original German edition
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Hattrick! has a very simple premise, and learning the rules took all of 5 minutes, but the underlying strategy was incredible.
Basically, the deck consists of 3 suits, with 20 cards labeled from 1 up to 20 in each of the suits. All the cards are shuffled together and then the entire deck is dealt out evenly to all the players. One player leads off by playing any one card onto the table. The next player has the option of either playing a card of the same suit as the card already played, or starting off a second trick by playing a different suit. Once a second suit is played, the remaining players have to play one of the two suits that are in play. If a player has no cards of either suit (they only have cards of the third suit) they reveal one of their cards and place it face down in front of them. This card winds up being a -2 point penalty at the end of the round. After each player has placed one face up card, the player(s) with the highest card in the suit(s) take all the cards of that suit and places them face up in front of them, so if two suits were played, two players win cards. The player who played the single highest valued card (1 - 20 ignoring suit) starts off the next trick. This continues until everyone is left with one card left in their hand, at which point, the round is over. I like that rule better than everyone just dropping their last card onto the table, I always found that to be anti-climactic.
Now the real meat and potatoes of this game is the scoring. Each player scores as follows: the suit that they have won the most cards of is their positive score, scoring one point for each card won. Now any cards won in the other two lesser suits count as minus one point. It is possible to get a negative score!
What makes this game so tricky is that you can see what suit each player has already won a lot of cards in, so everyone will try to force them to win tricks of another color to lower their final score. I felt my mind melting as I looked at my hand trying to figure out when to bust out my high cards in my strong suit, sneak out the low cards in my strong suit, and when to heft off high cards in my weak suits. It's really nuts!
All in all this is a must have game, especially for the price!!