Card games have been popular pretty much as long as people have been playing games, and one of the most popular mechanics in card games is trick-taking. Today I’m going to highlight some of the best modern trick-taking games.
This topic started off as a discussion about the declining popularity of trick-taking games like Euchre.
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Roger is wondering what happened to classic trick-taking games do people still play them?
Hey Moe, I’m still enjoying and learning a lot from your podcasts. I recently came up with a dice game called “Euchre Dice”. I pretty much learned to count playing games like Euchre and Crazy eights, so I thought Euchre Dice would be a game that everybody could enjoy. I started to play-test the game and couldn’t find any players who were familiar with Euchre, and very few that were familiar with trick taking games in general.
Growing up, I remember seeing at least one, if not a few, euchre games going on in high school, and college cafeterias at any given time as well as at parties, work and family get-togethers. I was surprised to see that so few hobby-gamers had played games like these. There seems to be some type of cultural divide between today’s hobby gamer and traditional games like Euchre.
Is this just a local phenomena, or is this some type of cultural divide that needs to be bridged?”
We discussed Roger’s question in quite a bit of detail on That’s The Trick, Episode 113 of the Tableotp Bellhop Gaming Podcast. Check that episode out for the full discussion. What I will say here is that we ended up deciding that yes, traditional card games are not as popular as they were and that decline seems to have grown with each generation. We also discovered that trick-taking games like Euchre are much more regional than we thought, mostly found in the midwest.
After that discussion, we went on to talk about some of the best modern trick-taking games out there today and that’s what I want to focus on in this article.
What are Some of the best Modern Trick-Taking Games?
The following list of card games is in no specific order. After the main list, I will be featuring a number of honourable mentions which are games that I’ve not personally played but came strongly recommended by other gamers.
The Fox in the Forest – This two-player only trick-taking game has been mentioned a number of times on our podcast and in various game recommendation posts and for good reason. As noted before, I was shocked by how well this game works. I had always thought of trick-taking games as four-player games, sometimes in teams, but never as something that would work with only two. Yet, The Fox in the Forest proved me wrong.
For more information on this game check out my The Fox in the Forest review.
The Fox in the Forest Duet – While I was surprised by the Fox in the Forest I was even more surprised by the follow up game, The Fox in the Forest Duet. This redesigned version of The Fox in the Forest turns it into a two-player only cooperative game. This is the first cooperative two-player only game that I’ve discovered and it works really well. This has become one of our go-to date night games for when it’s just Deanna and I.
Read my The Fox in the Forest Duet review for more information on this great trick-taking game for two.
Diamonds – Growing up, two of my favourite traditional trick-taking card games were Hearts and Spades. Those are still two of my favourite games to play when all I have is a standard deck of cards. Diamonds, published by Stronghold Games, is a follow up to those traditional games.
What I like about Diamonds is that it plays up to six players, has some interesting hidden information mechanics and rewards or punishes you for playing off suit. While more fiddly than most traditional card games and requiring some extra components other than just a standard deck of cards I think Diamonds is a great next step game for fans of traditional trick-taking games. If you like Hearts and/or Spades, check out Diamonds.
Wizard – Wizard is the hobby card game that is closest to playing a trick-taking game with a standard deck. It’s probably the most approachable game on this list for playing with people who are hardcore standard card game fans. Wizard is a bidding game where each round players bid for how many tricks they will take. The neat bit is that the game starts with a hand of one card and it goes up from there, round two you will have two cards, round three, three cards, and so on. The Wizard deck is similar to a regular deck of playing cards with the addition of four Wizards and four Jesters. Jesters always lose and Wizards always win. Wizard also has the advantage of playing two to six players.
Black Spy – If you are a fan of Hearts you may want to check out Black Spy. This evolution of Heats with a film noir theme has players playing a pretty standard trick-taking game where only the black cards are worth points with the seven black spies cards being worth the most at ten points each and the other black cards being worth from one to five.
This is another modern trick-taking game that’s just a little bit different from traditional games and thus a great next step for gamers who are fans of Hearts.
Gorus Maximus – The highlight of Gorus Maximus, a gladiatorial combat based trick-taking game, is the fact that the trump suit can change mid-hand. Added to that is a point system based on the numbers of the cards with some cards that include negative point values, which makes a big impact on what tricks you may or may not want to take. Gorus Maximus also has the highest player count out of any trick-taking game I’ve played, easily accommodating eight players. It’s actually better the more players you have.
This is a great example of a modern trick-taking game using basic mechanics and doing something that feels new and fresh with them. Just watch for that not-so-kid-friendly art. A more family-friendly version, called Sea Change is in the works.
Visit and read my Gorus Maximums review for more information on this great high player count trick-taking game.
Macaron – The last game on this list you can’t get quite yet, though it’s live right now on Kickstarter and I think it’s well worth backing.
Macaron is a modern trick-taking game that does a few totally unique things that I’ve not seen before. The first is that it features a punitive suit. Each round if you take any tricks that include cards from the “allergen” suit, that trick doesn’t count. The second is that both the trump suit(s) and the allergen are determined by voting in a four or five-player game.
I found this addition of a vote to trick-taking to be particularly engaging. You can read more about this game in my Macaron preview.
Honourable Mentions, modern trick-taking games I really want to try!
Tichu – You will find Tichu at the top or near the top of every other trick-taking game list out there. This probably belongs on the main list for us too, except for the fact I’ve never actually gotten a chance to play it. Tichu uses a standard deck plus four special cards; dog, phoenix, dragon and Mah Jong. The object of the game is to rid yourself of your hand while hopefully scoring points as you do so.
Trick of the Rails – I put Trick of the Rails on this honourable mentions list because it’s one I’m really curious to try. It supposedly combines 18xx style portfolio management with trick-taking and I have to say that idea fascinates me. This is one of the heaviest weighted trick-taking games according to BGG, and I’m super curious to try it out. Unfortunately, it seems to be out of print.
The Crew: Quest for Planet Nine – My final honourable mention is what I would consider the new hotness in trick-taking and that is The Crew. Everyone seems to be talking about this cooperative trick-taking game. After playing, and loving, The Fox in the Forest duet I’m super hyped to see how someone else handles cooperative trick-taking.
In addition to being a cooperative trick-taking game, the Crew also adds something else I’ve never seen in a trick-taking game: a campaign. The Crew has an ongoing story about a space mission to Pluto that is broken up over fifty scenarios of varying difficulty levels.
There you have the modern trick-taking card games that I’ve had the most enjoyment with. There are a lot of trick-taking games out there and I know there are a ton that I haven’t had a chance to play yet that probably deserve to be on this list. If your favourite game isn’t on this list, let me know in the comments and tell me why it should be.