The theme of Half-Pint Heroes is a drunken brawl in a tavern. It comes through strongly in the game's excellent light-hearted artwork by Lars-Arne Maura Kalusky, Ronny Libor and Lea Frohlich. The card art includes, by the way, various 'easter egg' references to well-known board games. The theme is also reflected, to some extent, in the scoring. At its heart, however, Half-Pint Heroes is a trick taking card game.
Designers Johannes Goslar, Roland Goslar and Soren Schaffstein have given the conventional trick taking game a bit of a shake up, tho'. Players can play as many cards from their hand as they like provided they make a poker hand, either on their own or in conjunction with those placed in a face-up row on the table. As in Darwinning (Dragon Dawn Productions), which we featured on Board's Eye View early in 2019, the trick is won by the winning poker hand. Of course, if an opponent expends most of their hand to win a trick, they may well run out of cards before you do; in which case, they will be gifting you easily won tricks as you subsequently play out your hand with no remaining opponents. This adds a strong push-your-luck element to the way you play out your hand: if a player wins three tricks in a row (very possible if other players have burnt through their hands prematurely), it's considered a 'brawl' - you win the round outright and only you score for it.
The game is played with five suits of 13 cards - all with unique artwork. Often with trick taking games, you're left thinking you could maybe just play the game with a conventional deck of playing cards. That's not the case here, not just because of the fifth suit but because every card also has details on it showing players' hand size for the round (in the range 3–7) and the number of cards played to the table as a Texas Hold-em 'flop' (ranging from 1–5). The game also incorporates an element of prediction: you will score points for accurately predicting the number of tricks you will win. When the predictions are revealed, players can also earn bonus points by betting against an opponent's prediction.
The different hand and flop sizes in each round shake things up during the course of the game: you probably won't play the same way with a hand size of 3 as when you start off with 7 cards in your hand. Tho' predictions can sometimes be a shot in the dark, the fact that you can choose how many cards to play gives you a fair amount of control.
Half-Pint Heroes is designed to be played over 10 rounds, with scores recorded on a sheet that begins to resemble the record sheet in a roll&write game. If your score sheet ever records five in a row correct predictions and/or brawls, then you'll automatically win the game regardless of how many points you or others have scored, but only provided you get a correct prediction or start a brawl (take three successive tricks) for a sixth time in a row.
Publishers Corax have done a great job in producing this game. The cards are good quality and the weighted betting chips are a very welcome addition - again, each with their own artwork. The game takes 2–7 players and we've enjoyed it in all player counts. Inevitably, higher player counts make it more difficult to predict the number of tricks you'll win but they offer greater potential for tactical card play!