Posted by: gschloesser | January 28, 2015

Dodekka

Design by Andy Hopwood
Published by Coiledspring Games
2 – 6 Players, 20 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

dodekka

I am always on the prowl for a good “filler”; i.e., a game that is easy to learn and play, is easily transportable, and can be played in 10 – 20 minutes.  These games tend to get played repeatedly, as the opportunities for which they are perfectly suited arise frequently.  Got a bit of time before another player is scheduled to arrive?  A filler is perfect.  Waiting on another game to finish so someone can join your group? Reach for a fun filler.  Waiting for your food to arrive at a restaurant?  A quick filler is on the menu.  A bit of time before calling it an evening?  A late-night filler is in order.  Could Andy Hopwood’s Dodekka fall nicely into this category?

Dodekka is a light card game wherein players attempt to collect cards of one suit (color) while avoiding all other suits.  This concept will be familiar to those who have played games such as David & Goliath or Mit List und Tucke.  Unlike those two games, however, Dodekka is not a trick-taking affair.  Rather, it uses a light, take-or-reveal a card mechanism that has reminded some of Reiner Knizia’s Zirkus Flohcati.

There is a theme attached to the game, but it is quite superfluous:  players are attempting to harness the power of one element while avoiding the other elements.  That’s it.  The theme is only present on the cards, which have five suits (elements):  fire, water, air, earth and ether.  Each suit has 12 cards with values ranging from 0 – 4.  Card counters will want to know the exact mix, but mere mortals will likely just play and  have fun, with no attempt being made to completely remember the mix or each card that is revealed.

The game is quite simple.  The deck is shuffled and three cards set face-up beside it.  A player is faced with a simple choice on his turn:  take the card closest to the deck or reveal another card, placing it at the end of the line of face-up cards.  If the player takes the card  into his hand, his turn is over, and the next player is faced with the same choice.

If the active player opts to reveal a card, there is potential danger.  If the total value of the cards in the line-up exceeds 12, the player busts and must take all of the face-up cards into his hand…unless the “no bust” rule applies.  The “no bust” rule?  If the card the player reveals takes the total value of the cards in the line-up over 12, but has the same value of the last card in the line, then the player does not bust and all of the cards remain in the line.  This is a clever little rule that allows players to play the odds when pushing their luck.

An example is in order.  If the cards in line are 2-2-4-3, then normally revealing a 2, 3 or 4 will cause a bust, as it will bring the total value of the line-up past 12.  However, if the player reveals a “3”, it matches the last card in the line-up.  So even though it brings the total value of the line-up over 12, he doesn’t bust.  So, the player will be safe if he reveals a 0, 1 or 3, thus putting the odds in his favor.  Well, that is if he knows the other cards that have been revealed…but who’s counting?

As mentioned, the goal is to collect as many cards in one suit as possible–particularly the high valued cards–while avoiding collecting cards of the other suits.  So, if a card of the suit you are trying to collect is at the front of the line (nearest the deck), take it.  Otherwise, you have to evaluate the odds and decide whether it is worth the risk to reveal another card.  Busting means all of the cards in the line-up come into your hand.  Sometimes that may be worth it if several of the cards are of the suit you are collecting.

The game ends when the deck expires.  Players then decide which suit will be their scoring suit, and they tally the value of each card in that suit they have collected.  Every other card is worth -1 point.  So, if a player has managed to collect numerous high-valued cards in a suit, getting a handful of cards of undesirable suits won’t hurt much as they only deduct one point per card, regardless of their value.  The player with the highest amount is victorious.

Dodekka is light fun.  While there is some minor calculating of odds, unless you are a dedicated card counter, the proceedings are predominately a matter of luck.  Turn over a card and hope to avoid busting, or play it safe and take the first card in the line.  The decisions are few and generally easy…unless, of course, your opponents taunting gets the best of you and against your better judgment you decide to reveal a card.  It is this taunting and cajoling that makes the game fun.  Played by a bland, no-nonsense group, Dodekka will crash and burn, as there isn’t enough substance here to sustain it without jovial frivolity.  Played with a fun, light-hearted group in one of the aforementioned environments that are conducive to quick, easy-to-learn light games, however, and Dodekka is a suitable fit in the “filler” category.

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