Tricky, Tricky, Part 1

Trick-taking games have been in a slump lately but it looks as if they’re coming back.

From the late 1990s to the early 2000s, trick-taking games were everywhere.  Friedemann Friese gave us Foppen. Klaus Palesch gave us Sticheln.  Alan R. Moon gave us Where’s Bob’s Hat.  James Miller gave us Control Nut.  Companies like Amigo Spiele and Adlung-Spiele–companies which already specialized in small games–generally included at least two trick taking games in each year’s catalog and sometimes went as high as five!

It was inevitable that a glut like that would lead to a market crash for these games.  Publishers quickly backed off from them and we went into the trick-taking drought of the late 2000s-early 2010s.

It seems that the market is starting to warm up to the idea of trick-taking games again.  With nearly a decade having passed, a new generation of gamers is discovering the sweet charms of a good trick-taker and publishers, happy to provide games to fill that appetite, have begun considering them again.

Although I am not currently developing any trick-taking games, I have developed a few (most prominently the self-published Great Migration), played hundreds, and would happily play any you fine designers out there happen to be working on.

Requirements for A Trick Taking Game

There is a bit of debate about what exactly constitutes a trick taking game.  For our purposes, we will define them by the following criteria:

(A)  Each player has a hand of cards.

(B)  These cards are played in a series of rounds (tricks)

(C)  Each player in turn must play to the trick.

(D)  Each player plays to the trick exactly once.

This definition thus includes Victory & Honor and Njet! but disallows The Great Dalmuti, and my beloved Tichu.

Variations On The Trick Taking Theme

Many trick taking games include other elements.  Some of these are so common as to be almost expected while others are quite rare.

(E)  Bidding

(F)  Trump Suit

(G)  Card-Passing

(H)  Objective-Inversion

(I)   Variable Hand Size

(G)  Variable Turn Order

In the coming columns, we look at each element in detail and consider variations on those elements.  See you Tuesday!

What are your favorite trick-taking games?  What makes them so special to you?  Which ones did you dislike?  Why?  Share with your fellow readers in the comments below.  And if you’re enjoying what you’re reading, create an account with WordPress and follow this blog.  If you keep reading, I’ll keep writing.

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2 thoughts on “Tricky, Tricky, Part 1

  1. alanleduc says:

    I think you’re right about the shift in the market, and have thus resumed work on my abandoned Trick Taking game myself. I look forward to reading about your thoughts on the subject.

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