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GAMEPLAY Die Sieben Siegel has some kind of cryptic, secret society theme, which, like all trick-taking games, is completely superfluous. But, I dig it anyway! The game has as many rounds as players, and each round is broken into two phases. In the prediction phase, players declare how many tricks of each color they will win by taking the appropriate colored tokens. Alternatively, one player can take the Saboteur token. Then comes the trick phase: players play cards, following suit where possible (red is always the trump suit). If a player wins a trick of the same color as a token they have, they can discard that token. If they win a trick and they don’t have the appropriate colored token (or a white wild token), they take a black token. Colored tokens are worth 2 penalty points (PP), black tokens 3 PP, and white tokens 4 PP. The Saboteur automatically earns 4 PP but can subtract 1 PP for each black token opponent’s take. The player with the fewest PP wins. THOUGHTS 2018 was the trick-taking games came to the fore for me. Kind of ironic considering my introduction to compulsive gaming was with games like Hearts and Euchre. I heard the guys on the Cubelove Podcast mentioning how much they liked “Dee Steven Segal” and I had a helluva time tracking down the real name until I learned that it was A) a Stefan Dorra game and B) had been rethemed into the game “Sluff Off”. I was put off by that even goofier theme but eventually was able to track down a copy of the original. Steven Segal has some neat “tricks” with the prediction phase, how the various tokens can move around the table, and with how the Saboteur works. However, I think I’d defer to the more recent Voodoo Prince if I had to choose a trick-taker in this vein. VP feels like there’s slightly more going on with the 0, 5, and 7 cards as well as the “going out” mechanic. Still, I like Steven Segal, and I’m glad I was able to find a copy. PROS -Players have a lot of control over the prediction phase but it is still quite challenging. The way white wild tokens come into play and how they work is a neat wrinkle. -Saboteur adds another level to what would otherwise feel like a fairly standard trick-taker. NEUTRAL -I need to play it more, especially with more experienced players, but I’m wondering if taking the Saboteur is overpowered because at max you will only score 4 PP and there’s a good chance you’ll score fewer. CONS -While I prefer the secret society theme to the newer Sluff Off theme, I wish there had been more art on the cards’ front and back side to sell the theme a bit more.
I grew up playing "Oh Hell" (which we called "Up and Down the River"), a Whist variant. It's a nastier, more interesting game than something like Hearts or Spades because of the precision required in betting. You have to take *exactly* the number of tricks you bet, or you get nothing. Die Sieben Seigel makes things even more interesting by exposing the suits of the tricks you plan on taking, which gives information about your hand to the other players and likewise lets you read into their hands. It's not about "who can score the most points", but rather "who gets screwed the least". In fact, for this reason scores are always negative. The person with the least negative score wins. It's a great, interesting trick taking game with a high degree of screwage and player interactivity.