(Edit: This is one of my Top 25 Games Played of all Time, as of February 2019 anyway. Check out the other games as well!)
Everybody knows those standard card games. Hearts, Spades…of course the world needs games for the other suits, don’t they?
Yes, there is a Clubs game out too, but that’s not what this review is about.
It’s about the totally awesome (said totally in a Valley Girl way) game called Diamonds, published by Stronghold Games and designed by Mike Fitzgerald, thus completing the standard suit names for games (I think they probably win an award for that).
I have to say that this is quickly becoming my favourite card game ever. It takes everything that is cool about card games like Hearts or Spades, and then amps it up to infinity (ok, a tad overstated, but you get the gist).
How to Play
The game play for Diamonds is quite simple, especially if you’ve played Hearts.
The game comes with 60 cards, 15 of each suit (Diamonds, Hearts, Spades and Clubs).
There are a number of rounds based on the number of players (6 rounds for three or six players, 4 rounds for four players or 5 rounds for five players).
Each round, players are dealt 10 cards. The rest (if any) are left to the side and nobody knows what’s in them. So with fewer than 6 players, you don’t know if all the cards of any given suit are in play.
The dealer than decides whether to pass one, two, or three cards and then all players pass that many cards to their left.
The player to the dealer’s left then starts the round, leading a suit. All players must follow suit if they can. If they can’t, then they can play any other card.
Sound familiar? Of course it does.
But Diamonds is so much better because of what it adds to the whole thing.
It adds bling!
Yes, there are actual diamonds in this game. (ok, they’re plastic, but still…)
Each player starts with three diamonds in front of their vault. The object of the game is to get the most points in diamonds.
Diamonds in front of your vault are worth one point at the end of the game. Diamonds in the vault are worth two points.
See that card in the picture above? That’s the genius of this game design.
Each suit is tied to an action that you can take.
Diamonds: Take a diamond from the middle and put it directly into your vault.
Hearts: Take a diamond from the middle and put it in front of your vault.
Spades: Take a diamond from in front of your vault and put it into your vault.
Clubs: Steal a diamond from in front of another player’s vault.
As said above, when a suit is led, you must follow suit, playing a card of the same suit. Whoever wins the trick gets to take that suit’s action.
However, if you don’t have any of the suit led, you can play any suit. And…get this, this is very important…YOU CAN TAKE THAT SUIT’S ACTION IMMEDIATELY!
That’s right. If you aren’t able to follow suit, you’re not just sloughing off cards for no benefit to you. You are able to do stuff. That makes it very important to short yourself in a suit (or even two).
At the end of the round, in the order shown on the card in the pic above, you total up who has won the most cards of each suit, and then the winner takes that suit’s action as well. In addition, if you didn’t take any tricks at all, you take two Diamond actions, effectively getting you 4 points (putting two diamonds directly into your vault).
After the required number of rounds, you total up the diamonds inside (2 points) and in front of (1 point) your vault and see who wins!
Is this game great or is this game great? (otherwise known as “The Review”)
Did I spoil things above by saying Diamonds is one of my favourite card games of all time? I guess I did. I should probably go change that.
The design of this game is just so elegant. The components are nice. The cards are fairly thick and sturdy, though I’m still going to sleeve mine because we do play on a sometimes-sticky table. As much use as this game gets, I think sleeving is a very good idea. But that’s not a knock against the quality of the cards.
The paper vaults are a bit cheap and flimsy, but that’s really the only bad thing I can say about it.
The main thing I love about Diamonds is, as mentioned above, you always have something to do. The only time you don’t do anything on your turn is when you’re following suit, but even then, you’re getting rid of cards that will hopefully allow you to do something the next trick.
Also, the diamonds in your vault are kept secret, so you’re never quite sure who’s in the lead. Sure, you can diamond-count (card-counting’s distant cousin) as people take their Diamond or Spade actions, but that can get messy sometimes.
One other slightly negative thing, though this isn’t always the case, is that the game can drag a bit with 6 players. Not drag in the “I’m bored” sense, but more in the “A card game is taking this long to finish?” sense.
Overall, if you like card games at all, you really should pick up a copy of Diamonds. Mike Fitzgerald has knocked it out of the park again.
Here, have some shiny bling to go with that.
(Review written after 10 plays)