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[Review] David & Goliath

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Joined: 03/23/2011

One of my favorite stories to tell in Children's Church is the story of David and the giant Goliath. The story appeals to every small child who faces big challenges in their life and always keeps them fascinated. When I heard that there was a card game version of David and Goliath (Playroom Entertainment, 2004 - Reinhard Staupe), I was initially wary, since I've found that most games with Biblical themes are usually garbage or worse. Still, I saw a couple of good reviews on the internet, so gladly participated in a demo of the game when at Origins one summer.

And I was amazed at just how much fun the game really was. The idea was simple, really - have the small card take the largest card, and the largest card take the rest - but it just worked well. I immediately enjoyed playing the game, and it has remained, since then, one of my favorite trick-taking games. It's enjoyable because I can get many people to play the game - some who normally don't play games at all, and I've seen many "non-gamers" fall in love with the game, requesting it time after time. It's destined to be a classic card game, one on the top tier.

There are five suits of cards in the game, denoted by color (red, yellow, blue, green, and purple). Values of each suit (depending on the number of players) are added to the deck, from 1 to 18. The deck is shuffled, and fifteen cards are dealt to each player. On a round, the starting player chooses any card and plays it on the table. Each other player must "follow suit" (play the same color), placing it in front of them. If a player doesn't have a card of the played color, they can play any card from their hand. The player who played the card with the lowest number (regardless of color) receives the highest card for their score pile. The player who played the card with the highest number (regardless of color) receives all the rest of the cards. All won cards are placed face up in front of each player, sorted by color. The player who played the highest card starts the next round.

This continues for fifteen rounds, until all cards have been played and won. Players then total their points. For each color, if a player has only one or two cards of that color, they receive points equal to the numbers on the card. If they have three or more cards of a color, they receive one point per card. Each player adds their sum to the final total, and another round begins. After one round for each player has occurred, the game is over, and the player with the highest total wins!

Some comments on the gameā€¦

1.) Components: The cards have some neat artwork on them by Alexander Bradley. If you put the cards in order, from "1" to "18", and flip through them, you can see wee David growing up to be fearsome Goliath. This is nice and gives a certain visual appearance that the bigger numbers are "giants". The only problem with the card designs are that the colors are pretty much indistinguishable from each other outside of color, making them difficult for color blind folk. The cards are of good quality and fit snugly inside a plastic card insert in a small, sturdy box.

2.) Rules: The rules take only four pages of a multilingual rulebook and wouldn't even need to be that long except that there are full-color illustrations, making it so that absolutely anybody can understand the game. And there's just something that's naturally intuitive about the theme. The big number gets all the small numbers, but the smallest number pegs the biggest number in the forehead, winning it. Even teenagers and children can pick up the game (perhaps not the subtle strategies), and it's easily one of the most successful card games I've ever introduced.

3.) Scoring: The scoring system is simply ingenious. Players strive to get a couple high numbers in each color, and then not take any more cards. But it's a real struggle to keep from taking that third card in each color. If I have two yellow cards, "14" and "9", that's worth twenty-three points to me. Taking a third yellow card will make them worth a whopping total of three points, which is a twenty point loss. Therefore, players are often attempting to play middle cards - cards that are neither high nor low, for much of a round, trying to take only a few cards at most. Once a player goes over their three cards in a color, though, they might as well go "whole hog" and attempt to take every color card that they can. There are other games that have a similar concept, Relationship Tightrope and Turn the Tide. While both of those games are excellent games, David and Goliath beats them for sheer simplicity and fun.

4.) Fun Factor: When writing this review, I realize that there's really not a whole lot more I can say about it. I'm sure that many paragraphs could be written about the nuances of strategy, but I simply enjoy the game because I have fun doing so. David & Goliath is quick and easy, but more importantly, it's fun to everybody who plays the game.

Okay, maybe not everybody will like the game, but I haven't run into any yet who don't. There are times where I enjoy a good game of Puerto Rico or Princess of Florence with their various options and deep strategy. But many other times, I'm simply content with a light card game - one that is easy to teach to others and play. With many people understanding the trick-taking genre, and the interesting theme, David & Goliath is one of my most successful "gateway" games, and will stay on my shelf for quite a long time (except for those multiple instances where people demand to play it.)

Tom Vasel
"Real men play board games"

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