest of the review you note correctly that you get points for clubs. So in case anyone is confused, you get points for capturing clubs, not spades.

Thanks for pointing out that blooper Luke. I don't know how I got that wrong in the write up, because we've certainly been playing it right. I appreciate the correction, and have edited the review accordingly.

For those that are interested, I've also just posted a longer review on the "regular" version of Clubs here:

Ender's Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: The Great Dalmuti on steroids, Tichu on a diet
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Carl B
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Re: Ender's Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: Tichu-lite
EndersGame wrote:
I've played both forms of the game with two-players. The rulebook says "Crazy Clubs is especially good with 2-4 players, whereas Clubs shines with 4-6 players" and I'd have to agree with that assessment. Crazy Clubs is certainly the one to pick when playing with just two.


Thanks for the detailed response! These days I try to pick games that will work for 2 players, so I can play them with my wife. Up to 6 players means I can bring it to my weekly gaming group as well.
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Ender Wiggins
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Just pointing out that the BGG powers-that-be have merged Clubs with Crazy Clubs. As a result, Crazy Clubs is no longer listed as a separate item in the BGG database, as was stated in the review. Hopefully this change won't cause too much confusion, but I suppose it probably makes sense.
 
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Dominic Crapuchettes
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North Star Games designs party games that don't suck! Play them with your non-gamer friends over the holidays.
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First there was Hearts, then there was Spades, and now we bring you Clubs. The suit of clubs finally gets some respect!
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2097 wrote:
That's too bad.


Definitely too bad for us. We're still trying to figure out which rules are liked best. Now it'll take us an extra 5 years to have enough data to figure it out.

soblue
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Ender Wiggins
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domcrap wrote:
Definitely too bad for us. We're still trying to figure out which rules are liked best. Now it'll take us an extra 5 years to have enough data to figure it out.

It's not much, but in the poll that I set up for this purpose, regular Clubs has 33% of the vote and Crazy Clubs has 60% of the vote, while just over 5% like them equally. That's from only 30 votes, mind you, so it's limited data to work with. Hopefully more people will vote over time.

Even so, it does already indicate two things: 1. It's polarizing, and most people prefer one form of the game over the other, rather than like them equally. 2. Crazy Clubs is the early leader by a significant margin.
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