Updated: Apr 12, 2022
The idea of a solitaire trick-taking game might sound mildly implausible but designer Wilhelm Su has managed to pull it off in this charming card game from Melmac and Side Room Games.
It's a game played with a deck of cards numbered 1-8 in four suits. They're just like conventional playing cards except that the suits are flowers, claws, leaves and eyes. There are eight cards with 'For Northwood!' on one side, but three of them have a large star on their reverse. These cards are shuffled and four are placed on each side of a signpost card so that you don't know where the stars are. There are eight crown cards - the Kings and Queens of each of the suits - randomly placed so that one is on the top of each 'For Northwood!' card. Finally there are four Jack cards, laid out in front of you. They will be your 'allies' in that you can use the special powers on their cards to help you score the requisite number of tricks.
You deal yourself a hand of eight cards. You have to win tricks exactly equal to each one's position in relation to the signpost. That means that for the rightmost monarch, you'll need to win eight tricks with your hand and for the left-most monarch you must win no tricks at all. In effect, the position of each of the crown cards represent the bid that you have to precisely match. For each trick, you turn over a card from the deck and put it face up on top of the discard pile. You then respond with a card from your hand. You have to follow suit and the crown card's suit is considered trump. Win a trick and your card goes to the score pile; lose and it's added to the discards...
The net result is a challenging contest, despite the fact that your opponent is only ever playing the next card in the deck. You'll obviously find some of the bids easier to hit than others, and you'll almost certainly have to make judicious use of your allies' powers. Note tho' that your choice to activate a power has to be made before you see the monarch's card draw.
The other twist is that the Kings and Queens all have a special power too. Win a monarch over to your side by meeting their precise target of tricks and their power also becomes available to you - tho' unlike the Jacks it will be single use per game.
Even with the special powers, the chances are that you won't precisely match every monarch's target for tricks won. For any you fail, you turn the monarch card around. When you've attempted the challenges of all eight monarchs, you remove those where you succeeded and you flip their 'For Northwood!' card. You win if you reveal all three of the stars.
For Northwood! is super-easy to learn but it offers a genuine tactical trick-taking challenge. It certainly makes a change from Patience! Having the special powers at your disposal means there's just the right mix of luck and skill to keep each play fresh and challenging. And when you do find you think you've mastered the game, it offers some variants to further step up the challenge - including cards with different powers that can substitute for some of the Kings and Queens.
For Northwood! is live on Gamefound. Click here to check out the campaign.
#ForNorthwood #SideRoomGames #Melmac #cardgame #tricktaking #solo #solitaire #Patience