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Svarog's Den - Board Games

Play Tricks at SPIEL ’23 to Win Hamsters, Cage Badgers, Score Fruit, and Zing an Opponent

by W. Eric Martin

While working on the SPIEL ’23 Preview, I tend to add games to the list without putting too much thought into whether I’d want to play them or not…except when the title is a card game, in which case I almost always want to play it. Here are four games that caught my eye in this manner:

Fruitoplay is a trick-taking game with simultaneous card selection for 2-6 players from designers Romaric Galonnier and Luc Rémond and publisher Explor8, and while some might reject the concept of merging “trick-taking” with “simultaneous card selection”, I just move on to the details to see what we’re doing in the game:

Fruitoplay is played over three rounds, with each round lasting seven turns.

At the start of the round, create a river of seven “target fruit” cards that correspond to the seven turns. On a turn, each player considers the current target fruit card, then chooses and plays a fruit card at the same time. Whoever plays a card of the same color with the smallest difference from the target fruit wins the trick. (If no played cards are of the same color as the target card, the card closest in value to the target card wins it. If cards are tied for closest, ignore them.)

After seven turns, you add your remaining cards in hand to your collection, separating the types of fruit, then you score points by multiplying the value of the column with the most fruit by the value of the column with the fewest fruit. If you have only one column, then you multiply that value by itself…so you don’t necessarily want to win cards!

After three rounds, the player with the highest score wins.

• A somewhat similar lack of control awaits in Zing-a-Zam, a 2-5 player trick-taking game for ages 6+ from Adam Porter and Brain Games.

To set up, each player shuffles the eight numbered cards on one animal, then holds them facing the other players, then turns one card of their choice toward themselves. On a turn, a player chooses one card from their hand, whether facing in or out, then plays it face up on the table, carrying out the effect of their card. For example, playing the 3 lets you turn another card in your hand toward yourself, the 4 has you draw a card from the separate “cat companion” deck and place it in your hand facing you, the 6 lets you choose the card the next player must play, and the 5 lets you use a power already played.

Whoever plays the highest card in a trick wins all the played cards, with a later played card beating an earlier one. However, if an 8 would win the trick, a played 1 will win instead! (A played 2 takes a captured card from the player of your choice.)

Whenever a player runs out of cards, the game ends, and whoever has collected the most cards wins. If you wish, play multiple rounds and keep track of scores over time.

Tricky Badger from Alexander Kneepkens of Jolly Dutch Productions feels like a cross between the two games above, with players trying to collect (or avoid!) cards in a row with special powers sometimes firing off.

Here’s an overview of this 3-5 player game:

Deep in the European forests you can still find the endangered wild European hamster. You have been hired to conserve these hamsters and keep them safe from their natural predator: the badger.

Tricky Badger is a set-collection, trick-taking card game. The game lasts five rounds, and each player starts the round with a hand of nine cards, with pink always being trump. Ten collection cards are placed face up from the deck.

At the start of each trick, the active player (a position that rotates) chooses a collection card that the winner of the trick will add to their collection; each collection card has an arrow to indicate whether the highest or lowest card in the trick will win. The active player leads a card, and players must follow this color, if possible. Some cards trample others, and a trampled card is removed from consideration in the trick. If a trump is played in the trick, then the highest or lowest non-trampled trump wins the trick; otherwise the highest or lowest non-trampled card of the suit led wins the trick.

After nine tricks, the round ends. Discard the remaining collection card, deal out nine cards to each player, and lay out ten new collection cards.

After five rounds, players score points for their collection cards, which can be independent or connected to other cards. Every female hamster and every male hamster is worth 1 point, for example, but a female and male hamster that are connected are worth 3 points. Get a second male hamster, however, and they fight, eliminating all of your hamsters. Similarly, a 3-point badger in your collection will eat all hamsters present unless you connect it with a bone to slake its hunger. You can feed wheat and weevils to hamsters to earn bonus points, but weevils on their own will eat your wheat. Magpies can steal cards from opponents, but cages and buckets can protect your animals from theft.

Whoever ends up with the most points wins.

Western Legends: Showdown is a two-player-only trick-taking game from Erwann Ricord and Kolossal Games that’s set in the same universe as the Western Legends board game, but packaged in a wallet format because it’s far smaller than that earlier game.

Gameplay details are minimal on the BGG page, and I missed seeing it at Gen Con 2023, so this is all I can offer for now:

In Western Legends: Showdown, two players compete to seize control over a typical far west town.

At the beginning of the game, select three locations from the seven available; each location defines how players can win a trick and gain the cards that are put on this location. Played cards have special powers, so analyze the cards of your opponent and lay traps to gain the upper hand.


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