Diamonds. They're a girl's best friend. They're forever. And they're the subject of the latest trick-taking game from designer Mike Fitzgerald. Will this game become a classic, like Hearts and Spades, or will it turn out to be cubic zirconia? Let's find out.
Title - Diamonds
Designer - Mike Fitzgerald
Publisher - Stronghold Games
Number of players - 2-6
Ages - 8 and up
Play time - 30 Minutes
Category/Genre - Triack-taking card game
- 60-card deck
- 110 small plastic diamonds
- 25 large plastic diamonds
- 6 player aid cards
- 6 Vaults (cardboard stands)
- Family? Yes!
- Youth Group? Maybe! Might be good for a small group.
- Gamers? Yes!
- Nongamers? Yes! This game is completely approachable--especially for those familiar with traditional trick-taking games.
Mike Fitzgerald is the Rummy King. His Mystery Rummy series is fantastic and varied--and still going strong. In Diamonds he's added his own touch to the classic games of Hearts and Spades.
Diamonds is a trick-taking game with a twist: Each suit has a special scoring ability. Each trick lets someone take an action, depending on the suit used to win the trick. And at the end of the hand, people get to take another action if they took the most tricks in that suit. You aim is to have the most loot at the end of the game.
The round starts a little differently than usual. The dealer decides if everyone will pass 1, 2, or 3 cards, and then everyone passes that many cards to the left.
Hands start out playing as any other trick-taking game. Someone leads a card, and others follow by playing a card. You have to follow suit if you can. If you can't, that's where things are different.
If you play off-suit, you immediately get a Suit Action in the suit you played.
- Diamonds: Take a 1-point crystal from the supply and place it in (behind) your Vault.
- Hearts: Take a 1-point crystal from the supply and place it in your Showroom (which is in front of your Vault).
- Spades: Take a 1-point crystal from your Showroom and place it in your Vault.
- Clubs: Take a 1-point crystal from another player's Showroom and place it in your Showroom.
Whoever played the highest card in the lead suit to the trick wins the trick. That person gets an immediate additional Suit Action, in the lead suit.
Once all of the cards in the hand have played out, everyone counts up the cards they took in each suit, and the person who took the most in each suit gets an additional Suit Action. (If there's a tie, no one gets it.)
If someone takes no tricks, that person gets to take the Diamond Suit Action immediately--and twice!
You play a number of rounds based on the number of players, and then count up Crystals. A Crystal in your Vault is worth two points, and a Crystal in your Showroom is worth one.
There are a few variants. The 2-player one works surprisingly well. Both Hearts and Spades have 2-player variants, and Diamonds is the best of these, IMO.
The partnership version works well, too, though I haven't played it nearly as many times as the "traditional" way and 2-player.
I'm at a point in my life where I'm looking for ways to introduce my kids to concepts they'll see later, when they get older and we play more-advanced games. For trick-taking, Hearts is a good one one to introduce those concepts. But so is Diamonds. It's easy to explain, but there's some added depth that a game such as Hearts just doesn't have. And the cool diamond pieces add some tactile interest, and can draw in nongamers.
I like the art-deco art style quite a bit, but the art and fonts do make the cards somewhat hard to read out on the table. Not a huge deal--just an example of form over function.
One of the things I really like is that there are decisions to be made, even when you're throwing off garbage cards. What do you want to hold onto? What Suit Action do you want to take? What are you going to try and get majority in at the end of the hand? Are you trying to go nil to get those two Diamond actions--then how do you play in order to do that? Decisions are good things.
And helping my kids work through making decisions as they're learning to play is a good thing, too.
At the end of the day, Diamonds isn't going to revolutionize trick-takers, but it's a solid game that I'm happy to play and introduce to others.
I'd like to thank Stronghold Games for providing me with a review copy of Diamonds. This in no way affected my opinion of the game.
Thanks for reading!