Game Works
2-4 players, 30 minutes
designed by Dominique Ehrhard
reviewed by Simon Neale

Ever wondered what a sound a sword makes as it slices through the big green hairy monster staring back at you as you open the crypt door? “Tschak!” is the answer, and it is after this sound that this card based trick taking game is named. Armed with that knowledge you will probably have jumped to the conclusion that this game has a sword and sorcery dungeon crawl theme – and you would not be wrong! Tschak! comes with a recommended age of 13+, which I can only assume is due to the great thematic and humorous art work from Vincent Dutrait.

Four hands of ten cards are dealt from the adventurer deck so that each hand contains 3 wizards, 3 warriors, 3 dwarves and 1 artifact. If there are less than 4 players then the excess hands are placed on marker cards positioned between the players. A small game board depicting a Keep is placed in the centre of the table. There are 3 floors within this Keep and a treasure card and a monster card are dealt face up onto each level from the shuffled monster and treasure card decks. Some gold coins are placed at the top of the Keep.

The game consists of exploring 4 Keeps, with each Keep being one round of the game. A Keep is “explored” by playing a card trick for each floor where the winner of the trick collects the treasure card and the loser collects the monster card. Generally, the treasure cards are good and the monster cards are bad – but certain treasures give the ability to negate some of the monster negative scores. For each trick you play 3 cards from your hand each of which must be a different type (wizard, warrior, dwarf or artifact). The cards all have a fighting value and the strength of your hand is the sum of the values of those cards. There are a couple of special cards: a chameleon wizard card that copies the strength of the most powerful wizard played by other players and the artifact card that doubles the strength of the weakest card that you have played in the trick.

Tschak! includes a really interesting mechanism as game play for each floor of the Keep is different. On the lowest floor (i.e. the first trick in the round) each player plays their first card face down and then all the cards are revealed simultaneously. Play is the same for the second and third cards after which the trick is scored. On the second floor the first card is played as before and then the second and third cards are played together in a single action and following the reveal the trick is scored. On the third floor all 3 cards are played together as a single action, revealed and scored. The treasure and monster cards are distributed as soon as scoring for that floor of the Keep is completed.

After “exploring” all 3 Keep floors the final card in your hand is played and the gold coins placed at the top of the Keep are divided in decreasing amounts according to the strengths of the cards. Every player now collects up his played cards and passes the hand to the player (or maker card) on his left and a new Keep is stocked with treasures, monsters and gold. In this way each player will play each hand of cards once in the four rounds of the game, after which a tally of treasures, monsters and gold is made and the winner decided.

Dominique Ehrhard has designed a fast-paced fun filler that provides a different twist to trick taking card games and the hand passing at the end of each round goes some way to equalise the initial deal. I have found this game sufficiently different in both theme and mechanics to allow it to stand out from the multitude of card based filler length games. So if you think this game will appeal to you then enter the Keep, swing your sword and listen for the “Tschak!”.