Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Review -- ROWBOAT

In the world of card games the mechanic of trick-taking in one of the most popular.
The idea of taking a 'trick' usually by having the highest played card among players in a given round is about as old an idea as there is in terms of card games, and there are reasons such games are popular. To begin with, trick-taking keeps every player involved in every hand, and the rules are generally pretty easy to teach and to understand.
So, it's no surprise there are new games coming down the pike which rely on trick-taking as the primary focus.
Rowboat is one such game.
Rowboat was designed by the trio of John Montague, Cristina Ramos and David Schiller and released in 2009 by Moosetache Games (yes, the company logo is a moose with a mustache).
The game uses a 61-card deck, so the designers have ventured beyond the standard 52-card deck we are all familiar with.
The first cards of a round are dealt face up until an oar, a wave, a shell, and a map are showing (the four suits in Rowboat). The initial face-up cards are known as the Tide.
There are also three special cards which can be used only once during a game. The rowboat card is the ultimate trump, and tops whichever card it is played on, the lighthouse card allows a player to peek at an opponent's hand, while the moon card allows the dealer to decide how many cards will be dealt onto the table to start a game, regardless of the general tide rule.
From there each player is dealt a hand with the same number of cards that are in the Tide.
It is then up to players to predict how many rounds they will win, another tried and true trick-taking game mechanic. If you fall short of your predicted success you lose points.
With the difference hand-to-hand of the tide, and the access to the special cards adds a level of strategy to Rowboat that gives this game a little extra to explore.
In terms of production values, Rowboat scores high. I like that designers have re-created the 'suits' and have produced high quality cards. It is neat that there is a 'dolphin of maps', 'whale of shells' etc as face cards.
The art work by Sophie Kittredge is quite stunning, even the 'rowboat' on the back of each card.
The box is small, sturdy, and colourful, so it attracts attention, and will store well.

-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper January 12, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

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