I’ve got several friends who are renegade Bridge players and so who especially enjoy trick-taking games. Eternity is a trick-taking game with a difference. It always goes down well with card game enthusiasts but, surprisingly, the game hasn't so far received the attention it deserves.
In Eternity, there are three suits (Sea, Sky and Earth), each containing cards numbered 1 to 14. At the start of the game, the cards are dealt out to the players and two cards are placed below a ‘trump board’ made up of three tiles representing the three suits. Three rounds are played, with trumps in each round being determined as the suit with the most cards below it on the trump board or, in the event of a tie, the leftmost suit. In each round, players seek to win tricks in the usual way, playing trumps if they cannot follow suit, but at any time a player can opt out of competing for a particular trick and can instead play any card as a ‘pledge’. The trick is resolved in the normal way but, after the trick has been resolved, any pledged card is placed below the trump board, and so may change the trump suit.
The pledged card will also specify on it the number of tree tokens it represents (0, 1 or 2). When playing a card as a pledge, the player takes these tree tokens and they ‘plant’ them on the tricks they take during the course of the round. Players aim to collect exactly as many tree tokens as the tricks they take. If they do that, they score a point for every tree and a ‘harmony’ bonus which rises in each of the three rounds. If they have all their trees planted but have tricks with no trees on them, they just score a point for each of the trees. If any player is left with unplanted trees (ie: the number of tree tokens a player takes in a round exceeds the number of tricks he takes), then that player scores no points.
Eternity involves some interesting interplays. As in other contract trick-taking games, there is a push-you-luck element. Players need to accurately predict the number of tricks they will take, but they can also use pledge cards both to opt out of tricks and to try to manipulate the trump suit. As an added tension, the game limits the number of players who can pledge during each turn (trick). In a five player game, there can be up to two pledges per trick but, with three or four players, only one player per trick can pledge.
The rules include a two-player variant but this is a game that is best enjoyed by three to five players. If you are looking for a brisk, engrossing and easy to learn card game, then Eternity is certainly worth a look.