Friday, September 16, 2022

A game for people who are actually good at trick taking

 It has been a long time since I last played Die Sieben Siegel, also known as Wizard Extreme and Zing and Sluff Off. (It’s not as bad as Knizia’s Wildlife Safari but that’s still a lot of names) I don’t know if I’ve ever owned a copy but I knew at least a couple folks who had a copy.

Die Sieben Siegel did leave an impression on me, though. Part of it is because the German name sounds like you want a former action star to bite the dust. But it’s because it was one of my first experiences of how you can take an age-old card game, add a couple tweaks, and get a modern game.

(I have since come to understand that that is just a basic tenet of game design. It isn’t all about innovation but synthesis as well. It’s not about inventing a new wheel all the time. It’s about finding interesting uses for all the wheels that lying around)

That said, DSS is a trick taking game that actually makes a lot of changes from games like Spades or Hearts or Oh Hell. You not only bid on how many tricks you will win, you also bid on what suite you will win them with as well. There are five suites in the deck. Red is _always_ trump.

Oh, each hand, one player can choose to be the saboteur. The saboteur doesn’t try and win tricks. Their goal is to mess with other players and force them to win tricks they didn’t bid on.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Euchre and I basically said it was great because it is a traditional card game that refines the elements of trick taking , a game that is nothing but the fundamentals of trick taking. DSS is a game that, if you understand trick taking games like Euchre or Spades, you almost immediately understand how to play.

But exactly predicting not only how many tricks you are going to win but what suite they will be? That takes some thinking. That takes some planning. That takes some skill.

And, honestly, I’m terrible at it. My favorite trick taking game is, and has been for years, Sticheln. Which is really a deconstruction of trick taking games lol

However, looking back at Die Sieben Siegel, I think it’s designed to really push the skills of people who are actually good at trick taking games. And the role of the saboteur creates a whole new flavor of interaction without changing the nature of the game.

In Die Sieben Siegel, Stefan Dora made a new shape with wheels that everyone already knows.

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