We seem to have stumbled upon a trend in recent card games. This is the third one to feature monsters of some sort. Here in Major Fundom we appreciate the witching season as much as the next guy. We love the anticipation of another imminent Halloween and the crisp, short days that burst in sprays of yellow and orange around the edges.
Little Devils is a trick taking card game in a vein similar to Hearts. The goal is to take the fewest number of points. There are 54 sequentially numbered cards. In addition to the card’s number there are also anywhere from 0 – 5 little devils on each card. These little devils are the points you earn if you take the trick. Lowest score wins so taking tricks is generally a bad thing.
Taking a trick occurs if you play the highest or lowest card in the round, but the clever bit is that you don’t know which will “win” (highest or lowest) until the second person plays. In a round one player leads any card that is not worth 5 little devils. If the second player chooses to follow with a lower card then whoever plays the lowest card will “win” the trick. If the second player follows with a higher card then the trick goes to the highest card.
For example if I lead with a 21, the second player might follow with a 19. This move forces all other opponents to play cards that are lower than 21 and the lowest number will take the trick. If the second player followed me with a 23 then all opponents would have to play higher than 21.
This mechanic creates some interesting effects. First, it guarantees that the player who leads will not take the trick. This is handy because after you take a trick you are the one to lead and the best way to a low score is to avoid taking tricks. It also puts a huge amount of pressure on the second player to choose a card that will force his or her opponents into bad choices. Interesting things happen at the far edges of the card values.
The game revolves around judging how your opponents are likely to play and then attempting to remain a step ahead.
Although luck plays a big role, it is a manageable luck. There are many choices to be weighed, especially when you are the second or the final player in a round. Each player has a set of strategic choices and these choices change with each round. Little Devils relies on a very simple but strategically rich trick-taking mechanic.
As they say, the devil is in the details and Little Devils has done a good job of attending to the finer points of game design. The rules are short and offer several good examples of game play. Rounds take only a few minutes to play and games are often over in 15 minutes or so. The illustrations and design are colorful and fun.
Like Hearts and other games where you are trying to avoid points, the game can become wonderfully mean spirited. But then again, what would you expect from a card game that has a fiery imp of the perverse on every card?
For 3-6 players, ages 8+
Little Devils designed by Michael Feldkotter. © 2012 Stronghold Games. Under license from White Goblin Games.