Header AD

Herrlof Preview

Quick Look: Herrlof

Designer: Alexander Kneepkens & Inge van Dasselaar
Artist: Tristam Rossin
Publisher: Jolly Dutch
Year Published: 2020
No. of Players: 2
Ages: 10+
Playing Time: 30 - 45 min

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

WARNING: This is a preview of Herrlof. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.


tl;dr: Trick-taking with just a dash of take-that. 2 players only in a tiny box and great theme.

Getting to the Game: Each player is going to take a scoresheet from the provided pad, and then randomly choose a first player. Shuffle the entire deck of 42 (the answer to the universe!) cards, and deal each player 15 of them. Turn up the top card of the remaining 12, and that color is trump. You're all set, let's do the thing.

Playing the Game: Once you've been dealt your 15 cards, you're first going to predict how many tricks you're going to take. You'll secretly write this prediction down on your scoresheet, and hide it from the other player. You can't change or otherwise alter this prediction, so make it a good one- things are about to get crazy.

Play proceeds from here in pretty standard fare for trick-taking games. All the regular rules apply- the non-dealer player plays a card from their hand, forcing the other player to follow suit if they have it. If the following player does not, they're allowed to play trump and claim the trick. Where Herrlof sets itself apart is in the two non-value cards in the game, N and what I'll call the Auryn. The game's instruction book provides no name for this value, which is annoying, but does allow us to make Neverending Story references, so perhaps it's not all bad.

Playing the Auryn means that you've destroyed the trick on the table. It's completely discarded and no one wins. Keep in mind that these will lower the total number of tricks available to be won in the game from 15. There are three in the deck, but not all three (or even any!) are guaranteed to be played. If someone leads one of these, and the other player plays a second, it disrupts the world so completely that a new trump card is immediately drawn from the top of the remaining deck, so if you don't like the trump, holding on to one of these to play in response isn't an awful strategy. The N card is the lowest possible value, meaning that it will never win a trick by itself, unless both cards in the trick are Ns. In this case, the first one played will win. Playing an N isn't all bad, though- you get to lead the next trick.

For added complications, there are four values which also change the game's rules:
1: Winning a trick with a 1 is so completely unheard of and rare that you'll actually get to steal a previously-won trick from your opponent. Be very careful leading an N, friend.
3: Playing this card allows you to swap the top (face-down) card of the deck with one in your hand. This happens immediately, though you can't change the card you've already played into the trick.
6: Winning a trick with a 6 lets you nab a card from your opponent's hand, and return to them any card from yours (including the one you just took).
9: Nines are the highest value of each color, and winning a trick with them is so unimpressive that you give up the right to lead the next trick, your opponent now gets that privilege.

Once all 15 of your cards have been played out, players reveal their predictions and score one point for each trick they took, and 10 additional points if they correctly predicted their total. Winning 3-5 tricks gives you 5 pity points (more on this later). 50 points is the endgame goal, and the highest score wins.

So, how does it play? Overall, Herrlof succeeds in being a neat take on the genre, with the 1/3/6/9 value cards having interesting powers giving the game a fresh feel while not being overbearing. We enjoyed our time with the game, though it's not without issues. Trick-taking games almost always play with 4, either all-for-yourself or in teams. While the rulebook does introduce a three-player alternative, which is pretty decent, it's not going to hit my table as often at two. The addition of 5 points given to a player who scores a small number of tricks feels like a strange catch-up mechanic intended to keep the game close. Abusing this rule is fairly easy- you can bid 5, and then tank your play. It's not the easiest thing in the world to do, but it's certainly possible. Predicting and scoring 5 points gives you 20 for the round, meaning that you only have to do it twice successfully to threaten a walkoff win.

Still, the art and simplicity of the design are big draws, and any fan of trick taking games is going to catch on quickly here. Giving it a head-to-head focus will set it apart, but whether that gives this more or less appeal remains to be seen.

Artwork and Components: Herrlof's artwork is great, giving us a few variations of some Norse tribal fellows (though mostly masculine) in the game's four different colors. The card design is appealing without being distracting, and the backs of the cards are cool.

The preview copy I have is pretty standard in terms of components- 42 cards of normal stock, with a semi-gloss finish. The scorepad has a large number of sheets, but also isn't strictly necessary to play. The box is small, with a neat design, and has a cardboard insert designed to keep everything together. The rulebook is the weak link here, being one giant sheet, map-folded four times and using male pronouns throughout.

The Good: Trick taking is exactly what you came for, with the bonus of some fun take-that abilities and good table presence. Plays quick and light.

The Bad: Lack of true 4-player action may put off some fans of the genre. Scoring is odd and able to be abused.

Score: While I have some issues with Herrlof, the game remains an admirable entry into an established and somewhat overdone genre, and it breathes new life into it. Any theme is welcome here, and you'll always be able to find one other person to play it. At $10 on Kickstarter, this is almost a no-brainer, though you'll want to abolish the pity points rule in your games. I'm giving Herrlof a score of Tricksy.

Check out Herrlof on:


Nicholas Leeman - Reviewer

Nicholas has been a board game evangelist for over 10 years now, converting friends and family alike to the hobby. He's also a trained actor and works summers as one of the PA announcers for the St. Paul Saints. He lives in Minneapolis, MN with his board gaming wife and son.

See Nicholas's reviews HERE.
Herrlof Preview Herrlof Preview Reviewed by The Madjai on January 28, 2020 Rating: 5

No comments