My love of trick taking games continues and I can’t stop playing Skull King, Cat In The Box, Shamans, Scout and Herloff. There is only one cure for this addiction, get another trick taker, this time St Patrick from Matagot.
Does this game bring me deeper into my addiction or has it cured me of my trick taking obsession? Read on to find out.
Watch Out For That Snake
This trick taking game has 4 suits (green, white, orange and black) all numbered 1 – 9. There are no trump suits and normal rules apply that you must follow the lead card if you can. So, what’s different about St Patrick I hear you say?
The answer is SNAKES. All of the black suits have 1 snake on them, whilst the 7 white and orange have 3 snakes each. You do not want to win a trick and take the snakes into hand as for each snake you gain you lose a life. Luckily there are relics which protect you from some harm, but to gain these you must draft them at the beginning of each round. Don’t get too greedy as if all of the relics get drafted players are penalised and the drafting must be conducted again.
Each player starts with 20 life points and for each snake you gain that you can’t fight off with a relic you lose 1 life. If, during the drafting phase, all of the relics are taken you are penalised with the loss of 1 life per relic in your possession and you have to pass all of your cards to the player on your left. If the drafting fails enough times for you to gain your original hand of cards back you have to play with these cards and the scoring for that round is changed so that you cannot lose any more lives and instead can claim some back.
The game ends after a trick taking phase where a player has gone to or below zero lives left. At this point the player with the most lives is the winner. Ties are not broken and instead the rules state that the whole game must be played again until a single victor is declared.
Snakes On A Table
St Patrick is designed for only 3 or 4 players and it works really well at both, however I do wish there was a 2 player variant similar to Skull King.
At the start of the round all cards are dealt and players look at their hand before passing cards to the player on their left (cards passed are either 0, 1 or 2 and the current losing player decides). Players then draft relics, starting with the player in possession of the 7 green card and continuing clockwise. Once the draft is completed, with all but 1 player passing, the trick taking can commence.
What I have enjoyed about this game is how the snake cards make you play trick taking in a different way. You have the 9 orange and you really don’t want to win a trick with that card and gain the dreaded 7 orange with its 3 snakes. So you try to exhaust another colour so you can dump the 9 orange on a future turn.
However, there is another tactic that can play out here. If you manage to gain all of the snakes (11 cards with a total of 15 snakes) you are protected from any damage and all other players lose 3 points instead (regardless of their relics). This tactic has worked numerous times during my games and it is always hilarious to watch the other players faces as they realise they can’t stop you from gaining them all.
This is a game for the trick takers out there. It doesn’t have the immediate appeal of Cat In The Box or the wider player range of Skull King but if you dig just below the surface you will find a really good game.
I like the distinctive card suit colours and I really like the gold touches indicating there are snakes on a card. The rules are easy to understand and anyone familiar with trick taking will be up and running in just a few minutes. I would have liked a player score pad included but I can use paper and a pen just as easily.
The real take away from St Patrick is the snake cards and how you play the game to gain as few of them as possible. The player interaction is constant and tense and you will be trying to analyse other players cards as much as your own.
For its low price you can’t go wrong if you are looking for a game suited for 3 or 4 players, just watch out for those snakes.