Der Dreizehnte Holzwurm
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Holzwurm (Woodworm) works on the idea of hungry little worms munching their way around, sometimes trying their tiny teeth on objects that are less than palatable. This is a trick-taking game, where you try to gather cards of a like suit and sequence in order to gain points. However, there are positive and negative points which much be kept track of and tallied for the score. A set number of cards are dealt, and this is as many as the player will have the entire game--no trading, discarding or dealing, every card must be used!
There are several colors of suits, with cards ranging in value from 10 to -13. Six cards are dealt face-up onto the table, and a certain number of cards are then dealt to the players according to haw many players there are. Players take turns laying down one card each, building the cards that are face up into tricks. Positive-value cards are stacked to the right, negative to the left. The value of the card laid down must always be one more than the number of cards (not the value) in a stack. The object is to build a trick that is of positive value, and take it before someone else does, while avoiding having to take a trick that is worth a negative number. There are wild cards which can be laid on any color, but never two wild cards in a row. When you want to claim a trick, just put down a card whose value is equal to or less than the number of piles in the stack! The player with the most points when all cards have been played wins!
The gameplay can be fairly quick if you are fast with numbers, but is never actually slow unless someone is overthinking: I'm terrible with numbers, but I kept up with the rest of my group-it was the girl who is an overanalyzer who got the egg-timer treatment! The pictures on the cards are very entertaining, and the game is short and sweet, perfect for waiting for dinner at a restaurant or before bedtime with the kids.
My only real complaint is that never drawing new cards and having to use all of the cards dealt can be a bad combo; sometimes it is impossible to do. A good variant is replenishing your hand and playing through the whole deck--it makes the game go past 20 minutes, but can be a more satisfying experience. 3 stars doesn't mean it's bad, it's just not perfect. Not every game needs to be. I don't regret buying it at all, and think all in all it's a good lightweight snack in between main courses of Tikal or El Grande. Did I mention the illustrations are really cute?
After two abortive attempts to getting started with this, I've now got it. Part of the reason for the confusion is that there are concepts introduced into this card game that are non-standard. Tricks are not taken from a single round of cards and multiple tricks are in play at once. Each player receives a wad of cards, made up of 5 suits. The object is to convert your hand into as many net positive points as possible. Even numbered cards are positive while odd numbered cards are negative.
Players choose whether to launch new trick or add to an existing one. Each colour can only be started once, except grey which can only be added to existing tricks. A trick is concluded when the number on the card played is not higher than the total number of cards already part of the trick.
For example, a trick of yellow cards has already got -11, -5, +4. The total cards played so far is three, so playing a +2, -1 or -3 will conclude the trick. At this stage, the player takes these into their hand, as well as one of the six cards that act as a bonus (or penalty) to your score. Playing a card with a 4 or higher will allow the trick to continue. The game ends when the sixth card (always a -13) is taken or a player runs out of cards. Each player's score is the net total of the negative and positive points in their hand, except if you had no cards when the score is 30.
Having got the game basics out of the way, I'm not sure how I feel about this game. You're trying to take tricks that score positive points, but as tricks get larger a higher number is required to avoid winning a trick. And generally you do need to avoid taking tricks although the ability to start a new trick in a colour that has just been taken means you can dump the large minus cards you have just acquired. As the bonus cards are used up, the game gets closer to finishing, so capturing a trick becomes more dangerous because you have less chance to dump a high minus card. The limit on only having one trick started for each colour also means that you need to plan when to get a trick and when to avoid taking a trick.
Finally, the score of 30 seems to be a pretty good score and is awarded to the person who gets rid of all of their cards, so I think this can act as a guide as to whether you have got a good hand. With continued play, I expect that players would tend to play quite carefully, but the game is not so good (or serious) as to be worthy of serious study. In our group, the frequency of new game arrivals means that this game will be consigned to only an occasional outing. Nice try, but not good enough to be inspirational.