A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending somewhat of a mini convention centered entirely around trick taking games, T9. I enjoy conventions of all sizes but there is something nice about sharing a space with about 40 people that are all into playing small, easy to learn card games.
And the library provided hundreds upon hundreds to play. Some of the newest imports from the Tokyo Game Market. And some of the worst IP-based card games you can imagine (I’m looking at you, 90210 The Card Game). But today we are going to go over my Top 10 games I got to play there.
But first, two honorable mentions. One is Maze Makers. A game where you start with a partially built maze and add walls and treasures to other players’ maps. Once every player has a chance to add to everyone else’s maze, you’ll cover it with a larger sheet of paper with a tiny hole in it and they have one minute to try to find as many treasures as they can. It’s a wild time, but not even trick-taking adjacent so I had to kind of leave it off the list.
The other honorable mention is Military Whist. Whist is the most basic trick taking game you can imagine. But this version had teams of 4 representing a country and sending 2 players each round to another country to see who could capture the flag for that round. Essentially, it was a 28-player game, and it was an experience that really only can happen at a place like T9. Portugal came up a little short this year but there is always next time.
So finally, the list.
Top 10 Trick Taking Games at T9
Have you ever wanted your trick taking game to have hidden roles? Players bid on a number of dollars they think they will collect, which are cards played into tricks during the round. The player who bids the most becomes the Prime Minister and gets to hand out secret roles to other players, choosing a teammate essentially. But everyone else at the table isn’t sure who is on the prime minister’s team.
4-6 Players • Ages 8+ • 45 minutes
In Double Side Play you’ll get a hand of 12 cards numbered 1-12. But each card has two numbers which have a difference of 6 (1 and 7, 2 and 8, 6 and 12, etc.) You’ll roll two dice, and you want to win tricks equal to either of your die rolls. But the key is you’ll play the first six tricks with the black numbers and then you’ll flip your entire hand and play the last six with the white numbers. This gives you a lot of room to maneuver to try to hit your randomly rolled bid. Quick and easy but more strategy than it first lets on. This one is getting a US release from Allplay in the future.
3-4 Players • Ages 10+ • 20 minutes
Sumida River is more of a shedding game than trick taking, but it fits well enough. The deck for Sumida River contains only two suits, red and black, and they aren’t exactly even. And unlike most shedding games where you must play a set or run matching the previous player there are instead areas for certain sets: single highest red card, highest single black card, two card run of black, two card set of red… and so on. Play goes around until all the spots and filled or someone passes and then they are all cleared. Maybe the most interesting part of Sumida River is each hand you can vote to trade your hand and anyone who does so adds a wild card and passes it to another player.
3-4 Players • Ages 12+ • 30 minutes
I absolutely love games with shared hands. I’m not entirely sure why but ever since I’ve discovered the wonder of Hab & Gut I’ve always enjoyed any game that lets me put a rack of cards between players. Another game with two suits, pink and black, where pink cards are points and black cards are negative points. You can play only play from the ends of the shared hands and the highest value card played will take the second highest, second highest takes the third, all the way until the lowest card takes the highest card. Of course, that could be good or bad depending on the suit!
3-4 Players • Ages 10+ • 20 minutes
Baronda starts with players bidding how many tricks they think they can take during a hand. If the total bid is 13 or greater, players want to get as many tricks as possible. If they match their bid, they get 2 points and a bonus point for every additional trick they get. But if the total is 11 or less, they want to avoid tricks, scoring 2 for not exceeding their bid and a bonus for every trick short they are. There are lots of special cards which can be high or low depending on the other cards in the trick which gives a lot of flexibility in avoiding tricks with generally strong cards.
2-5 Players • Ages 10+ • 15-30 minutes
To start a hand of Trick Raiders you’ll get 3 cards face up on the table and 10 in your hand. All players than simultaneously can either add to their cards on the table or pick any number of them up into your hand. And if you lead a trick, you can only lead a card that is face up on the table and your hand cards can only be played into a trick that another player led. Essentially, you are bidding the number of tricks you think you can win. But if you find yourself without a “table card” when you need to lead you drop out of the round and lose one of your two lives. There are a couple special cards to allow you to steal lives and get more. Once someone loses both lives, the player(s) with the most lives left wins.
3-4 Players • Ages 10+ • 15-30 minutes
“PERFECT DISH!” Maybe I liked Trick Dumpling so much because it was late at night and the game encourages yelling “Perfect Dish!” Or maybe because you can ruin a perfect dish and yell “NO WAY!” Basically, you can win a trick by playing the largest card in the color with the highest sum. But if the total exceeds 10, the highest card flips over. And if you make the total exactly 10, well that there is a PERFECT DISH! and you will win the trick unless someone else can make the total go over 10. In which case, they’ve No Way’d you and that’s a total bummer. Most players want 3 or 0 tricks except the evil dumpling spy who prefers to just make everyone not hit their goals.
2-5 Players • Ages 8+ • 15-30 minutes
If you’ve reached this point and are thinking, man, these sound great, I want to try them out. I’ve got bad news; they range from difficult to impossible to acquire. Some may be on Amazon.co.JP and there are a couple sites that routinely import these games, Tanuki Games and Tricky Imports, so keep an eye out there. But Let Me Off uses a standard 52 card deck so nothing is stopping you from giving this one a shot. Also, has shared hands between players which we’ve already talked about being one of my favorite things. Your goal is to run out of cards from your personal hand and your shared hands first. But there are penalties for any aces in tricks you’ve won along the way. You must follow suit, if you can’t you don’t play to the trick. And players that don’t go out lose points for remaining cards. Super easy and accessible but a lot of fun and a little bit of press your luck happening.
3-4 Players • Ages 13+ • 30 minutes
Four suits numbered 1-4 and 3-9. Players start with a colorless 5 and a fertility card that allows them to pass. Highest card in the led suit wins the trick; winning tricks is bad; you do not want points. If you win you take your card from the trick as a point. The five is always considered to be part of the lead suit and is worth 5 points if taken. Pretty simple—but there is a card in the middle of the table for each suit. When a card of that suit is played, it’s turned face up. When all four suit cards are face up the trick becomes a “natural disaster” trick and the lowest card in the led suit wins instead. And must take all the cards. And only one player can use their fertility card or colorless 5 into a trick, so if you get stuck with it in your hand at the end of the round you lose TWENTY points. It’s a game of careful timing and huge swingy moments.
3-6 Players • Ages 10+ • 30 minutes
Extreme Tricks at T9 was some print outs and a regular deck of cards with some cubes. But a published version is coming from Allplay, as Sick Tricks, sometime next year. Each round there are 12 cards placed out as goals for players. Half the goals are things that happen immediately, like winning a trick you lead or losing a trick with a 10 or higher, for instance. The other half are cumulative, win no tricks or win tricks with 2 different suits. Four of the goals apply only to the first four tricks, four apply to the middle four, and the last four goals can only be accomplished during the last four tricks.
And then before any cards are played you must bid on how many goals you think you can meet. If you think you can get six goals, you’ll have to take half of your bids and put them on specific goals, essentially calling your shot. The other three you may have an idea what they will accomplish but you obviously plans may change as the hand plays out. Any extra cubes you have are negative points. And if you accomplish more goals than you bid that’s even worse, losing two points for each extra. It’s tough to lay out entirely in a top ten list but long story short: I’ll be a buyer when there is an official version out there and if you like trick taking games you should be too.