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During the summer, all the beach volleyball players gather near the sea to vie for the Beach Cup, the most prestigious trophy of the sport. And YOU can be part of the action with this card game. Along with your partner, you face your opponents.... Launch a devastating serve, jump for the ball before it touches the ground and smash it back as hard as you can. And all that without leaving your sofa.
A volleyball card game played in teams? An unusal idea, to be sure, and one that works extremely well.
The cards are in German, but the pictures help greatly when learning their properites (such as spiking, saving, and blocking). Within about 15 minutes, we were carrying out some fast and furious back and forth volleys.
Strand Cup is filled with interaction as you and your teammate(s) decide who should hit the ball and when (and if) to deliver the decisive spike over the net.
This isn't a deep game--it's meant to be played quickly. For light fun without worrying about sand getting caught between your toes, Strand Cup is a winner.
In this convincing portrayal of beach volleyball for teams of two or four players, cards are discarded to send the ball over the net. Cards played to pass the ball back and forth between teammates set up a powerful return, which the opponents will need strong cards to meet. Spike cards are best for returning the ball, but may cause the ball to hit the net or, worse, rebound to you at full speed. Outcomes are determined by rolling a six-sided die (not provided with the game). Special cards (Power Beverages, Blinders, and Killer Spikes) add spice to the exhilarating back-and-forth of serve, save, and spike.
In the last few years the Munich-based team of Krimsus Krimskrams Kiste has published several high quality card games that feature innovative ideas and great artwork. Strand Cup is their most recent game, and it is a very enjoyable and unique simulation of a beach volleyball game using a 60-card deck. Two teams play against each other, as they would in the real game, and both teamwork and communication are needed to play the ball most efficiently. A little luck helps, too.
The principle cards in the game are the Forearm Pass and the Overhead Pass. Being able to hit the ball only three times per side, teams try to build to the most powerful return by a build-up, set, and finish that makes it impossible for the opposing team to return. This is modeled in the game by the use of three separate values on each of the Pass cards, one for each of the possible three hits it can make. For example, say I retrieve the ball from the serve with a Pass card that has a build-up value of '1'. My teammate then plays another Pass card that nicely sets the ball with a value of '4' and our third teammate sends the ball over the net with a third Pass including a finish value of '5', giving us a '10' total score and now our opponents must be able to deal with this.
In addition to the build-up, set and finish values on the Pass cards, each also has a Receive value. To meet the incoming ball, a player on the receiving side must play a card with a Receive value equal to or greater than the incoming shot. In the example above, a Receive value of 10 or higher is needed. Once played, that card can be used as the build-up, set, or even the net shot for the return and through this back-and-forth play eventually someone will not be able to get to the ball, giving the other team a point. Almost half of the cards in the deck are Pass cards, as they dominate the play. Forearm Passes are particularly good for receiving the ball and the build-up, while Overhead Passes are the best to set for the finish.
The game of course begins with a serve, however, and as in the real game a single player performs this until they lose the point. The server can play any card with a "finish" value and the serve counts as this value for receipt by the other team. Alternatively, the server can discard any card and roll a die, using the value as the finish score. Play then goes as described above and it is in this interaction that the communication and teamwork becomes crucial. Each player has only six cards (seven in a 4-player game) for each point, and teammates are not allowed to compare cards or discuss strategy privately. The game flows like the real thing, meaning players need to shout, "I can get it", "set me", "over here", or similar to try make the best use of their hand. The game plays almost in real-time if played correctly, and that gives it a unique feel and one that works quite well.
Beyond the basic cards, the game includes several others that add to the reality of the simulation and help mix things up. Eight "Spike" cards offer a very powerful finish, but with a risk: the player who uses the Spike rolls a die and if they roll a '1' the ball hits the net and drops on their side, giving the point to the opposition. Three more "Killer Spike" cards are even more forceful but carry even more risk: with these, a '1' still hits the net, but a '2' on the die also indicates that the ball was hit too hard and is headed for beyond the opponents' base line. The receiving team then rolls a die to see if they are judging the ball properly; on a 1-3 they misjudge it and try to return it anyway, while on a 4-6 they let the ball go long and win the point.
Every good offense has a defensive reaction and a ball that is successfully spiked can be blocked with one of eight Block cards. Multiple players can go up for the block and each one playing a card rolls two dice for this blocking value. The sum of all the rolls equals the value that must be returned by the opponents, and with the largest receive value being a '12' it is likely that a block forced by multiple players cannot be received normally. When faced with an incoming ball with a value that can't be received, a Save card can provide last gasp hope. This can be used on an incoming value of any amount, but it takes that player out of that point for good (he is face down in the sand, after all!), and the next player on the team must roll a die to see if he can get to the inaccurate shot. On a 1-2 roll, he doesn't makes it and the save fails, but on a 3-5 he reaches the ball and can set it or finish it as normal.
Beyond these, there are five specialty cards that that allow you to hit the ball with extra spin, hit a particularly hard serve, or even take an "energy drink" to draw cards during the point play. Each of these adds fun to the mix and none are so powerful that they upset the competitive balance beyond a single point.
The team play of Strand Cup is exciting, and there is strategy to the game but this is only realized through constant communication and unselfish play of your own cards. One possible hiccup to the idea that we've tested is to simply send every ball over with the minimum number cards possible, sacrificing the total value of the shot. This way, you will have every shot returned but force your opponents to run out of cards more quickly than you. This "wear them down" idea works on occasion, but is not a game breaker since it often is not more effective than the full play.
The artwork on the Strand Cup cards is excellent, with good color and very well buffed bodies on both the men and the women. The rules suggest playing the game with multiple decks and playing with more than two teams at a time; we've not tried this but it sounds intriguing. A good description, with pictures of the cards and downloadable rules, are available on the Krimsus website at www.krimsu.com. The game is easy to learn and is different enough from most others in that it is usually seen as a very fresh alternative to party games or action games. And, you don't have to worry how you'll look in your bathing suit!