Trump, Tricks, Game! is a trick taking card game from Phalanx games and is being distributed in the U.S. by Mayfair Games. Every year new trick taking games are released by game companies. After all of these years, I'm still amazed that designers can still find new things to do with a deck of cards and the basic trick taking mechanism. We play a lot of card games during lunch at work and are pretty selective in giving a thumbs up to a new one. However, we are always looking for new games to add to the rotation so I wanted to see if this one could break into the list of regulars.
Picture courtesy of Phalanx Games
The cards are very colorful and have a linen finish and should hold up to regular use fairly well. The cards pass my basic usability test for cards in that they have the numbers in each corner and the numbers are rotated 180 degrees on either end of the card. You can therefore hold the cards fanned in either direction and you do not have to rotate the cards to see the number correctly. (I hate cards that must be held in one direction to see the number correctly.) Unfortunately, even though the cards have nice big animal pictures in the middle of the card, there are no suit symbols in the corners. This may cause a problem for some color blind people who rely more on symbols than color.
The basic card play is fairly standard for a trick taking game. Players must follow the lead card and play within suit if possible. If they are void in the lead suit they may throw off any card. The highest trump card played will win the trick, if no trump is played, then the highest card in the lead suit wins. Pretty standard stuff. Here's where this game's twists come into play. First off, for the first three hands of the game, each player may only win three tricks (four with three players). Once a player takes three tricks, the cards he plays are no-ops and do not count for taking tricks. He must follow the regular rules for following suit and when he leads his card does not set the lead suit. Why the limit? The cards you take will become your hand for the next round. The cards are not shuffled and dealt out again. So, during the hand you are trying to balance getting scoring cards and getting good cards for the next hand. Hence, knowing the order of the trump suit comes into play as you watch what you take for the upcoming hand.
Scoring in the game is another one of the twists, the first three hands are scored differently then the fourth and final hand. After the first three hands, you score points based on number of footprints you take (remember, the 5 - 9 cards). Your score is the number of footprints times the number of different footprints you collect. So this drives a desire to take tricks with footprints in different suits. Since the early tricks tend to be single suited, we found that we were all trying to delay taking tricks to get a mix of suits, hopefully with footprints, because just getting a single footprint in a third or fourth suit would have a great deal of impact to your score.
The scoring for the final hand is different than the first three. After the last hand the players score based on the number of cards they take, with each suit having a different value. Red cards are worth 4, green 3, yellow 2 and blue 1. So in the third hand of the game, you really start watching what cards you have for the last hand, because for that hand you now want a lot of trump and high cards.
You really must watch that you try to setup a balanced hand for the next round, especially with four players. If you are forced to take two tricks of a single suit you can easily get stuck with 7 or 8 cards of the same suit for the next hand. This usually means you will score only a few points in this round due to the scoring multiplier and then have a poor selection of cards in the next round. About the only time you want many cards of a single suit is getting a lot of trump for the fourth hand.
We did find that the three player game gave the players more control in that you can take four tricks instead of three. This allowed you a better chance to get a mix of cards for the next hand.
Trump, Tricks, Game! is also a card counter/tracker's dream game. After the first hand, it is possible to know exactly what each player has. I know not many people can track that amount of information, but I know that there are some that can. If not each card, I'm sure there are many that will be able to track the number of each suit each person has. (There is at least person in our group who can track this information.) People who can track this information will have a big advantage over the others. The limit on the number of tricks you can take stresses basic card counting for everyone. You do not want to make a mistake and lead a suit that no one else has if you can help it. You can easily let everyone throw off non-scoring cards on your lead and stick you with a worthless trick.
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