Stronghold Games, 2014

Diamonds is a entrancing two to six player trick taking game. The object is to collect as many diamond crystals as you can. You collect “diamonds” for suit actions.

Players start with a hand of ten cards. The dealer then determines how many cards each player will pass, either one, two or three. Not passing is not an option, and cards will always pass to the left. Once everyone has their final hand of ten cards, the player to the left of the dealer will lead.

You must follow suit, if you have it. But here’s the twist. If you don’t have the suit led, you may play a different suit AND take it’s suit action. Each suit has it’s own unique suit action. Suit actions will let you collect crystals from the pool, steal from other players, or store crystals in your vault. Crystals in your vault cannot be stolen.  You also take the suit action when you win a trick, and at the end of the round, the player with the most of each suit, will get that suit action as a bonus. Any player who took no tricks gets to take two diamond suit actions.

The number of rounds you play depends on the number of players. At the end of the last round, players will total up the number of crystals they have in their vault are worth two points, while collected crystals out side of your vault only count one point. The player with the most points wins.

I love a good trick taking game, and this one sure qualifies. There is always some strategy in knowing which card to throw off when you can’t play on a trick. Diamonds makes this one step harder. When you play off on a hand, you get to take the suit action for the card you played. This makes each card valuable in a different way. It may be valuable to keep in order to take a trick later on, or it may be worth more to use it’s suit action. It’s these decisions that give Diamonds an edge over other trick taking games.

The game recommends two to six players ages 8+. The game actually comes with a separate set of rules for two player. I’d recommend four or five players as working the best. Because the deck comes with 60 cards, and each player is only dealt 10, the strategy varies based on the number of players as the entire deck is shuffled each round, so you won’t necessarily know which cards are in play at any given round.

Anecdotally, I was running a Diamonds tournament at our local game convention (Gamicon), and had a 10 year old who wanted to play. She had never played a trick taking game before, so we taught the basics of trick taking games first, then added in the suit actions bit. She completely lost the first round (but never misplayed). But then steadily throughout the tournament rounds got better and better, and almost won! It is really an easy game to pick up. It’s a lot of fun, and offers something new to the veteran card player, while still be fun and exciting for the newbie!

I highly recommend adding Diamonds to your collection, especially if you already enjoy trick taking card games.

Gigamic, 2010

Papayoo is a variation of your standard trick taking game. The deck is built slightly differently with the 4 normal suits (hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades) in the numbers 1-10, and a fifth suit, the Payoo suit with 20 numbered cards. The goal is to take the least amount of points during a round. More on that in a moment. Although the game uses “normal” suits, the artwork is bright and colorful which makes the game a little more fun. Note that it also, besides having the suit shapes, has different textures (circles, lines, etc) making it friendly to color blind folks as well.)

All the cards are dealt to the players. Then each player gives the player on their left a number of cards (3-5 based on number of players) from their hand. After this “draft”, a special 8 sided die (with each of the 4 “normal” suits on the die twice) is rolled. The 7 of that suit becomes the Papayoo for that hand. The dealer then leads a card and all players must follow suit if possible. The highest card in the suit led takes the trick.

Each of the Payoo suit (numbered 1-20) is scores points equal to the number value on the card at the end of the round. The Papayoo 7 (the normal suited 7 of the suit rolled on the 8 sided die) is worth 4o points. Remember, the goal is to NOT score points.

The game can be played to a pre-determined number of rounds or points.

This is a fairly standard trick taking game, without trump, but with the special dice and drafting which make it more interesting than a game of Hearts or Spades. It retails around $12-$15 and comes in a handy small tin. It is great for carrying around in a purse or vehicle to have on hand for a few rounds when you have time. It is easy to learn and play and quite a lot of fun. If you are looking for a different game for someone who likes standard trick taking games, pick this one up. It would make a good stocking stuffer or gift exchange gift. Recommended.