The latest issue of Spielbox magazine arrived in my mailbox a few days ago. Its cover proclaimed this to be the 20-year anniversary of 6 nimmt!
The article about this auspicious birthday was something of a two-page trip down memory lane for Joe Nikisch and Uwe Mölter. This history lesson was interesting enough for a casual read. It was not the exploration of its mechanisms and influence I’d hoped for.
To be clear, Nikisch does discuss mechanisms and impact in his article, just not in great detail. Let’s say a bit more about this landmark game.
6 Nimmt! is remarkably elegant. The rules at their core are extremely straightforward–Horns are points and points are bad. Play a card simultaneously and resolve them in ascending order. Each card goes to the pile it is most closely over. The 6th card takes the pile it lands in but stays behind. There is only one “fringe rule;” a card too low for any pile takes a pile of your choice and stays in its place. Quick, clean rules like these favor such quick-playing games and are ideal for sharing our hobby with non-gaming family or friends.
Like Hearts or Golf, 6 nimmt! players win by avoiding penalties rather than by gaining points. Having worked on a few games of this type, I can tell they are darned tricky to balance. Kramer found that balance in the places he chose to dole out the penalties. Every card is worth at least one penalty point but cards ending in 5 have two points, cards ending in 0 have three points and multiples of 11 have five. The 55 card, being both a card ending in 5 and a multiple of 11 is singularly nasty–it carries seven penalty points! This spread is more than sufficient to keep players watching every pile and its potential penalties.
One element the Spielbox article did focus on was the game’s approach to simultaneous play. Players in 6 nimmt! choose a card to play simultaneously but execute the cards in increasing order. According to the article, this two-stage version of simultaneous play was completely revolutionary at the time. There is a unique tempo as you alternate between first attempting to read your opponents and second watch the results of your decision play out.
Because play is simultaneous, some of its detractors will assert that you can simply play a random card each round to get a similar effect. This argument has been put up against a large number of simultaneous play games, including my own Nobody But Us Chickens. The Spielbox article defends this approach as a valid method of play. I cannot be so charitable. While playing cards at random misses the spirit of the game. Getting a good read on your opponents, spotting a good spot to drop a bad card, these elements are essential to fully experiencing 6 Nimmt! To play otherwise is to deny yourself a great gaming experience.
On the other hand, 6 nimmt! does fall short in scaling. The game with 3-5 players is tense and strategic but as additional players are added, the game grows increasingly chaotic and if the maximum 10 players are participating, it does begin to feel as random as its detractors insist.
Many simultaneous-play games stand on the shoulders of the 6 Nimmt! giant. Games like Die Glücksritter–which alternate between simultaneous and ordered play are doubly indebted. If you have any plan to design a simultaneous play game, 6 nimmt! is a must-play. Through its simplicity, Wolfgang Kramer shows how powerful a single, cleanly executed, mechanism can be.
In Local News…
Comicpalooza started as a small but ambitious comic con here in Houston. It has since exploded into a huge con for all of geekdom–comics, sci-fi, fantasy, gaming. My design partner Luther Bell Hendricks and I will be demoing Sentinel Tactics throughout the weekend. I will also be participating in several panel talks. If you’re in southern Texas this weekend, come on by. I’d love to see you there! 🙂
What are the landmark games? Which titles should every game enthusiast play at least once? 6 nimmt! is my suggestion.
Have you played 6 nimmt!? What do you think of it as a landmark game? What other games do you see as notable ancestors to newer games? Share with your fellow readers in the comments below. And if you’re enjoying what you’re reading, create and account with WordPress and follow this blog. If you keep reading, I’ll keep writing.
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