Café Games: Gargon, Höhlengrölen, LotR: Confrontation

This time we didn’t play Go at all! What a surprise! Instead we played some cards. Because there was five of us present, we had little choice amongst the games I brought.

So we played Gargon, which is an interesting card game. It’s main quirk is that the backs of the cards are coloured according to the suit of the card. It’s a trick-taking game (well, almost) where players play their cards blind. You see the suits of the cards your opponents play, but not the values. Players must follow the card mix, but not suit.

When all players have played or passed, cards are turned over and “battles” ensue. Going colour by colour, each player chooses their highest card in that colour. The highest card wins the trick — except that the owner of that card only scores his or her own card! The other cards are discarded. I got that wrong the first time I played, that’s where the trick-taking mechanism breaks. If players have more than one card in a colour, next highest cards are compared and so on. If a player is the only one to have cards of certain colour, he or she scores them without any questions.

The draw deck is split into two halves, which are fanned out on the board so that the players can see what colours are coming. The game ends when one of the halves is emptied. Players score for amulets (surprise surprise: low cards have lots of amulets and high cards have few amulets!), zeros double the scores in their colours. Most cards in each colour is worth 10 points. I sucked in this, the game was a miserable failure for me.

Then Atro left and we played Höhlengrölen. As some of you might have noticed, I have a thing for trick-taking games. I also like rummy games. Höhlengrölen is a rummy game, where players try to form bands and be the best producers.

The game is set in stone age and the cards depict various stone age musicians (who are, for some reason, very much like our modern-day musicians…) in four different genres (pop, folk, metal, rap). Bands are composed of three to five musicians of the same genre. Players can also create crossover bands, which must be boy groups or girl groups. These have special rules.

The game is very basic rummy. Draw two cards, discard a card. Melding bands breaks the monotony every now and then. For their main bands (not crossover) players must each time beat their previous band. Players have three bonus cards to help them: two doubles (dancing and singing teacher — you can’t use them both on a same band because back then, as it is even today, bands can either sing or dance — not both!) and one +3 (stylist, can be combined with the doubles). These can be used once in a game each to boost a band. If someone else has already played a band in the same genre, the new band suffers a -2 cut.

When the deck is exhausted, players score their bands. The best crossover bands scores now five points. All the bands are discarded and new round begins. Deck is gone through as many times as there are players. It’s a pretty quick game and you usually have time to create just two bands each round.

It was actually quite fun. Well, part of it is because I won, of course, but still. I like rummy and Höhlen Grölen is a pretty basic rummy game. The theme is silly but fun. Some of the musicians are either German stars or just general stereotypes, but some are hilariously recognisable (my favourite is metal dude Nick L. Beck). If you’re into pop music, you’ll probably find the theme funny.

It’s a simple game, but I thought it was entertaining. And unlike Wo ist Jack the Ripper?, it’s non-gamer accessible too. If you’re looking for a funny little card game to play with your friends, Höhlen Grölen is worth checking out if it suits your sense of humour. It’s also pretty cheap, at least in Germany, so if you’re ordering from Adam Spielt or something, it’s easy to add on an order.

To finish off the session, I played a game of Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation with Juho. I played the good guys, but unfortunately lost. Frodo was already pretty far, but then got killed by Flying Nazgûl. No room to retreat, Eye of Sauron, that’s all it took. Too bad.

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