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Turn the Tide
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Turn the Tide

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Product Awards:  
Games Magazine Awards
Family Card Game Nominee, 2005

Ages Play Time Players
10+ 30-40 minutes 3-5

Designer(s): Stefan Dorra

Publisher(s): Gamewright

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Product Description

Shape up or sheep out! A huge storm is threatening Shepherd's Island and it's up to you to stem the tide. In this captivating card game, try to outwit your opponents by playing number cards wisely to stay afloat. Hang on to your life preservers to win the game. But, be careful how you play your cards of else you could end up in deep water! A great strategic game for the not too sheepish.

Product Awards

Games Magazine Awards
Family Card Game Nominee, 2005

Product Information


  • 60 weather cards
  • 24 tide level cards
  • 24 life preserver tokens
  • 1 score pad
  • 1 pencil
  • rules

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 4.7 in 3 reviews

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Don't like your hand? Who cares - everybody's going to have to use it!
June 14, 2005

Gamewright has an entire line of games that are doing well in the mass market, and while fun, are mainly marketed towards children (Slamwich, Rat-a-Tat Cat, etc.) I have no problem with this, as their games are fun for kids, and look really good. But when I received Turn the Tide, I was quite surprised to see Mr. Dorra’s name on the box; as he is a designer of some rather good games (Amazonas, Medina, For Sale, etc.). This gave me high hopes for the game; and after reading the rules, I was eager to give it a whirl.

After playing the game, I can say that Turn the Tide is a tremendous card game with a lot of strategy and tactics involved. It has the very nifty mechanic in that you get to play everybody’s hands, so there won’t be much complaining about luck. The gameplay is very simplistic, and it has simultaneous selection – something I really enjoy, but it’s not as chaotic as some in that genre. It’s certainly the best Gamewright game I own – and one that I’ll pull out often when I have a bunch of card players over.

A deck of sixty “Weather” cards, each with a number from one to sixty on it, are shuffled and twelve dealt to each player with the remainder (if any), placed in the box – not to be used in the game. Each player looks at their cards and adds up the life preservers pictured on them (cards either have no life preserver, half a life preserver, or a whole life preserver). Players take the life preserver tokens equal to the sum (rounding down) shown on their cards. A deck of “Tide Level” cards (twenty-four cards, two each numbered one through twelve) is shuffled, and placed in the middle of the table, and the game is ready to begin.

Each round is made up of twelve hands. In each hand, the top two Tide Level cards are turned face up in the middle of the table. Each player then chooses one Weather card from their hand and plays it face down on the table with everyone revealing them at the same time. The player who played the highest numbered weather card must take the lower numbered Tide Level card, placing it face up in front of them (replacing any former Tide Level card they might have had). The player who played the second highest Weather card must take the other Tide Level card (replacing any former Tide Level card they might have had.) All players then check the Tide Level card currently in front of them, and the player who has the highest loses one life preserver, turning one of them face down. Players discard the Weather cards they played in their own discard piles, and another hand begins.

If a player must lose a life preserver token, and they’ve already turned all of theirs face down, then they are eliminated from that round, turning all their cards face-down. Play continues until either players have played all twelve cards from their hand, or until there are only two players left in the round. Points are then scored – each player receiving one point for each face up life preserver they have, and losing one point if they were eliminated from the round. The player who has the lowest Tide Level card at the end of the round also receives one bonus point. Scores are recorded, and the next round begins. Each player gives all of the life preserver tokens (which are turned face up) and their hands to the player on their left. The Tide Level cards are reshuffled, and another round begins in the exact same way – except that players have different hands and life preserver numbers. After the last round (there are as many rounds as there are players), the scores are totaled, and the player with the most points is the winner!

