Trick-taking games have cemented their place in many family traditions. There are some families who don’t consider it to be Christmas until they’ve all gathered around the table and played a game of spades. For some, it’s the family reunions that always involve late-night Hearts games.
After years of the same thing, though, there may be some family members that are looking for something new. Something that gives them a few more gameplay options. Something that involves French patisserie.
Whip ‘Em Up
Macaron is a new game from Ta-Te Wu, the mind behind Sunrise Tornado, and the designer of one of the criminally underrated game Promenade. While there have been many different spins on trick-taking over the years, I believe the versatility of this title makes it worthy of your attention.
Macaron has many of the elements of your standard trick-taking game. There are seven suits, with cards numbered 1 to 7 (except chocolate, which goes all the way to 10), with each suit representing a different flavor of macaron.
The game follows standard trick-taking rules – the lead player lays down a card, and the other players must play a card of the same suit if they can. If they cannot, they must play another suit. The player with the highest card wins the trick, and leads for the next one.
There are a few additional elements, some of which you may have seen before. Each round, a “royal flavor” is selected, and this identifies the trump suit for that round. In addition, bets can be made before any cards are played as to how many tricks a player thinks they will win. If they’re successful, they’ll earn victory points; if not, they’ll lose them.
A New Flavor
But it’s the new stuff that makes Macaron stand out. Instead of winning victory points with each trick, you’ll instead be earning gift boxes. Now, these will eventually be converted into victory points, but not at a direct rate. If you go nil, then you’ll nab two victory points, but get only one gift box, and you’re left with just one victory point. There’s also a nice little twist where you earn three gift boxes if you manage to win a trick with a 1 card. It’s tough, but it happened for us more often than you would think.
Perhaps the most intriguing new element is the selection of an “allergen” flavor to accompany the “royal” one. This suit is almost like an anti-trump suit. If a card of this suit is played, then the trick doesn’t actually earn you any gift boxes. That is, unless someone played a 2 card during that trick – in that case, you’re good. To further complicate things, the allergen suit can be the same as the royal suit – this makes for one heck of a round.
The selection of the royal and allergen suits is done in a couple of ways. In some scenarios, it’s simply the players to the left of the starting player. In other cases, players will actually do a little secret bidding to pick the special flavors. I never got to actually play with this set of rules, but it looks like it could add yet another layer of strategy to this already deep game.
A Variety Pack
I’m really impressed with the tight mechanics that are present in this game. All of the different elements work so well together, and none of them seem to dominate more than the other. Some rounds, the allergen cards barely made a difference, while in others they made a huge impact. The same was true for the royal cards, the betting, and even the 1 cards counting for three gift boxes.
But what really intrigues me about Macaron is its ability to meet the needs of a variety of gaming groups. If you wanted, you could remove all the extra rules, and this could be a very basic trick-taking game. Then, add in the elements that you want to make the game your very own. You want to do the royal flavor but not use the allergen flavor? I don’t personally think the game is quite as fun, but you could totally do it. The betting’s a little too complicated for some of the gamers at your table? Go ahead and skip it!
This doesn’t even mention the EIGHT expansions that are included in the King Deluxe version of the game. These expansions provide a wide variety of experiences. One provides “zero” cards that will earn or remove extra gift boxes based on how many you end the round with. Another, the Baristo expansion, provides you with different betting tracks.
There’s even an expansion pack that’s been designed by yours truly. In The King’s Orders, you’ll have special goals that you can try to fulfill on even-numbered rounds to earn extra victory points. While these tasks are still being finalized, they will generally require you to be a little more risky in the ways that you are playing cards in order to get some big fat bonuses.
Honestly, I’m not the biggest fan of trick-taking games, but I’ve started to find a few titles that I enjoy over the past few years. My wife and I have really enjoyed Fox in the Forest (and the cooperative Duet version), and we started to get into The Crew a few months ago.
However, I feel those titles don’t have as wide of a possible appeal as Macaron. I feel like this title could easily be used to spice up those family trick-taking traditions. And with so many different ways to adjust how it’s played, it can include any of the adults and even kids that you want. It also works great at many different player numbers, so it’s more flexible than many other games in the genre.
Just make sure it doesn’t accidentally end up on the dessert table. You know that your crazy uncle will try to eat it.
Macaron is available for one more week on Kickstarter. Go reserve yourself a copy of the game today, and be sure to get the King Deluxe version to pick up Ric’s expansion!
A prototype of the game was provided for this coverage. Components and rules covered in this preview are not finalized. Read more about our preview policies at One Board Family. And yes, I (Ric) did design an expansion, so yeah, that does make this one a little different. But I still did my best to objectively preview the game!