They're All Cheating!

Review of card game Foppen by Pevans

After the complexities of Falsche FuFFziger, 2F-Spiele's 1994 release, designer Friedemann Friese decided that his next production would be a simple game. The game which he launched at Spiel last October is a simple card game called Foppen.

Foppen consists of a special deck of cards and a wooden token. The cards are well-produced and illustrated with amusing stick figures (drawn by Anja Jores). The deck contains 60 cards in four suits: red, green, blue and yellow. The cards are numbered, each suit having a different number of cards. For example, green has 19 cards, numbered 2 - 20. There are also four '1's, which can be played on any suit. The entire deck is dealt out for each hand.

The game is a Whist-like trick playing game, but the objective is to be the first to get rid of all your cards, rather than win tricks. The loser of each trick (i.e. whoever plays the lowest card) is given the token and has to sit out the next trick without playing - s/he is gefoppen: being cheated! As in Whist, you must play the same suit as the first card played in a trick - if you can. If you can't, then you have to discard a card, which counts as lower than all the cards of the suit that was led first. In this game, having a short suit can be bad news.

The hand ends when one player is out of cards and the other players score the value of the cards they are holding as minus points. If the player who finished the game managed to avoid losing the last trick (more difficult than it sounds), s/he gets +10 points, otherwise 0. The game is played over a series of hands, accumulating points, and the eventual winner is the player with the most points (more usually the fewest negative points). An optional rule allows players to bid if they think they will win the hand and score extra points if they succeed and extra minus points if they fail.

The mechanics are well thought-out as you have to judge when to play your low cards - especially the '1's. You can't afford to be left with high cards, though, and you need to keep an eye on who's not missed many turns. This is a simple game, as intended, which nevertheless provides entertaining fun for 20-30 minutes. I find that it plays best with 5 or 6 players: with 3 or 4 players, one of whom is not playing on each trick, it isn't fast and furious enough.

Foppen was designed by Friedemann Friese and published (in Germany) by 2F-Spiele. It is for 3-6 players and takes about 30 minutes to play. Pevans rates it 5/10.
This review was originally published in Games Games Games 98, February 1996.

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