Margin for Error preview

I got a copy of Margin for Error, the first game from Sagely Games, to test. Unfortunately I can’t see myself having an opportunity to test the game in near future, so I thought I’d write a bit of a preview based on the rules. The game is familiar enough, so I’m quite confident of my initial impression.

Basics of game play

Margin for Error is a fairly simple trick-taking game played with a four-suited deck with 14 cards (1-14) in each suit. The game is played in partnerships. One of the players is the Captain, who chooses the point suit and a goal, high or low. High goal means their team tries to win tricks in the point suit, low goal means they try to avoid.

There’s no trump, which is untypical, and the point suit must be broken like in Hearts before it can be lead. The point suit is obviously public, but the goal is kept hidden until about half of the hand is played. I don’t think that matters a lot.

Scoring

Captain’s team scores 15 points if they make the goal (get at least 10 point cards of the 14 for high and four or less for low goal). If they fail, opponents get 10 points. There’s a bonus for collecting all or none of the point cards, according to the goal.

The game is over when one team has at least 60 points. With five players, the partnerships rotate and the players keep individual scores; the first to reach 50 points wins.

Verdict

The game sounds quite solid. There’s a card exchange (three cards for the Captain’s team, two cards for the opponents) and you can pass being a Captain (in which case the next player is given the chance); that means it should be possible to get good play with any hand.

So, it’s basically a good game. However, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. First of all, it’s hard to get: only Fair Play Games has it. What’s more important, the game is rather bland. While the combination of features from different trick-taking games sounds nice, there’s nothing in Margin for Error that would make it memorable and even slightly unique.

There are plenty of other similar games that are good or even better than Margin for Error, and many of them are free traditional games. The four-player card game corner is crowded with good games, and Margin for Error doesn’t stand out. Great visual appeal could’ve made a difference, but no — it’s not downright ugly, but the game art is very dull. When (or if) I play the game, I’ll probably use some other cards.

Overview

Margin for Error is a good game and the price is right (less than 10 dollars; I think 5 euros is pretty much the maximum price for something like this), so if you are ordering something from Fair Play Games and would like to add a decent trick-taking game to your collection, it’s not a bad choice. However, I wouldn’t make any extra effort to get the game. Also, if you already play a trick-taking game or two, you probably have something at least as good and have no need for this.

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