Every time I play Reiner Knizia's Poison, I want to hack it into something a little more robust. But then I realize I'd probably be re-inventing Paul Peterson's Smash Up. Surely there is a middle ground somewhere between the two extremes. After all, the Hearts family of evasion trick-taking games is vast and old, so I bet we could come up with something a little gamery while still keeping it approachable. Here's a first attempt at it.
So the big thing with Poison is that you're trying to have the lowest score after a series of rounds. There are three cauldrons into which you're dropping potions and poisons. If you force the sum in a cauldron to exceed 13, you must take the cards currently in the cauldron and replace them with your new card. In the end of the round, you score 1 point per potion in your possession, 2 points per poison. You score no points for a specific type of potion if you possess the most of that potion, so you might try to "shoot the moon" once you're committed to a particular potion.
Smash Up is much more complicated, but the core of it is relatively similar. Instead of cauldrons, there are bases in which you drop minions. When the sum of Minion ranks exceeds the base's Defense rank, then the base is broken and anyone who has minions scores points as determined by that base. There are additional player-based effects by playing certain minions in certain bases, plus the bases themselves have special effects when they're broken. All this adds up to a very approachable, but distinctly gamer-oriented game.
I'm trying to figure out how we can add more depth to Poison without going so far as to make variable player powers. We can add persistent effects from round-to-round, which would make this a bit more strategic though.
A Trick-Taking Game for 2-6 Players
This game is about piles of puppies chomping on dog treats. It has a deck of cards showing puppies in various breeds and quantities. Each card also shows a number of dog treats.
Shuffle the whole deck and deal it all to each player. It's okay if this makes uneven hands. The youngest player takes the first turn in the first round. In each round thereafter, the first player role passes to the left.
On your turn, take a card from your hand and place it in the middle of the table, starting or adding to the puppy pile.
- If the sum of puppies is thus greater than the sum of treats, you take all the cards that were in the pile and replace it with the card you just played. Keep collected cards face down in front of you.
END OF ROUND
The round ends when all players hands are empty. Any puppies left in the pile are not collected by anyone.
Count how many of each breed you've collected. You score points equal to the fewest of a breed you've taken.
So in the example above, you score 1 point because the lowest quantity of a breed you have is 1 Labrador.
Make a note of the breed(s) you scored this round, because you'll get a breed bonus for collecting that breed in future rounds.
If you score a breed that you've collected in the past, you'll score the following bonus points.
Scored Once Before: Score x2 Points Now
Scored Twice Before: Score x3 Points Now
Scored Four Times Before: Score x4 Points Now
Scored Five Times Before: Score x5 Points Now
END OF GAME
The game lasts for one round per player. The player with the most points wins!