Okay, before we even start, let’s address the elephant in the room. Or in this case, the sheep’s stomach in the room. No, this is not a game about that Scottish delicacy which I only know about because of an episode of Samurai Jack. So if you’re here for a weird culinary adventure, you may need to find alternative.
For everyone else, though, I would like to talk to you about a little card game called Haggis. Released in 2010, this game reminds me of more classic trick-taking card games like Spades and Hearts. However, instead of requiring four players like many of those games do, Haggis distinguishes itself by being needing only two or three players for a game.
As I said before, Haggis is similar to games that you have played with a standard deck before, but the deck you have here will be a little different. There are five suits for the cards 2-10, and there are only three copies of each face card (no aces). The games rules will seem familiar but come with a little twist – instead of just playing one card at a time to win a round, you’ll play several, trying to show either a set or a run of cards. Other players then try to beat that set or run, passing if they are unable or unwilling. Whoever ends the round gets to keep the cards and start the next hand.
The goal is to run out of cards first while simultaneously trying to get high valued cards to maximize your score. Play continues to until only one player is left with cards, at which point the round ends. The player who goes out first gets bonus points, plus all of the cards that were in the last player’s hand and the cards that weren’t dealt out at the beginning of the game (lovingly named the Haggis). These are added to the cards collected from tricks that have been won. The values of the cards are added up, and then a new round begins. Play continues until someone wins by reaching 300 total points.
There are several other little twists that make this game a little more strategic. Face cards serve as wilds, and each player starts with three at the beginning of a round. These can be used to improve a set or run, but you have to be careful and not use them all up at the beginning. There are also ‘bombs’, which are combinations of cards that overrule any set or run. These often include the face cards, so you have to decide if you are willing to use a bomb to win a hand or want to save it to be a wild later. These little twists take a round or two to master, but anyone familiar with more traditional card games should be comfortable with Haggis quickly.
I believe that Haggis has a bit of a niche market, and that is those who love Spades, Hearts, and the like, but often don’t have the required number of people to play. If that’s you, then I think you should strongly consider this game. It scratches all those itches and you’ll feel comfortable with its rules and mechanics very quickly. If you don’t normally enjoy trick-taking games, then go ahead and skip this one, because it’s not going to do anything to change your mind.
The only hesitation I would have for fully recommending this game for those people would be for those intending to only play with two players. While Haggis is fun with just two, I believe that another game, Fox in the Forest, is better, and I would definitely recommend it more. However, if you want the option to play with three, then Haggis is the one for you. And hey, if you’re just an avid trick-taking game player, there’s probably room in your collection for both of those games.
You can start taking some tricks of your own by grabbing a copy of Haggis from Cardhaus or Amazon today.
- Trick-taking fun for just two or three players
- Very familiar if you’ve played games in the genre before
- Will not change your mind about trick-taking games if you don’t already like them
- I had to read the rulebook three or four times to understand some of the rules… but maybe you’re smarter than me