Home Game Previews Gnaughty Gnomes and The Six of VIII Preview

Gnaughty Gnomes and The Six of VIII Preview

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Gnauty Gnomes and 6 of 8If you haven’t heard, we are in the thick of a trick taking renaissance. While every few years it feels like there is a new darling type of game I’m especially fond of this one as I grew up playing endless rounds of euchre at the dining room table. But these days we are seeing more unique twists on mechanisms and themes to give rise to the dozens of options added to the category.

One publisher who has been leading that charge is New Mill Industries. They’ve signed and reprinted some hard-to-acquire Japanese titles as well as published some new designs. Often they’ve launched games on Kickstarter but today we are looking at their two newest games which New Mill has made available for preorder directly on their website until the end of February. So if you like what you see below head over to their website and get your order in.

Gameplay Overview:

The Six of VIII

6 of 8 Components
The timeline shows the current trump for the trick and will move each time.

The Six of VIII is certainly the more traditional trick-taker of the games today. Players are partnered with the across-table companion and will pass them two cards before the hand. You play cards into a trick, are required to follow suit, and the highest card of the lead suit wins unless a trump is played. But there is a lot that makes The Six of VIII unique.

The game is themed around the six wives of Henry the VIII. Each suit represents a wife and not every suit is even, some have more cards than others, based on the length of their marriage. The trump suit also changes throughout the hand as Henry moves on from wife to wife. This can make it tricky to start cutting suits to open up trump. You’ll generally be trying to win as many tricks as possible, as they are each worth a point. But some cards are worth more points to the winner of the trick. This gives a lot of options for throwing the point-heavy cards into tricks you believe your partner has locked up.

There is an advanced variant that adds some special cards which can be played as red or black suits depending on the situation and the King himself that beats all other cards. They are an easy inclusion into most games if you are familiar with trick taking. Also a three player variant if you find yourself a player short.

Gnaughty Gnomes

Gnaughty Gnomes is much less traditional, although still played in a across-table partnerships. You’ll start by creating a patch of hexagonal-shaped mushrooms in the center of the table. Players then get a hand of cards in 4 suits that also correspond to the colors of the mushrooms. Very importantly there is also a small board that shows the relative rank of the four suits which will be constantly in flux.

Gnauty Gnomes Components
You’ll play tricks for turn order for placing your gnome markers onto the mushrooms.

When someone leads into a trick the next player can play anything. There is no need to follow suit. You’ll determine who wins the trick based on who played a card in the strongest suit. If multiple cards in the same suit are played the higher rank card wins. But all this “trick-taking” only serves to dish out turn order cards for the next part of the game, where players place their gnomes on the mushrooms.

The player who won the trick places first and chooses any of the four cards in the trick. They place their gnome on a mushroom of that card’s color. But, the downside to going first is that you can only place along the outside edge in a way it will only be on one mushroom. The player with the 2nd strongest card in the trick taking phase will now choose from the three remaining cards and they may place the gnome in a way that touches 2 hexes. The third player does the same. And the fourth player has to place on a mushroom of whatever color is remaining but can place it at a vertex of the hexagons such that it’s on three mushrooms.

After every gnome is placed, points are awarded if you tie or break a tie and take the lead with most gnomes on a mushroom. The points are also variable based on the strength of the suit. If you take the lead on a mushroom that is the same color as the strongest suit you’ll get 5 points. But if it’s on the weakest you’ll only score 2. And if you create a tie you’ll only get half points. No points are awarded for extending your lead on something you already control. After the trick, the suit that won will move down in relative strength, but how far down depends on the rank of the card that won.

6 of 8 Gameplay
The number of tricks a particular color is trump corresponds to the length of the marriage to Henry VIII.

Game Experience:

There’s a lot of things I love about trick taking games but one of the biggest selling points for me is that once you’ve played a couple of games you can learn a new trick taking game very quickly. Even if, as is the case here, they give quite different gameplay experiences.

The Six of VIII really takes a theme and runs with it. There are plenty of trick taking game “themes” that are little more than the title on the box and then the game itself is just a bunch of numbered cards. The suit length changing based on the marriage length and the moving trump suit to match really connect the theme to what the game is trying to do. The points on the cards even change based on the historical theme—the suits for the wives who bore Henry’s children have additional points, one point for the girls and two for his only son.

And most importantly those changes make the game feel fresh despite being very traditional in the actual trick-taking portion. Do you try to short suit yourself when passing cards, especially in the suits that aren’t trump for very long? Or maybe you want to keep as many cards in the very short suit of Anne of Cleves to keep the lead. The best moments come with the agonizing decision of throwing cards worth extra points into a trick your partner is winning only to see the next player unexpectedly trump and take them.

Gnauty Gnomes Cards
Gnaughty Gnomes turn order cards will show you the legal placement for your gnome disc.

Now if you want more of a twist, Gnaughty Gnomes definitely not your average trick taking game. The trick-taking portion is only half the battle and arguably, given that you don’t ever have to follow suit, more of bidding than anything else. But unlike a lot of games where you are determining player order, it isn’t clear that going first is always a good thing. While you get all of the choice you only get one-third of the area control of the player going last.

Not that going last is always best, especially in the later stages of the game when some of the mushrooms are hotly contested. As is always the case in the best games it depends. It depends on the board state and it depends on the colors of the cards in the trick. And often it’s better to finish 2nd and 3rd as a team allowing you back-to-back placements while your opponents have to try to create majorities with a single disc.

Gnauty Gnomes Track
The variable strength (and scoring) for the different colors is key to maximizing points.

The scoring system can take a minute to wrap your head around but ultimately gives Gnuaghty Gnomes a lot of interesting decisions. If you place on an empty mushroom you don’t score anything, you only get points for creating a tie or getting the lead on a location where your opponent also is. So while getting a lead on a mushroom is great it also means your opponent now has a chance to swipe it back for points. The key to winning and losing is making those point-trades profitably as the value of the mushrooms fluctuates each trick. And even that, how far down a suit will fall, is up to the cards you are playing into the trick.

It is worth pointing out here that both of the new games in New Mill’s preorder offering need four players. While The Six of VIII has a three-player variant and we did give that a shot, it shines with the full four. Certainly to be expected of partnership games but if that’s a player count you struggle with these may not be the best trick takers for you.

Final Thoughts:

My collection of trick-taking games continues to grow and I’m glad to have these two games to add to it. I’m certainly the target audience here but even if your experience with trick-taking is more traditional I think you can pick up what’s going on here pretty easily. The Six of VIII will feel very familiar but give you a bit more to think about and really nails the historical theme.

And then you can break out Gnaughty Gnomes and see just how far from traditional trick taking can take you. Tossing cards into a trick only gets you to the area control portion of the game. There is so much player agency hidden in every nook and cranny. Do you want to play the weakest card and get the most area control? Do you want an earlier choice of color? Would you rather try to go back-to-back placements with your partner? And exactly how far do you want the winning suit to fall? All of these are things that players can try to manipulate with their card play.

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