Updated: Nov 17
Here's a tasty trick-taking card game from designer Ta-Te Wu and publishers Sunrise Tornado. In Macaron, the players are French patissiers preparing gift boxes of macarons to present to King Louis and his court. It's a theme that's pastried if not pasted on, but it does make for a visually appetising feast, thanks in no small part to the delicious artwork of Holly Chiu and Rachel Kim.
The macarons come in seven flavours, which means the cards are divided into seven suits: 1-10 in chocolate, 1-7 in the rest. Players are each dealt a hand of cards (13, unless you are playing with five players). There's an element of drafting as you each pass two cards of your choice to the neighbouring player.
Then comes this game's unique feature. Players are also dealt face down an equal number of 'voting' tokens of various values. They take turns placing these out face down above or below cards showing single or paired macarons. When the tokens are revealed, the card with the largest number of votes (the total value of tokens placed above the card) becomes the trump suit(s): if it's a card showing two macarons, both are trumps. The flavour with the largest negative (below card) score is designated the 'allergen': its presence in any trick pollutes it so that the trick doesn't count towards the winner's total. Think of it as an anti-trump (a Biden, perhaps?). All cards with value 2 negate allergens, so you'll still score tricks that have at least one 2 in them - even the 2 in the allergen suit. The only other card with a special effect is the 1: if you ever win a trick with a 1 then it will count as three tricks. This can make the 1 in the trump suit(s) especially valuable.
Before tricks are played, you have the opportunity to predict the number of tricks you'll take. Get this bet right and you'll add two points to your end-round score; get it wrong and you'll be deducted a point.
That's pretty much the entire rules in a pistachio shell. The net result tho' is a card game that's intuitively easy to learn and play but one where the novel voting gives players the opportunity for subtle manipulation and control. Macaron plays quickly and takes up to five players; and, unusual in a trick-taking game, it even incorporates a solo option where you'll be playing against a bot. This is a versatile game that works well at all player counts but we especially enjoyed it as a 2v2 Bridge-style team game, which is offered as an alternative to the more conventional everyone-for-themselves four-player game. The 'theme' may be no more substantial than a thin dusting of icing sugar but it's enough to give Macaron a great table appeal so that even non-gamers will clamour to play a few hands. That really does make this the whole package.
Shown here on Board's Eye View with four hands visible to the camera is a preview prototype of Macaron ahead of its Kickstarter launch. As usual with prototypes, there may well be some tweaks to the components and design during the course of the KS campaign. You can check for yourself by clicking here for the Kickstarter.
(Review by Selwyn Ward)