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Svarog's Den - Board Games

BGG.Spring Report II: Kards with Ken — Perfect Numbers, ReCURRRing, Robotrick, and Bag of Chips

by W. Eric Martin

• Let’s follow my first report from BGG.Spring 2023 with several games that I did enjoy, starting with Perfect Numbers, a card game from Lars Jansen and Jolly Dutch Productions that I’ve heard no one talk about since its release at SPIEL ’22, where my friend Ken Shoda talked it up.

By chance, Ken was at BGG.Spring, and Perfect Numbers was one of four card games that he had brought with him from Japan, so apparently he thought highly of it! We played once with three players, then again with two, and I can understand why he likes it so much.

The deck consists of cards numbered 2-7 in five colors, along with one joker of each value and special action cards. Start a round by dealing a row of three cards, two rows of two cards, and a row of one card. The first player drafts a row, then everyone else does in turn, with players getting more than one row in a game with two or three players…something you don’t necessarily want!

When you take cards, if you get cards of a color you already have, you must add them to your existing rows, starting with the low numbers first. If the number you add matches the number of cards in your personal row — the perfect number! — you may score that row, with each card being worth 1 point. If the number is larger than the number of cards, you just add; if it’s smaller, you must discard cards from that row equal to the number, so placing a green 3 on my pile above would force me to discard everything but the green 2.

If you get a color you don’t have, you can start a row with it, but you can have at most four rows. If all your rows are occupied, you can ditch a color to start a new row or give away that new color to another player who already has this color — and if you would place the perfect number on their row, you score those points instead of them! Similarly, if you place a low number, they have to discard cards, but you score them!

So Perfect Numbers is a “take that”, set-collection card game in which you have to consider (almost) every choice you make to determine whether an opponent can hurt you later with the card you leave behind, especially in the two-player game when you each take two rows. We discarded way more cards in our 2p game!

I’m glossing over a few elements above, such as you scoring additional cards from the deck if your perfect number is 5-7, which gives you an incentive not to score a perfect number of 2-4. Ideally you can count cards to know what’s not left in the deck, but I don’t think that’s essential.

• Another game Ken had in his bag was ReCURRRing, a shedding card game from Saien that I covered in writing and in video in 2017. ReCURRRing is, to a degree, SCOUT three years prior to SCOUT, and it’s a shame that ReCURRRing has never been licensed outside of Japan.

The game lasts three rounds, and your goal is to score the most points. The deck is modified based on player count (3-5), with the five-player game having one 1, two 2s, etc. up to nine 9s and either ten or fifteen Rs, with R being higher than a 9.

Deal the deck, then whoever has the 1 starts by leading any single card. The next player can pass and exit the round, or play a single better card — with lower values being better — or any pair; if they beat the initial play, they take that card into their hand…and that’s where things get tricky.

My starting hand

If the lead player plays a 6 and you’re next, do you want that 6? If you play a 5 to beat the 6, but you have no 6s, then you’ve worsened your hand (exchanging a better card for a worse one), but you’re still in the round. If you do have 6s, then you now have a larger group of 6s…which is not always a good thing because you can overplay someone by at most one card. If I need to beat a pair of 4s, I can play a pair of 2s or 3s or any three-of-a-kind, whether Rs or better, but I can’t play four 6s. I would have to break up the 6s, stranding one of them.

And if you pass, then you’re out of the round and can’t change your hand, whereas other players might be overplaying and molding their hand into larger groups.

Cards exit the game only after all players but one have passed. The person who played those cards places them face up on the table before them, then leads any single card to start the new round. When someone empties their hand, they place the cards they beat face down in front of themselves, and if their cards hold, they place those cards in front of themselves; otherwise, the player who last plays scores their cards.

At round’s end, every card in front of you is worth 1 point, except for Rs, which are worth 0 points — unless you were the first to empty your hand, in which case Rs are also worth 1 point each.

A great third round, landing me in second place

Like SCOUT and to some degree Abluxxen, ReCURRRing is all about crafting your hand into something better than what you started, ideally earning points through smart plays. If possible, you want to track who is picking up which cards so that you know who can play over you and when to strike with a large set since you (sort of) worsen your hand with every play that doesn’t hold. The Rs are numerous, but they’re worthless unless you go out first, so their power is somewhat balanced, although a large R set can let you grab a slightly less large non-R set, which you can perhaps score later.

You can tell from the wear on the box how much Ken loves ReCURRRing. Perhaps some day it will be widely available outside of Japan for others to discover…

• In addition to something old-ish, Ken had Robotrick, a three-player-only trick-taking game from designer Domi (ドミッチ) and publisher The Game Gallery Works.

Every trick-taking game needs a twist, and Robotrick’s twist is two-fold: A robot is the fourth player in the game. It sits between two players, is dealt a face-up hand of twelve cards just like the people, and plays cards according to a randomly dealt directive, such as these:

Four of the ten directives

The robot leads the first trick, so if it were controlled by the directive in the upper left, it would play its highest card, with ties being broken in favor of the short suit, with card color being the second tie-breaker: A > B > C > D. If on a later trick you lead blue, the robot will follow with its lowest blue; lacking blue, it will play its lowest card from its longest suit.

The second twist comes from the scoring. If the robot wins the trick, each player keeps their card face down as negative points, with cards being worth 1-15 points. (The deck is a standard four-color deck from 1-13. One card is revealed as trump, and three cards remain hidden out of play.) If you win a trick, you keep the robot’s card as positive points — except that any card you win after the third is flipped face down as negative points.

Starting hand, and the robot has five red, which is trump…oh, boy

So you want to win tricks, but not too much, and you don’t want opponents to win tricks, but if they’re not and you’re not, then the robot is, which will hurt you.

I did horribly, playing the wrong card (which I found out only later), winning the wrong tricks, and messing up in thinking about what the robot will play next, although since the robot has to follow suit, sometimes you’re thinking that the robot will lead X, but by the time it does lead, its rules now force it to play Y. After only one game’s experience, I’m still clueless about how to play well, even when it comes to passing two cards before the round starts, as demonstrated in the image below:

After the pass I have the four highest trump and six total; I’m going to eat so many cards!

Anyway, I’m glad to have played, and Ken gave me the copy to take home, so I’ll get to try again on two new unsuspecting players.

• During the flea market, Ken and I were suggesting various games that the other might not know about or have access to, and Ken had the additional restriction of needing tiny games since he had little luggage space. When I found Bag of Chips, a game from Mathieu Aubert, Théo Rivière, and Mixlore, I knew it was an ideal choice: small, card-based, and not available in Japan. (Whoops, that last detail was incorrect. See image at right.)

Each round in Bag of Chips, you start with a hand of six cards, draw five colored chips from the bag, discard two cards, draw four more chips, discard another card, draw three chips, then allocate your cards, with two of them scoring you positive points if their condition is met and the third scoring you negative points. To end the round, draw a chip, then draw one last chip, then see what you score. The two highest scorers win tokens, and whoever first collects four tokens wins the game.

The game has a great press-your-luck element, with you weighing the odds of which cards might score based on the chips revealed — 14 total out of 25 in the bag — while knowing that one of those cards could count against you. Maybe you have the card that’s worth 180 points if six onion chips are drawn. With early onions, you’ll probably want to hold it — but you might also want to hold it if no onions come out since it wouldn’t cost you any points as a negative card if the condition isn’t met.

I covered Bag of Chips in detail in 2021, and the game remains a winner.

BGG admin Stephen Cordell, who works on the library and convention previews, and Ken


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