Full disclosure: A review copy of Gudetama: The Tricky Egg Card Game was provided by Renegade Game Studio.
Honestly, I’d love to just do a month where I only cover trick-taking games and ladder-climbing games, but that’s been tough given their general reliance on higher player counts and their complexity. One of my housemates is just getting into letting me bully her into playing review copies with me, so we’re starting with good introductory games and building up in complexity from there. I think conventions tend to be where I get most of my trick-taking done, though I’m hoping to see some friends in SoCal soon (maybe even before this review gets published), so, we’ll see. Anyways, Gudetama has managed to hit the table, so let’s dive in and see what’s up!
In Gudetama: The Tricky Egg Card Game, players are playing cards and taking tricks with reckless abandon. Or, at least, that’s mostly true. Nothing matters until the final trick, in which the player who wins that trick gets penalized. With no suits, Gudetama looks like it will simplify and streamline much of the more challenging parts of the trick-taking genre. But how does it play? Let’s find out!
This one’s pretty straightforward. Shuffle the cards:
Deal each player seven cards. You should be ready to start!
Also, not too rough. Gudetama is a introductory trick-taking game. That means, over the course of the game, players will play “tricks”, or a round in which every player plays one card. The first player to go is the lead player; they can play any card from their hand. All subsequent players may play one of two options:
- Any card in their hand equal to or higher than the current highest card played.
- The lowest value card in their hand.
After everyone has played a card, the player who played the highest card wins the trick. In the event of a tie, the player who played the last of the highest card wins the trick. The winner is the lead player for the next trick, unless they played a 14, in which case they must choose a different player to become the lead player.
During the final trick, however, the player who wins the trick takes their winning card and keeps it! And that’s bad! Points aren’t good! However, if any player plays a 1 during the final trick, all players keep the card they played! Also bad. Take all cards that weren’t kept and weren’t dealt, reshuffle them, deal 7 to each player, and start a new round.
As soon as one player scores 21 points, the game ends! The player with the fewest points wins!
Player Count Differences
This one is interesting, particularly because it’s a very light trick-taking game. The major thing worth pointing out here, honestly, is that it just … isn’t that interesting at two players. There’s a bit of strategy, sure, but functionally it feels like it comes down to “who has the high card” without too many other useful options. This is, to be fair, why a lot of different trick-taking games don’t really have two-player versions (or they have variants or AI players or some way to obfuscate the information that players have at all times). I don’t think it really … works, all the way. Oh well. I think it works much better once more players are in the mix, specifically because the high-chaos play all but ensures that weird things will happen. With more players, you’ll generally see an interesting pattern emerge. More players means more cards per trick, which might lead to circumstances in which cards tend to trend higher, meaning more players will be forced to play their lower-value cards. Now, this might vary from game to game, but that should technically cause the game to move a bit quicker, as the cards that players take as points in the final round should increase a bit as a result. I’m not entirely convinced it will speed the game up too much, but, it’s math, so who knows. I will say more generally that I’m not terribly bothered by player count for Gudetama beyond two players, though. I enjoy trick-taking games, and I appreciate that this one can play with up to seven players at the same time. It’s no Skull King, but Gudetama is certainly a fun introduction to trick-taking. I’d just recommend playing it with more than two.
- If you can keep a 1 until the end of the round, it’s pretty much always worth it. I mean, for one, it’s funny, because it dumps on literally every other player at the same time. It’s also strategically valuable, as it effectively dumps points on all other players at the same time. Naturally, you do have to take a point of your own as a mild penalty, but effectively, you’re at worst breaking even with other players (provided they also play a 1).
- For a 14, figure out what card you want to play, and then figure out how many players away the trick lead would have to be for you to be able to play that card. This is a decent way to get rid of your middling-value cards. Honestly, a lot of the time I’d just pick the player to my right. Hopefully they play a middling-value card so that you can piggyback on that to get rid of your own middling-value cards.
