More from the FFG clearance sale, Martin Wallace’s least Martin Wallacy game, The Hobbit Card Game.
Look, this is not a deep game. It’s also not not Hearts. With a tiny bit of extra complexity, sure, but it really is Hearts. This is a game for bringing it out after Thanksgiving or Christmas when you have family in town and no one is interested in learning the finer points of how a panda moves in Takenoko.
So how does it play? 5 suits, each card other than a suit and value can have one of 3 symbols: a star, a black helmet, or a pipe. Good players want stars on their characters and to avoid helmets, the evil players want opposite, and everyone slightly wants pipes which give you an extra choice of card in the second round. After every trick the winner distributes the cards in a certain way, depending on their personal character role. There’s two layers of complexity to the game: first is that since the good characters all have different trick distribution methods, it’s in the players favor to try and make sure Gandalf wins instead of, say, Thorin. Second, if it’s apparent that the evil player(s) will win a trick, you need to start thinking which cards to give them based on what symbol you want them to distribute, not just “lowest card of suit you want least”.
That’s pretty much it though. Quick 5 minute plays. And like Hearts, your success or failure is pretty determined by what starting hand the Smaug player has. Smaug with a great starting hand is very difficult to beat, while a Gandalf who can “shoot the moon” can pretty much single-handedly carry the good players to victory. Which, again, is fine if you understand that that’s what you’re getting in the box and not expect the next Steam or Brass.