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Svarog's Den - Board Games

Organize Legendary Humans, and Beat a Card-Playing Robot

by W. Eric Martin

• In 2024, German publisher Drei Hasen in der Abendsonne will release Legenden toppen!, the fourth title in its “toppen” series by designer Matthias Jünemann.

The series started in 2016 with Länder toppen!, a card game in which players compete in twelve(!) tricks at the same time each round. Here’s how this works:

Each player gets a hand of country cards that list numerical values for six categories: area, highest peak, average temperature, number of inhabitants, life expectancy, and average GDP per capita. At the start of the round, you assign each card in your hand — which includes blank cards that bring your hand total to twelve cards — face down to either the high or low position in each category, e.g. Canada goes into the largest area position, and Paraguay into the smallest area.

Once all cards are assigned, you reveal the cards in each of the twelve spots one by one. Whoever played the highest (or lowest) number in a category wins the cards in the trick, then places at least one of those cards in a face-down scoring pile and at least one card face up in pile showing cards from the same continent.

After four rounds, whoever has the most cards in a continent scores as many points as the number of cards they played, whereas everyone else scores no points for this continent. In addition, every card in your face-down pile is worth 1 point. Whoever has the highest total score wins.

I’ve played Länder toppen! only once, but it’s a fascinating combination of memory and trivia that drives a trick-taking game, although you could definitely play without ever thinking of it as a trick-taking game, opening the potential audience to a wide scope of players.

• In 2024, Drei Hasen will also release Allegra Grande, which it describes as a variant on the public domain card game Golf.

It seems that everyone has a Golf-based card game on the market these days, and Drei Hasen already released the Golf-based card game Allegra from designer Bella Lucca in 2020, but it’s not clear right now how the new title distinguishes itself from others aside from each player having a card display of either sixteen or twenty cards, thereby giving you a larger starting ground that you must reduce.

• French publisher Explor8 will release a French/German edition of Domi‘s three-player-only trick-taking game Robotrick in April 2024, with copies first being available at the FIJ game fair in Cannes in late February.

The gist of the game is that a robot has joined you at the table and will play cards from its face-up hand based on a public algorithm, one of several in the box. The first three tricks you collect in a round earn you points, whereas you lose points for any subsequent tricks won — and while this may tempt you to dodge tricks for the remainder of the round, whenever the robot wins a trick, you also lose points!

For a more detailed overview, check out my write-up from May 2023.

• Japanese publisher Oink Games says that the U.S. retail chain Target will start carrying Kei Kajino‘s card game SCOUT as of February 18, 2024, which seems like a huge win for a small game that could have been lost amidst everything else released in 2019.

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