Geschenkt

A new review is up at my Finnish game site: Geschenkt.

I’ve reached ten plays fairly quickly with this one, mostly because nobody is satisfied with just one play. It’s always hey, I got it, let’s play again — that alone is a sign of a good game. And that’s it, pretty much: Geschenkt is a good game.

Well, you might want to know why. First of all: I just adore simple but clever card games. If that’s not your thing, forget Geschenkt. Geschenkt (given, as in gift you’d rather not keep for yourself) is a very simple game, but offers quite enough meat. The decks consists of cards, numbered from 3 to 35. Each card is worth negative points according to its value. Players start with 11 chips, which are each worth one positive point. However, the chips have another, more important meaning.

There’s always one card available. Of course, as cards are worth negative points, taking cards is a bad move. The chips come to rescue here: toss a chip on the card and the turn moves on to next player. Of course, whoever ends up taking the card (either by free will or lack of chips) gets the chips, too. At some point the deal is sweet enough for someone to grab the card, because eleven chips just isn’t going to keep you from taking cards throughout the whole game.

This all wouldn’t be enough to make the game really interesting. A twist is needed. If a player manages to collect a set of cards with consecutive numbers, they get a bonus: only the lowest card of the set is counted in the end of the game. Now, if you have, say, 30 and 31 comes up. Will you take it? Why would you? It’s basically insignificant for you (few positive points, if there’s some chips on it), but hurts someone else a lot (close to 30 negative points).

New players are prone to just grab the card right away. It’s nice to see them realize that, frankly, you’re just doing everyone else a favour by taking a nasty card for free. The others should pay for the relief, really and therefore one should let the card go around the table for few times to collect chips. Eventually you want it, to get the chips and to be able to repeat the deal with the next card in the series. There lies a risk, though, as the amount of chips everyone has is secret. Someone might not have enough chips, which will ruin your plan.

There’s also a temptation to take cards with gaps in the series, say 11 and 13. After all, the 12 will come up and you’ll be able to connect your separate series and save lots of points. Well, it’s not that simple — to keep up the tension, nine random cards are removed from the deck. Perhaps that missing link in your series is one of the removed cards?

Geschenkt is a charming game. There’s lots of tension and a nice dose of luck. The rules are very simple and quickly taught. There are different strategies to try (well, at least two: avoiding cards and collecting lots of cards in hopes of getting lots of chips) and the whole deal lasts just ten minutes or so. No, double that: you’ll be playing it again immediately.

With it’s low price, Geschenkt is another fun filler to add to one’s collection. There are lots of these kind of ephemeral filler games (I’ve played Coloretto just twice this year while it was all the craze last year), but you never know when you’ll find a gem like 6 nimmt which you’ll still be playing ten years from now. Then again, missing a game like this is not a big deal — if it’s spectacularly good, it’ll float around.

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