- Note that you can choose to play your lowest-valued card; you don’t just have to always play the high card and win. Sometimes it’s worth playing your lowest card in the hopes that you can force other players to play out their higher cards. This may allow you to win tricks later in the round and turn the round’s momentum into your favor. Just don’t hold on to your high-value cards for too long! Otherwise you’ll end up stuck with a card that will definitely win the final trick.
- No matter what, your goal should be to keep low-value cards in hand so that you can avoid having to take the final trick in the round. Yeah, Gudetama isn’t really a “trick-avoidance” game where you want to avoid taking any tricks; you just want to avoid taking the last one. This means you need to keep an eye on not just what you’re playing and how to play it, but also what your opponents are playing! If you see your opponent throw a low-value card because they can’t or don’t want to beat the high card, it shows you what the lowest-value card in their hand is. That’s potentially good for planning! For the final trick, you don’t need to play the lowest card; you just need at least one player to play a higher-value card than you.
- It’s difficult to put too much pressure on other players, directly, so focus on making sure you’re keeping your hand together. You can’t necessarily directly affect another player in particular. So don’t! Just make sure that you’re keeping track of the information that you see. Which cards are being played? How many are left? Have you seen any 1s get played? Is it possible that another player is holding on to a 1? You can hold on to information and use that to determine when to play big and when to hold back so that you can take a later trick and get rid of a pesky 5 or 6 so you don’t take that as points.
- Starting tricks off with your middling-value cards can be useful, but make sure you’re keeping track of how many tricks are left. I tend to lead tricks with middling-value cards, but occasionally winning tricks with high-value cards is critical if you want to keep leading tricks. If you get down to the points where you’ve got 3 as the highest-value card in your hand, then, well, it probably doesn’t matter too much? The other option (where your hand is mostly high-value cards) isn’t a great outcome, so, hope that it doesn’t come to that (or that you don’t get stuck in that situation with only a few tricks left in the round).
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- This is a pretty great way to teach introductory trick-taking, perhaps even better for that purpose than The Crew. The nice thing here is that two major points of confusion are largely eliminated. One, the elimination of suits means that players don’t really have to figure out what “following suit” and the “led suit” mean; they just need to play either higher card or lowest card. Additionally, being allowed to play a card of the same value as the previous card affords more flexibility for player hands. I think moving from this to The Crew might actually help a lot of players ramp up on the complexity of trick-taking games, a notoriously challenging genre.
- Being able to play a card of the same value is a great way to simplify the trick-taking process, as well. Yeah, like I said, this is a strong move for simplifying the game. More options is, strictly speaking, a good thing, especially for newer players, but it also balances out that there are more cards towards the middle of the values than there are on the low or high end. This may trip some players up in future trick-taking games where this isn’t allowed, but I think it makes the game a bit easier to learn and strategize around.
- I think the thing that intrigues me the most is the sort-of deconstruction of the deck as players take cards out of circulation and keep them as points. It’s interesting, and probably my favorite thing about the game. As you play rounds, the deck fundamentally changes because the cards that are kept as points don’t go back in. This means that you start seeing certain values become increasingly rare because other players are taking them, and 1s don’t last long if they’re played at the end of a round, since everyone takes their played card in those scenarios. I’d love to see a more complex trick-taking game build on this concept as well.
- Gudetama is goofy, and the game isn’t terribly serious, either, so it’s a good match. I definitely find Gudetama (the character)’s melancholy relatable. The cards are funny, and I think will definitely appeal to players who are also Gudetama fans (or very light trick-taking fans). Or maybe people who like eggs? I’m not sold on that last one, but it’s possible.
- The game is also bright and colorful, so it looks good on the table. Really great graphic design, here. The cards look great and have very clean lines, and everything is super easy to read and process at a glance. Plus, I really like the bright yellow box. It looks good! I still think yellow and green boxes are relatively uncommon (anecdotally), so I’m always glad to see more.
