I wrote a review of FarFalia. My session report summarised the game pretty well already, but here goes again:
FarFalia is a trick-taking game for five players. It supports two and three with dummies and four with different arrangements, but it’s designed for five and shines that way.
The game features a fairly standard deck (four suits, 1-13, special cards — butterflies — on each suit as 8, 10 and 12) and even more standard card play: dealer chooses trumps or no trumps, suit must be followed and that’s just about it.
However, there are few twists. Players are formed in two teams; the dealer plays alone. Teams score together. Dealer gets two extra card and gets to choose trumps, so it’s not a bad position to be in the end.
Players score points by collecting sets of five cards. Every time a player wins a trick, she gets to choose a card from the trick for her team. It must be one of the five target cards chosen at the beginning of the round. Target cards have suit or a butterfly on them. Butterfly cards are like any other card, except in the scoring, where they count only as butterflies, not as their regular suit.
In the end of the round, teams score points for the amount of target cards they collect. Full set of five is worth 15 points and it goes down from there. The scoring mechanism is clever and takes some thought, especially in the beginning of rounds, when you have to assess what you are likely to get during the hand.
The game can be played in two ways. FarFalia way is to have three rounds, where the new dealer is always the player with the least points. Teams are formed by seating order. Chinkway way is to play five or ten rounds with rotating dealer so that everyone plays one round alone and four rounds partnered with everybody else. After that a final round is played where seating order is manipulated so that the top three players all have a chance to win the game (which is not possible if, say, first and second players are paired as a team).
The biggest problem I have with the game is its dependancy on card luck. If you have a bad hand, there’s is little you can do. However, FarFalia is anyway probably best played on a lighter level, where card luck is not such a big problem, but more a source for table talk.
Despite my concerns, FarFalia is a good game; it’s pretty simple and thus easy to teach. It might not satisfy the hardened trick-taking veterans, though the partnership structures should be interesting enough. In any case, it makes a good introductory trick-taking game — if you have exactly five players.