Posted by: gschloesser | August 31, 2011

Gem Dealer

Design by:  Reiner Knizia
Published by:  Gryphon Games
3 – 5 Players, 30 – 45 minutes
Review by:  Greg J. Schloesser

NOTE:  This review first appeared on the Boardgame News site 

Famed designer Reiner Knizia is quite adept at finding new publishers for his older creations.  The list of his re-published designs is quite lengthy, with the latest being Gem Dealer from Gryphon Games, which is a fancy re-packaging of Attacke.  The game play itself is identical, with only the theme, art and components being changed.  There is no arguing with the re-packaging, as it is much more appealing and attractive.

The components are simple:  a deck of cards depicting gems of five different types, with each type having values ranging from two-to-seven (no “sixes”).  In addition, there are six wild cards with values of either seven or ten.  The real improvement over the previous edition is the gems, which are large, irregularly shaped plastic chunks in five colors, matching the designs on the cards.

The object of the game is to be the first player to collect a gem of each color.  Players are dealt a hand of five cards (the start player only gets four), and will play cards in attempts to win gems.  The start player leads by playing one or more cards of the same color.  Subsequent players must play cards of the same type with a greater value, or pass.  Once per round, players may also play non-matching cards face down, each of which will carry a value of one.  When passing, the player must discard all cards he has played up that point.  Thus, remaining in a long, protracted fight can be costly, especially if you don’t win!  This process continues until all but one player has passed.  The player winning the hand takes the gem.

It is important to note that each time a player plays a card or cards – or passes – he draws ONE replacement card.  Thus, playing multiple cards may be necessary to grab the lead in a fight, but one’s hand will dwindle since only one replacement card may be drawn.  This will make it more difficult to challenge on future hands.  One of the keys is to judiciously choose the hands in which you will compete – and know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.

As expected, wild cards can be used as any gem, but there is a risk when using the wild cards carrying a value of “ten”.  If a player uses this in a hand, but does not win the gem, he must also surrender a previously acquired gem.  So, one must have a considerable number of cards of a particular gem type before risking the high-valued wild card.

A player may only collect one of each type of gem.  However, it is often necessary to compete for a duplicate gym in order to prevent an opponent from obtaining it.  When playing with multiple players, one can often “pass the buck” by withdrawing from a competition, forcing an opponent to stick in the fight in order to prevent another player from winning a particular gem.  This is risky, however, as the other players may not have the cards required to remain in the fight.

The game ends as soon as a player acquires each of the five different types.  This generally takes about 30 minutes when playing with four or five players.  That is just about right for a game of this nature.

I must be honest … I was never a fan of Attacke, and other than improved components and a revised theme, this new version offers nothing different.  I find the game to be fairly basic, with limited strategy and options.  It certainly isn’t bad, but it is only a notch above more mainstream games such as UNO or Five Crowns.  Sure, there are decisions to be made, but they are not terribly taxing, and they are rather limited.  However, I do think the game would prove more popular if targeted at a more mainstream audience … the type of audience who tends to enjoy more mainstream games.  By that, I mean Gem Dealer seems to be the type of game that will appeal more to families and casual gamers.  Folks who desire more strategy in their games will likely not find much here to engage them.

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