2 player games, mechanics, Trick-Taking -

The Mechanics of Play - Trick-Taking

When someone used to suggest a trick taking game, I would immediately picture a group of ladies sitting around a table playing bridge and internally turn my nose up. However, recently I’ve been schooled on how much fun and challenging trick-taking can be, so that’s the next mechanic in our series.

If this is your first time reading this series of game mechanics, you may be wondering what it’s all about. Think of game mechanics as the backbone of the game, the structure that provides which actions and moves a player takes, to follow the flow of the game. There can be one or many, depending on the style and complexity of the game.

Trick taking is a mechanic that’s primarily found in card games and dates back over a thousand years according to Wikipedia. There are so many varieties of trick-taking games today, but here’s a general rule of thumb for the basics.

Gorus Maximus

A trick-taking game typically has cards that contain numbers and suits (matching symbols). Cards are played from a hand to the table in a series of rounds (or tricks). The first card played starts the trick and each following player must then play the same suit if they can. If they cannot, they must play another card from their hand. The most common way to win the played trick is to have the highest value of a suit. Once that trick is won, another one is started. Cards continue to be played in a designated number of rounds. Here’s an example:

  • Sierra plays a 9 of Hearts (she sets hearts as the suit for the trick)
  • Tom then plays a 10 of Hearts
  • Karen plays a Queen of Spades (she doesn’t have a heart card)
  • Linda plays a 4 of Hearts

Tom wins the trick with a 10 of Hearts. Even though Karen played a Queen, it wasn’t a Heart.

Another part of trick-taking can be playing a ‘trump’ card. Typically there is a designated number or suit that is considered the winner over all (or most) cards. Playing that satisfying ‘high’ card (thinking you have an easy win) can easily end in another player trumping it. Let’s go back to the example above, except at the start of the round, Clubs were designated as ‘trump’.

  • Sierra plays a 9 of Hearts (she sets hearts as the suit for the trick)
  • Tom then plays a 10 of Hearts
  • Karen plays a Queen of Spades (she doesn’t have a heart card)
  • Linda plays a 4 of Clubs

Linda wins the hand with the 4 of Clubs because Clubs was the trump suit.

Hearts, Bridge or Euchre are great examples of classic trick-taking games that have been around for a long time. Today, some great examples include Fox in the Forest, Skull King or Gorus Maximus - each with their own unique styles and game-play. Some games are even cooperative like The Crew or Fox in the Forest Duet.

I recently played Gorus Maximus (which can play up to 8) and really enjoyed it. I don’t typically play trick-taking games, primarily because I found them intimidating. However, once I played through a few rounds, the ebb and flow of what to play, when, finally started to click. Now, I’m seeking them out, trying to hone my skills - and although I have a long way to go before I master it, it’s fun learning in the process.

See you at the table,

Sonya