Half of the summers of my youth were spent inside and outside a recreational vehicle that my dad bought in the early 70s. It was big enough to fit all nine of us in there, with some retrofitting by the dealer. I’d wager that the best part of the RV for my mom and dad, especially on long trips to Montreal or Yellowstone was the big giant table in the back. We spent hours and hours playing card games of every kind back there, which probably kept my parents sane.
We played tons of Uno, of course, as well as Bataile and Go Fish when we were younger. Mass market games like Racko and Pit spilled out from the table onto the couches, bumping and jostling as we moseyed down the byways of America. Oh, what would we have done for a pile of German style card games back then!
I have often envied the German families who exposed their Kinder to the multitude of deep play but simple to teach card games that seem to wash ashore here in America each year. Let’s take a look at one such game that has gotten a lot of buzz from The Opinionated Gamers and on social media of late.
Dealt! Is a 2018 card game published by Amigo and designed by Katja Stremmel. It was originally released in Germany as Krass Kariert, and plays three to five players in about 25 minutes. When Amigo offered us the chance to review a copy, I was happy to try it out with the family. (For a video of us talking with Matt Riddle, designer of Fleet, on a recent Gumbo Live! about early plays of Dealt!, click here).
The small box comes with 54 linen finish cards, some scoring chips, and an English rule book.
The cards are really good quality, and there is not much more to say about the production, other than that Dealt! should be an easy fit in your game bag or back pocket on game night.
Dealt! is one of those card games that will take just a minute or so to teach. The object is pretty simple — don’t be the last player still with cards in your hand. Players are each dealt a hand of cards, but are not allowed to take them into their palms. Instead, they will be fanned out face up in front of you, along with two reserve cards.
The play choices are easy: players will play a card out of their hand without rearranging the order of the cards. Players can play singles, pairs or straights, but multiple cards have to be next to each other to be played. If the player cannot play, they will have to pass, which means they can place one of the reserve cards in their fanned-out hand in any position they want (basically, the only time that players will be able to restructure their deck a bit). Once all players play or pass, the cards are picked up and discarded and another round begins.
If ever a player has to pass but does not have a card in the reserve to move to their hand, then that player loses the round, and loses one of their chips. Lose all of your chips, and the game ends. Whoever lost their last chip is declared the loser of the game, and everyone else wins.
BUT IS IT ANY FUN?
Dealt! is essentially a climbing game, because playing a card to the middle requires you always to best the card currently played. If the neighbor to my right plays a 3, I have to play at least a four — or maybe a pair — or maybe a small straight run of cards.
Sounds simple, right? I wish. The combination of looking at your hand, and trying to efficiently play your singles and pairs and runs even though some are not set up to play at the start of the round is such a delicious process. I love when a card game gives me a feeling of control, even where there is enough luck to change the parameters of the winning condition. I just want to feel like I’m bending the reality around me, not necessarily doing it.
But throw in the symbol cards — X (or wild card), redraw, and stop — and now you have a spicy card game. Each one of those three cards changes the dynamics of the round.
The wild cards will always keep you in every round, because of the ability to stack up big runs or a three of a kind. Think you are safe only have two cards to the next door neighbor’s three? Not if they have an X in their hand.
The stop card feels like a Hail Mary pass that connects every time in the end zone. Whoever plays the stop card ends the trick immediately and wins that hand, so essentially they play two turns back to back. It is such a useful combination when you have dubs and straights that you know are not winners. Get that stop card out and control the pace of the round.
And finally, the redraw card is so ingenious. Whoever wins the trick has to pick three more cards, which sounds like take three steps backwards in a climbing game, right? Nope, it can be a rubber band sling shot move. Win the redraw trick — or even both as two can be played at any one time — and now you have a metric ton of cards just waiting for you to place in your hand.
Oh, I didn’t tell you? When you place those cards from the redraw, you can place them ANYWHERE in your hand. Holy shenanigans, Batman!
The other interesting dynamic in Dealt! is that the game is all about not losing, which I’ve only seen in a couple of other games. Sometimes that means everyone is chasing the leader, trying to knock them out like a card based version of King of the Hill. But the name of the game is not really winning, it’s not losing!, which means many games are all about staying one step ahead of your fellow person-in-last-place.
Finally, the inclusion of the two reserve cards is just so cool. I’m always tempted to leave those two reserve cards alone, because anytime you can’t or don’t want to play a combo that is higher than what your buddy has already played, you can always dive into your reserve cards and put it in your hand. And just like the edraws, you can place that sucker anywhere in your hand. Strategy plums dancing in your head yet? They should be, because the tiny little micro strategy decisions in this game are just so satisfying.
Story time, peeps. Whenever we got hit with double hurricanes down here in south Louisiana, we evacuated to Baton Rouge to my brother’s house, complete with whole home generator. With wind and rain and lightning, there wasn’t much else to do but watch tv (boo) or play games (yay!). Of course, I brought along Dealt! and we proceeded to play for hours. The games are so quick that it was easy for people to jump in, learn the game, and jump out when they had something else to do or a phone call to take.
Hanging around my brother’s house playing Dealt! reminded me of those long lost days in the back of the camper, winding our way down Route 66 or Interstate 40, whiling away the time with epic long games of Crazy 8 or Old Maid. If I had a personal time machine — after saving the world from innumerable totalitarian regimes and convincing Tommy Lasorda to walk Jack Clark with first base open — would be to drop off a couple of German style card games like No Thanks! and Dealt! and give myself a high five when my eyes light up with excitement.
Our thanks to Amigo for providing us with a review copy. Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!
— BJ @boardgamegumbo