In giving this award to Grandpa Beck’s Scheming and Skulking, I am also conferring the same honors upon another game called Wizard by (appropriately enough) Wizard Cards. These both are variations on older games like Oh Hell! which many of you might have played with a standard deck of cards.
All of these games are bidding games but the number of cards in your hand changes each round.
On the first round each player is dealt one card. On the second round each player is dealt two cards. This continues until most or all of the cards have been dealt. Each round the players bid on how many tricks they will take.
Scoring is based on your ability to take your exact bid. If you said you would take 2 tricks and you take 2 then your score goes up. If you bid 2 but took anything higher or lower than 2 you lose points. Highest score wins.
Even at this most basic level I love this game. The increasing number of cards changes your bidding strategy and your play strategy. It also allows for big changes in score because later rounds tend to be worth more than earlier rounds.
Scheming and Skulking adds several extra ingredients to the basic formula. Each suit has 14 cards. One suit, the black Jolly Roger suit, is a trump suit and will beat any other color. Players must follow suit unless they have one of the special cards which may be played at any time. The Skull King is the most powerful card in the deck. It will take any trick when played. Next in power are 5 Pirate Cards which will take any trick that does not have the Skull King. The 5 Escape Cards can be played to avoid taking a trick (if you have made your bid and don’t want to take any more, these are handy). Finally, the Tigress Card can be played as either a Pirate or an Escape.
Wizard has four Wizard Cards that function like the Pirate Cards and four Jester Cards that function like the Escape Cards. The Skull King and the Tigress represent the biggest departure from Wizard and the other bidding games. The Skull King not only beats Pirates, but if you use the Skull King to beat someone’s pirate you get 30 points for each Pirate you take. The Tigress is incredibly useful for those last tricks that you absolutely must take or absolutely avoid.
Scheming and Skulking also has the players bid simultaneously instead of around the table. On the count of three, all players reveal their bid at the same time. Games are always tense. Just coming up with your bid feels like walking a tight rope. Actually trying to make your bid means the tightrope is stretched across the Grand Canyon. Filled with alligators. Much of the fun comes from not knowing when or if the Skull King will appear or if everyone will stick you with an extra trick—you know, just like a scurvy pirate would.
Scheming and Skulking is colorful and easy to learn. The rules fit on one short page and it comes with a handy score pad. It adds some very interesting mechanics for those who think they have mastered the intricacies of older progressive bidding games.
And a pirate motif is never a bad call.[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCFt8hsxkzs#t=50[/youtube]
For 2-6 players, ages 9+ Scheming and Skulking © 2012 Grandpa Beck’s Games.