Some comments about the game…

1.) Components: Oliver Freudenreich illustrated the game, and I think he did an excellent job. The Weather cards show a combination of sunny and stormy weather, but I really enjoy the Tide cards. Each number shows the tide getting progressively higher, next to a lighthouse – with a few sheep sadly clinging to whatever debris they might find. It adds (a very slight) theme to the game, which is nice. The life preserver tokens and cards are of very high quality and fit easily in the small plastic insert in the box. The game also includes a scorepad, which, while not necessary, does facilitate keeping track of who has what points…

2.) Rules: I’m not a big fan of the way the rules are printed on one LONG sheet of folded paper – moving vertically, but the actual formatting and explanation on them is very good. I found that the game is easy to teach and learn but that people sometimes take a while to catch on to who gets the Tide cards. Highest Weather = lowest Tide card; second highest Weather = higher Tide card. Once people get it into their heads this principle, the game flows very smoothly.

3.) Luck: Middle cards are probably the worst cards to have in the game, to a degree, as you never know with them whether you are going to take a trick or not. Thus, they are the ones with the life preservers on them, so the hands balance out. But even if you don’t think so, and you are annoyed that you got dealt a hand full of trash, be assured; each player will play that same trashy hand one round! I think this is a really cool mechanic, as players compete to see who can play a hand better. Of course, as the game progresses, people with good memories will have at least a vague idea of who has what cards, but as everyone has the same information, the game changes accordingly. I’ve played in a game where one person had a stellar hand – many life preservers and good cards. Everyone was jealous, but everyone got to play the hand once. When it came to me, I goofed up and played the wrong card at the wrong time, being eliminated with this “terrific” hand. It was my fault, and I couldn’t blame the luck of the cards at all.

4.) Simultaneous Selection: This, as I said above, is one of my favorite mechanics in a game, and knowing when to play your high and low cards is critical. Sometimes it’s essential to win one of the Tide cards, especially when you have a “12” sitting in front of you – anything is better than that! Other times, especially when a “10”, “11”, or “12” is out, it’s important to play one of the lowest cards you have. Of course, everything depends on the cards others have in front of them, and what cards everyone else has in their hands (if you can remember). In this case, I enjoy a five player game most of all, because all sixty Weather cards are being used. With anything less, if you have the “2” in your hand the first round, it may or may not be the lowest number. Reading your opponent’s faces is crucial, as you may play a fairly low card, thinking everyone else will play higher and then sadly find that you have played the second-highest card! Simultaneous selection may seem like a random mechanic to some, but in this game I found it highly strategic.

5.) Fun Factor: “How can an elimination game be fun?” some may cry out. But a player, in my experience, is only eliminated close to the end of the round, and need only sit out a couple hands. It’s a lot of fun; and even when you feel rage building up in you at your absolutely dreadful hand of cards, it’s reassuring to know that everyone else will share in your pain one of the game rounds. Watching people’s reactions as they win Tide card after Tide card (or can’t win one – and are stuck with a high number for several hands in a row), is priceless, and worth playing the game for alone.

I’m very impressed with Turn the Tide. Stefan Dorra has put out some pretty impressive card games, but this may be one of his best. If nothing else, I wonder if it may not be overlooked because the game doesn’t necessarily match the company’s other products. Don’t miss this game! For an inexpensive price, and wide availability, you can pick up a superb card game – one that is low on the luck and allows you to play your opponent’s hands! Turn the Tide is one of the best card games I’ve played this year, and I expect to see it hit the table many more times, as I can play it with “gamers” and newcomers alike. Gamewright has a winner on their hands with this game.

Tom Vasel
“Real men play board games.”

The Ultimate Bidding Game
January 22, 2005

If you enjoy bidding games like Beat the Buzzard and The Gnumies (I sure do), then this is the next game to add to your collection.

The flood waters are rising around the island of sheep. Save the sheep!

You have numbered cards in your hand, and you are bidding on water level cards. Each bidding round has TWO water cards on which you bid. The highest bid gets the LOWER of the two cards, the SECOND HIGHEST bid gets the higher of the two. Everyone else gets nothing.

Whoever has the highest level of water loses a life preserver... life preservers equal points, so you need try to stay low in the water.

