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You never thought that collecting nuts would be so addictive! Play as a partnership or play head to head as you attempt to be the squirrel in control.
Be careful though -- in order to gain control you have to give control. Experience the excitement as you exert your control. Gather nuts and become top squirrel.
Warning: With enough play you may become a Control Nut too!
You can download the rules for 2-3 players from BoardGameGeek's Control Nut page.
This four-player bridge-like card game will have you hoarding nuts in no time. If you’ve never played bridge, that’s OK, you just need to play one trial game with everyone’s hands face up to get the idea of what’s going on.
Mechanics: Two players are on a team and sit across from each other. Make sure no player can see each others hands after the cards are dealt and picked up.
By luck of the draw, typically a couple players will have powerful hands and others will not (just like in bridge). That’s OK. If your hand is weak, your teammate might have some high numbered cards and you’ll be there to support them. Both players on a team share the winning points and nuts!
At the start of the game you can bid for Control Cards. These are mostly used during game player to add multipliers, help win tricks and
Play goes clock-wise, each playing laying cards and following suit.
Pro’s: Pretty good replay value. Cute artwork.
Con’s: Must have exactly four players. If you’ve never played bridge, basic concepts will need to be explained in detail.
The bonus cards make each round variable, especially the trump-changing card! Three of the college students who played with me (a middle-ager) -- all of them gamers -- commented that once they got the general idea of what the rules were, they were impressed with the strategy required to win points. The squirrel art is very humorous! And the game is very compact and portable.
Although it says "10 and up," I don't think a 10-year-old could play this with his friends. (A bummer, since I also bought this for my 10-year-old nephew). They'll need lots of adult help (or at least older teens) to learn the basics. If the game is updated, I'd recommend that the creator sit in with a group of first-time players and rewrite the instructions as the first-timers tried to learn the game. Just a few simple additional instructions and some clarifying examples would make a tremendous difference, and help players enjoy the game more quickly. We used some of the reviews on this site in addition to the instructions to help us figure it out.
If you ever have the pleasure of being at the same convention as James Miller, count yourself a fortunate person. James carries around a crate of games and is very willing to play and teach them - being in fact one of the best teachers of games I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. So, when I heard that he had self-published his own card game, I was very interested in giving it a try. Trick-taking card games are a personal favorite of mine, and I was immediately impressed by the quality of the game, Control Nut! (self-published, 2004 - James Miller)
Unfortunately, I played Control Nut! in the same time frame as another similar trick-taking game, Trump, Tricks, Game!. Although the games have differences, they were close enough that I couldn't help compare them, and I found Control Nut! the lesser. That doesn't detract from Control Nut!, as it simply was a little more complicated and difficult to explain to new players. It IS a good trick-taking game, with some unique ideas and a bit of chaos thrown in with some "Control" cards. I enjoy playing it but will only pull it out when I am in the company of experienced card players, as that provides the best playing experience.
A deck of fifty-two cards is shuffled (four suits: acorns, walnuts, buckeyes, peanuts - numbered from one to thirteen), and dealt to each player - (four players, in two pairs of partners). A pile of eight control cards is shuffled, and four are randomly chosen and shown to all the players. These four control cards are shuffled and then auctioned off to the players, one at a time. In an auction, a player must bid with three cards from their hand - with the value of their bid being the sum of the three cards. Players must all bid, starting with the dealer, and must bid a different number from previous bids (but not necessarily higher). The player who wins the bid takes the control card, adding it to their hand. They then give the three cards that they bid to the other players - one to each. This player then starts the bidding for the next control card, until all four control cards have been auctioned off.
The player who has won the most control cards (in case of tie - the player who won the last control card) decides what suit is "trump", and play begins. The dealer starts the first hand, playing any card from their hand. Each player must play a card from their hand that is from the same suit, unless they have none - in which case they can play any card they like. The only exception to this rule is that a player can play a control card at any time. The player who has played the highest valued card of the trump trick wins the "trick" (cards played). If no trump card was played, then the player who has played the highest valued card of the suit that was led wins the trick. This player takes all the cards, placing them face down in front of themselves and leads off on the next trick.
Play continues until only one partnership can play cards (it's very possible that people have uneven hand sizes). At this point, the round is scored. Some cards have stars on them (two stars on the "1" card, one star on the "3" card, and one star on the "7" card). Each player multiplies the number of tricks they have won by the number of stars in the cards they have won. This total is added to any special points that control cards may add, and each team gets five points for each control card they have won. Finally, players take any cards they had left in their hands (if the other team ran out of cards first), divide it by four, and add that to their total. Another round then begins. Play continues until one team has exceeded 300 points, at which point they are the winners!
The eight control cards have a variety of effects:
Trick Control: This card, when played, always wins the trick.
