I arrived in a bad time this week: two games had just started. I sat watching and discussing playing cards with Hannu (he had bought a rather entertaining German pack of cards, it’s a reproduction of 19th century Saxony pack or something like that, very funny). It turned out their Arkadia was moving slowly, so Hannu suggested playing Strohmann-Tarock on the side. Suits me!
There’s a very good page on Strohmandeln, with rules and strategy. It’s a two-player Tarock variant, where players have 15-card hands and three four-card draw piles. The top cards are visible and part of player’s hand. Very clever, and it works well. Part of your hand is a mystery, but you see part of opponent’s hand and can use that information. Suit cards are much more important than in most Tarot games.
We played three rounds. Hannu won the first as declarer, I got the second and in the third one, Hannu declared and made Uhu (won second-to-last trick with trump 2), but I got the game, so I won 7-4. It was fun, and Hannu enjoyed it as well. I’m fairly sure we’ll get the cards out in a second next time we’re playing something with just the two of us…
Edit: There’s a more thorough Strohmandeln session report on Geek.
Next up was Thief of Baghdad. Players move their thieves between palaces to collect treasure chests. To get in, you must have your own bribed guard in front of the palace and an opponent’s guard (to take the blame for the thieves, of course!). There’s some pretty nice maneuvering, but also plenty of luck with the cards — getting stuck with bad cards can hurt you a lot.
Occasionally the game was fun, when you were able to pull off some neat move. Most of the time it wasn’t very interesting, rather boring really. The game looks pretty cool, but it is one of those rather spiritless euro games, with nifty mechanics but very little attraction otherwise. I would play again, but the situation would have to be fairly desperate… We played twice, with the new Dutch guy Pieter winning both games. The first one was a massacre, but the second was good and exciting, with everybody having three chests when you need four to win. That was nice.
We finished off the evening with two games of Die Dolmengötter. We played with three and four players, and after these games I’d say four is better. The game is based on player interaction and providing incentives to other players and I feel it loses something when there are just three players. That doesn’t mean five would be even better — I haven’t tried it, but the game is short that with five it would probably be way too short. In any case, I love the game, it’s a gem.