Updated: Dec 3, 2019
It seems particularly appropriate to be looking now at Savvy with the passing this weekend of veteran entertainer Bruce Forsyth. One of the shows ‘Brucie’ was best known for was the game show “Play Your Cards Right”. In that game, giant playing cards were placed face down. One was turned over and contestants had to guess whether the next card to be turned was higher or lower.
At its heart, Savvy is the same game. So much so, that I defy any Brit to play this game without slipping in to the inevitable Bruce Forsyth impression as you call out “Higher!” or “Lower!”
Instead of playing cards, Savvy is played with a pack of cards numbered 1 to 36. There is just one of each card. That's just as well because, as Brucie used to remind us, "You get nothing for a pair." The box also comes with a set of plastic chips.
To play, the deck is shuffled and a random face-down card is removed. The top card is revealed and, as play goes around the table, players choose either to play or pass. If they pass, they must pay a chip into the central pool. If they play, they make a ‘higher’ or ‘lower’ call. If they are correct, they earn a chip, and they can keep going and adding to the pile of chips they will win. When the player stops without having made an incorrect guess, the chips they have earned go into that player’s ‘bank’. If at any point the player makes an incorrect guess, they lose the chips they have earned that turn. What adds a degree of pressure and fun to the game is that if a player is wrong on their first guess (ie: before they have built up any earnings in that turn) then they lose half the chips in their bank, rounded up.
Savvy is a game that encourages card counting: canny players will have remembered which numbers have already appeared and so will be mentally adjusting the odds as they play. If playing as a family game with younger or older family members whose memory may be less acute, you can easily print off a sheet of numbers so that players can mark off or cover up each number as it appears – putting players on an even footing.
Savvy isn’t going to set the world aflame and is unlikely to win any Spiel de Jahres awards, but it is a perfectly enjoyable filler. Who knows, you may even find the Brucie impersonators around the table calling out “Good game, good game!”
(NB: Giant playing cards not included)