Bonus Control: When this card is won in auction, the person who wins it must guess how many tricks they will win. If they are right, they score 50 points.
Score Control: This card is worth twenty extra points to the team that wins it.
Value Control: This card is played with another card, to increase its value by "2".
Hand Control: This card allows the player to steal one card from each opponent's hand randomly.
Order Control: This card allows a player to pass during each trick, until they decide to start playing again.
Trump Control: This card cancels trump and allows the player to choose another trump suit, starting next round.
Star Control: The player when winning it in the auction can add it to their score pile immediately, (which adds 2 stars), or try to play it in a trick - in which the winner gets it (adding 4 stars).
Some comments on the game...
1.) Components: The cards in Control Nut are of high quality. I'm especially fond of the layout and artwork. Each card shows a squirrel in the process of acquiring nuts. Each suit is not only in a different color, but shows pictures of the specific nuts, as well as the name. The artwork on the same number cards is the same, except the nut changes. This is cleverly done to allow players to quickly differentiate between suits, but adds a uniformity to the game. All the cards fit well into a small box with a lid.
2.) Rules: The rules, which are two sides of a sheet of paper, are fairly thorough, but aren't written in the clearest of ways. I had to email Mr. Miller to clear up a few points - everything just was piled on the page. It wasn't impossible, mind you, just a little more difficult than normal. When teaching the game, I found that fans of trick-taking games, such as Hearts, picked up on the rules much more easily than others. In fact, with some players, I had to avoid the auction altogether and play through a couple of practice hands, just so that they would understand what "Trump" meant, etc. Control Nut isn't a difficult game to learn, per se, but it isn't too simple and is more involved than others.
3.) Chaos: I've seen some complaints that the control cards add a bit of chaos to the game. This cannot be denied; they certainly do change the game to where a player can never really be sure what the other players have. This is slightly mitigated by the fact that the player does know SOME of the cards - the cards used to pay for the auctions. Unlike other trick-taking games, in which a player has complete knowledge and control at all times, Control Nut! has more of a random feel.
4.) Control Cards: The different feel of Control Nut is most certainly caused but the Control cards. Some of them I really like, others I feel are either not worth as much or are too difficult to do. For example, the Trick Control (which we call the "rook") is a great card, and having it really can help you win a critical trick. The Bonus Control, on the other hand, is too difficult to be worth much. I've played many hands of Control Nut, and have NEVER seen anyone correctly guess the number of tricks they are going to take. Still, the control cards do add a new level to the game and keep it refreshing. One never knows what combination of four control cards will show up in a game, and it keeps things interesting and entertaining.
5.) Bidding: I must say that I really, really enjoy the bidding mechanic in Control Nut! The control cards are powerful enough that players can't merely let the other side take them all. Besides, the player who takes the most control cards determines trump suit, which is a huge advantage! However, all of this is mitigated by the fact that a player must lose three of their cards (and probably good ones, to win the auction) to the other players. They can give one to their partner (and thus communicate with them slightly) but must give the other two to the opposing team. So, while I may have two control cards in my hand, I will have had to have lost six cards to get to that point, evening out the playing field. Are some control cards worth more than others? I certainly think so - the last one is often especially useful (because in many games players tend to win one control card each). Bidding isn't too tense - mostly because it happens quickly, but it does add a new level to a trick-taking game. It does take away from the elegance a little, but I still like it.
6.) Scoring: Taking cards with stars is critical. It's very important that a player get at least two or three cards, and then a decent amount of tricks, so that the multiplication works best in their favor. I'm not sure how this turns out in the long run. The "1", "3", and "7" are the only cards with stars on them, and thus become point cards. Is this much different than simply giving them a point value? Is multiplying by the number of tricks that much different? I don't see how it plays too much differently, but it's not that big of a deal - and it does make the game more interesting.
7.) Fun Factor: I really enjoy trick-taking games - the thrill of winning point cards, having the highest trump card, surprising the other team, working with your teammate - all of these things really keep me interested and having fun. Throwing an auction and special, powerful cards in the mix certainly keeps it high on my list to play.
I like powerful cards, I like chaos, and I like Control Nut! Yet many times I would prefer to play another trick-taking game, mostly for the sheer simplicity - something I cannot say about Control Nut.
This game is an amazing first effort from James, not only are the rules well designed and playtested, the components are also very nicely done - it looks very professional. The game itself is fun, interesting, and offers an array of choices. My only caveat is that it might prove to be a little too much for those who simply like to play a solid, no-frills trick-taking game. I enjoy it a lot and want to play it often. But most of my other trick-taking games are easier to find opponents for, and so Control Nut! often sits on the shelf. It's not a bad game, (quite good, actually!) but won't fit everyone's tastes.
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