Seas of Strife is a re-release of a game called Texas Showdown which itself was a re-release of a game called Strife. It is a Trick Taker for 3 to 6 players in which you do not want to win any tricks at all.
I love all things Trick Taking so read on to find out if Seas of Strife sinks in the storm or sails on calm waters.
How To Play
Seas of Strife is a must follow trick taker with all cards being uniquely numbered over 8 suits. When a card is played to the table the next player must follow the colour played. If they do not have any cards of that colour in their hand, they can play any colour they like. Now the next player has 2 different colours they must follow. This carries on until all players have played a single card to the trick. Suits (colours) are then compared to see which one had the majority of cards played and the player who played the highest number in that suit ‘wins’ the trick. Ties are broken by the card numbers, so if 2 orange cards (numbered 0-10) are played as well as 2 grey cards (numbered 21-29) then the player who played the highest grey card ‘wins’ the trick.
The player who wins the trick starts the next. This changes when they win a trick with the highest number of a suit (indicated by a Star icon on a flag which cleverly also rises and lowers on cards depends on where the number sits in the suit – highest is the top flag), in which case this player can choose who starts the next trick.
The reason why I keep on describing it as ‘wins’ is you do not actually want to win any tricks in Seas of Strife. Depending on the number of players the game is played over a series of rounds until one player hits the points tally required to finish the game. Once this occurs the player with the lowest points wins.
The game includes a variant which changes how the highest card of each suit (which it calls the face card) is played. It says that whenever the face card is played all cards in this suit are ignored and therefore cannot win the trick. If all of the cards played in a trick are face cards then the highest card played wins the trick. In this variant the winner of the trick no longer has the ability to choose who starts the next.
There are also rules for passing cards in-between rounds and for face cards to cancel out a trick you won during the game, therefore reducing your score.
Seas of Strife is a very easy trick taker to teach and get to the table. The blend of unique card numbers with the twist that you don’t want to win any tricks means this will stay in my collection to be taught to trick taking fans and people new to the genre.
I really enjoy the standard rules, although the variants are fun. The push and pull of when to play certain cards really make for an enjoyable trick taking experience. However, the game can outstay its welcome a little bit, especially at the higher player counts, but this is compensated by a small change to the final score tallies required. You can even house rule this yourself to make the target a level you are comfortable playing to.
Although I think the artwork is interesting, I was surprised to find out it is from Beth Sobel. The artwork feels like it has come from a game in the early 2000’s which makes it feel a little dated. It’s not a deal breaker as the cards are easy to read and the colours are distinguishable from each other, but it would have been nice for the game to look like a modern trick taker.
Its great the game includes variants for different modes of play so you can find the Seas of Strife experience that best suits you and your gaming shipmates.
Now, let’s set sail for ‘tricky’ waters.