First published in 2014, Diamonds is a trick-taking card game designed by Mike Fitzgerald. It uses custom playing cards numbered 1–15 in each of the four traditional suits, so two more cards per suit than if you were using conventional playing cards. The game also comes with a quantity of plastic gems (the large rubies are considered to be diamonds worth 5 of the smaller clear diamonds) and a set of six all-important screens representing each of the (up to six players') vaults.
Every time you win a trick, you get to take a 'suit action' for the suit the trick is in. The Diamonds suit lets you take a diamond from the central supply and place it directly into your vault (where it is safe and will score 2 points at the end of the round); Hearts lets you take a diamond and place it in your showroom (ie: in front of your screen) where it remains at risk of being purloined by another player and where it will score 1 point at the end of the round; Spades lets you transfer a diamond from your showroom to your vault and Clubs lets you steal a diamond from the showroom of the player who has the Thief token and place it in your showroom. The Thief token rotates after each Club action. At the end of each round, the player who has won the most tricks in each suit gets to take a bonus action in that suit. A misere player who has won no tricks that round gets to take two bonus Diamond suit actions.
If this were all there was to Diamonds then it would have limited appeal. What makes this a perennial gamers' filler game is the twist that players can also take a suit action whenever they play a card that doesn't follow suit. If a player leads in a suit which you cannot follow, you instead play a card from any suit of your choice. You won't win the trick but you'll be able to immediately take a suit action corresponding to the suit you played. That means you can do well in this game without necessarily winning tricks. Each hand starts with a degree of card drafting, so there's a small opportunity to tailor your hand (usually thinning your lightest suit to increase the prospects of being able to take actions for your 'discards'). If you play with fewer than six players there's also the uncertainty introduced by not having every card in play.
Diamonds can be played as a light family game or it can be played as a cutthroat game between gamers. The Diamonds suit has by far the most powerful suit action so if you have a strong showing of Diamonds in your hand, do you play so as to draw out opponents' Diamonds so that they don't get the benefit of their Diamond cards or do you maximise your own opportunities for suit actions by discarding Diamond cards on tricks led in other suits?
Diamonds has become a classic card game, and we were delighted to see that this new edition from Stronghold includes greatly improved art by William Bricker and Daniel Solis. The cards in the first edition were unnecessarily dark; these are much more vivid and with white backgrounds. This edition also incorporates The Thief mini-expansion that was introduced in 2016 and which most players considered an essential modification to the first edition of the game.