I wrote a post about my June games to the Spielfrieks list and Doug Orleans replied to it about Sticheln. I wrote a lengthy reply and thought I’d post it here as well.

Doug wrote:

I played this with 4, and liked it a lot, but then tried it with 3 and it fell pretty flat. With 5 suits in the deck and only 3 players, there are always going to be at least 2 (sometimes 3) suits that no one cares about, which kind of bothers me. Do you remove one suit, or do you think this isn’t an issue? It actually seems like it would be best with 5, but I haven’t tried it.

I don’t think there’s an issue. Yes, there can be three neutral suits, but why is that a problem? I don’t think it is. You can use those cards to take tricks and save the misery cards of other players for those moments when you can slip in the poison so it hurts. Well, actually, I think in a way it’s rather boring when two players choose the same misery colours, but in the other hand those situations require slightly different tactics and that’s always refreshing.

I guess it’s just that the first time I played, it was a three-player game and I liked it. Then I played a four-player game. It was more chaotic. With only nine cards to a suit in the three-player game, it’s easy to count the cards in your misery colour (which, I think, is the minimum demand for playing Sticheln well — counting other colours isn’t that necessary, but if you want to avoid misery, count them). I like the control I have over the game. I rarely collect any misery cards except the one I start with. If I do, it’s usually a risk I’ve taken and which has backfired on me or then I get stuck with bad cards in the end of the hand.

With more players, that sweet control is gone. There are more cards in your misery colour, so it’s harder to keep a count on them (in general I don’t like counting the cards, it takes too much concentration). I guess the game becomes more “fun, when players are more easily forced to take misery cards. But I really shouldn’t dwell on this issue too long, because I’ve only played that one game with more than three players. Still, they way I feel is that Sticheln with more than three players is probably a good and fun game, but Sticheln with three players is a delicate exercise in tactics. It gets interesting and tight when the players learn how to not take misery cards.

Doug again:

Please contradict me if you have more experience with these games.

I haven’t played Hattrick or the other Sticheln games. I’m interested to try Hattrick, but then again, I’ve got other games that offer tough competition for my rather limited time.

I usually profile games according to the best player amount. “Let’s see, we have X players. What’s a good game for X players?”. Sticheln is the three-player card game. With four players, I’m looking forward to a game of Tichu or Dia de los Muertos. Next time I have five players for a card game, I’m definitely trying . There aren’t that many competitors in the three-player card game category… Many games can be played with three players but are clearly better with more players.

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