HATTRICK - Reviewed by Mike
I've looked back in old copies of SUMO but I can't see a review of this one, only a reference in "Gamers Notebook" (Issue 25, page 13), so it may not be very well known. I bought it because it was mentioned briefly in COUNTER Issue 4 under the review of "Verrater" and Eamon Bloomfield had new stocks in, so I thought I'd take a chance and I'm really pleased I did because it has been really well received here.
The trick-taking game consists of 60 cards in 3 suits of 20 in colours Red, Green and Blue, on which is depicted a baseball hat. No doubt this gives the game its name but it has no relevance at all and could have been anything....there must be some subtle marketing ploy here which escapes me......however, on with the game.
All the cards are dealt out evenly so it follows that in games of 4,5,6 players they will each have15, 12 or 10 cards(Stuart Dagger eat your heart out !!). Although this is a trick taking game some tricks will consist of more cards than another and this is the essence of the game. You are trying to win cards in ONE colour but not any of the other colours due to the scoring mechanism, which is that each card in your longest suit counts as 1 point positive, whilst all other cards count as 1 point negative. There are also times when cards count as 2 points negative (see later).
An example may help...at the end of the round Stuart has 11 Blue cards, 4 Red and 2 Green. Therefore his score is (11 -4 -2 = 5). Alan has just 6 Green cards so scores 6 points, so you will see it's not the number of cards that matters but the distribution.
In each round the lead player will play a card. The second player can either follow suit OR start a second trick in another colour. Subsequent players can play to either trick OR they have the option to display a card of the third unplayed colour and place that card in front of them, which will count 2 points negative in the scoring at the end of the round.
Once every player has played a card the trick(s) are awarded to the player laying the highest card. This means that sometimes a single card can win a trick.
One final note on play. The players do not play the last card in their hand.....this can be useful if you're sat with say the 16 of Greens in your hand and you don't want Greens...you can just keep it until the end.
My group have played with 4 and 5 players so far and found it to be a really stimulating game, much more than you get from the first impression. There's plenty of opportunity to stitch up the other players and some difficult decisions to make.
For example, if you're say third to play in a 5-player game and there's a Red 6 and Green 11 on the table and you're collecting Blues, but have Red 8 and Red 15 in your hand. Do you play your Red 15 in the anticipation that one of the following players will over-ride it ?. What if they both duck it and play under it....you're left to pick up 3 unwanted Red cards.
If you play the Red 8 and they then play Red 19 and Red 20 your Red 15 could be still bring you trouble !. Of course you could always show the other players a Blue card and count it as 2 negative points, but you're collecting Blues aren't you ?
This requires some considerable thought and due to that the game takes longer than the 30 minutes quoted on the box, especially if you play the number of rounds recommended (2 x number of players). But the effort is worthwhile as scoring is often very close and players getting off to a bad start can easily catch up.