SO, sometimes you are TRYING to get a lower card... often, you need to play the SECOND HIGHEST bid card to do that. The strategy involved in not playing too high or too low and budgeting your cards throughout the round will be sure to stretch and twist your brain in all sorts of new ways.

If this twist is not enough to make this game truly unique -- at the end of the round, you pass your hand of cards and life preservers to the next player. Everyone eventual gets to play with everyone else's hand!

It sounds tricky, and it does take a solid game of play to get the mechanics down, but then you'll get into the flow. With the perfect blend of fairness, challenge and occassional frustration, Turn the Tide is a truly fun and clever diversion.

*Glug* *glug* *glug*! The drowning sheep game!
August 24, 2004

I don't think that any card game can ever aspire to take Bohnanza's place as most replayable card game of all time (at least, not in my tastes.) In fact, if I could give one card game 6 stars just to acknowledge how much better it is than any other card game in order to make giving 5 star ratings to other card games more reasonable, then I'd give that 6-star rating to Bohnanza. Having said all that, I've got to give Land Unter 5 stars too.

You see, it's not my fascination with Stefan Dorra (though this is one more reason to be fascinated by his games), nor the wonderful artwork (comically illustrated, and wonderfully colored drowning sheep, lighthouses, and storm cards), it's the absolute uniqueness of gameplay that again wins the day.

Okay, so what you've got to do is keep your sheep afloat. Even if they are drowning, you do have a chance to rescue them by using up your life preservers, but since unused life preservers are your points at the end of the round, you of course do not want to use them.

So how do your sheep drown? Each player is dealt a hand of Weather cards (follow me here because there are 3 types of cards in this game). The Weather cards are numbered 1 to 60 with no duplicates. Now since the hands are dealt out randomly, like all other card games, one player may have a better hand than another player. UNLIKE other card games, this game has a built in handicapping system. At the top of each Weather card is either a blank, or a half a life preserver, or a whole life perserver. Before the round begins, players total up their life preservers and then take an equal amount of life preserver cards in front of them face up. The stronger your hand, the less Life Preserver (LPs) cards you get, the weaker your hand the more you get. Which means that having a weaker hand has more potential points -- but also more potential to use up those life preservers.

Now the Water Level (WL) cards are shuffled and placed in the center of the table. Now the top 2 are revealed. These cards depict sheep in various levels of flooding, numbered 1-12 (with two of each number), with 1 cards being safer than high cards. Now everone takes a Weather card from their hand secretly and reveals them simultaneously. This is where the game takes anotehr twist: the highest Weather card takes the LOWER Water Level; the second highest card takes the HIGHER Water Level card; everyone else gets off scot-free. If you've been crunching the numbers you now realize that you almost never want to be second, for it ensures you the worst card. But now another twist: the players place those Water Level cards in front of them, now players look around the table to see who has the highest Water Level card showing -- EVEN WATER LEVEL CARDS FROM PREVIOUS ROUNDS. So sometimes you WANT to be second if it means getting a lower Water Level than you currently possess. Whomever has the highest WL card at this point must turn over a Life Preserver to save their sheep. The round ends when either one person loses all their Life Preservers and their sheep drown (-1 point), or all 24 Water Level cards are given out, at which point each player receives a point for each Life Preserver preserved, with the person(s) with the lowest Water Level card showing getting a bonus point.

That is the game in a nut shell. Sound simple? Very much so. Very fun? Yes!


Now everyone turns in all the Water Level cards (which are reshuffled), then takes ALL the Weather cards they played, and all the Life Preserver they had, and PASSES them to the player on their left. That's right: the next hand everyone plays the hand that the player on their right had to play. In this way, everyone must play everyone's hand!

Unique! Fun! Quick! Simple! This game is a wonderful family card game, and it's unique approach to balancing strength of hands should even click with gamers. True, it is light, but it is fun and deserves 5 stars as a recommended purchase.

As for 'Glug glug glug'? That's what we say every time some let's a sheep drown -- and that easily doubles the entertainment. =)

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