- Plays quickly. This one’s super fast, even with more players taking more time. I think if everyone knows how to play, you can probably bust through the game in 20 minutes or so, no sweat.
- Pretty portable; just cards, no fancy tokens or the like. This one is exceptionally easy to throw into a Quiver or something and take on the go since it’s just cards. Even without that, the box is pretty small and could be put in a bag or something pretty easily.
- The timing of the game can swell a bit with more players, just since there are more possible players to take points each round. I think this is balanced out a bit by the expected number of points taken per round going up, as well, but the Pidgeonhole Principle still at least suggests that the game could potentially take longer, assuming players manage to avoid taking too many high-value cards. Like I said, though, not a huge problem.
- I will say that the frequency indicators on the cards are helpful, but I definitely … don’t use them during the game for anything useful. This isn’t really a complaint; it’s more of an observation. I think putting frequency indicators on cards is generally a good thing! I just maybe haven’t figured out how to use them effectively to strategize beyond saying “ah, yes, this card isn’t that common”. Maybe that’s all there is to it? Hard to say. These are things I think about when I’m writing at 2AM.
- The game isn’t particularly interesting with two players, which isn’t … terribly surprising. I’m largely just irked about this. I don’t really expect trick-taking games to play well with two players without a variant or fix of some kind, and I tried Gudetama at two to see if they had managed to crack something that I just wasn’t aware of. It does not appear that that is what happened; it just seems like you’re spending a round playing your low card or your high card against your opponent. It’s not un-fun; it’s just not terribly interesting. This is definitely not the game I would recommend picking up if you’re looking for a two-player card game to try. There are a lot of good options in that space. I’m just kind of baffled, honestly, as to why they opted to name this a 2- to 7-player game. It was unexpected, especially as a trick-taking game, but I think it falls short enough at two that I would push back on that classification. Perfectly fun at three, though.
Overall: 7.5 / 10
Overall, I think Gudetama: The Tricky Egg Card Game is pretty solid! I was hoping it would be, given that it seemed like a very useful introductory deck builder, and I was pleased to see that it met my expectations. I was disappointed that Gudetama isn’t more interesting at two, but, I wasn’t expecting much. I haven’t seen many trick-taking games that are good at two without variants or being specifically designed for two players (and even then, The Fox in the Forest: Duet wasn’t my favorite), so Gudetama feeling less exciting at two wasn’t the biggest shock in the world, for me. I just wouldn’t have put 2 – 7 players on the box. That’s where Gudetama falls short, though. What does Gudetama do well? For one, as I’ve mentioned a few times, I think Gudetama works really well to teach other players trick-taking games. Trick-taking is one of the more difficult genres to teach well, and I think a lot of that is around the complexity of each action and the number of things that have to be true in order for a player to play a specific card. Gudetama reduces this complexity and overhead by simply allowing players to play the same value or higher, or forcing them to play their lowest-value card. In essence, the only trick that matters is the final one, so allowing players to potentially make odd plays early in the round might not cost them too much. More practically, strategically playing early gives you the best chance of having a lower card during the last trick, but this is my Overall, not the Strategy section. Even then, you can play poorly and still not win the final trick, as only one player really gets messed up per round. And I think that’s good! It limits the negative outcomes to just one player, rather than punishing all inexperienced players (as some games can do). This lets players focus on learning the strategy of how to play, what to play, and when, and that can set them up for future trick-taking success. Gudetama as a game also looks great, which I appreciate, and I think the bright colors, silly card images, and clean graphic design can be inviting for new players (or may just be a useful way to trick fans of Gudetama into learning trick-taking games, which … is also fine, I guess). My particular favorite feature is that cards won by a player as points stay out of the game, so each round the trick-taking elements are dynamic and shifted slightly as certain cards are removed from circulation. I think that’s cool! If you’re a fan of trick-taking and want to recruit others to the cause, you enjoy fun and quick little card games, or you’re just really into Gudetama, I’d recommend checking out Gudetama: The Tricky Egg Card Game! I had a good time with it.