Fool! Released in 2018 is a trick taking game, which reimplements a 1995 card game Foppen. Designed by the legendary Friedemann Friese, published by Stronghold Games, the game is designed to work with 4 – 8 players, yet lasts for only 20 minutes. Cards will be played, tricks won and lost and each round someone will be the Fool! However, is there enough in the small box to entertain? Let’s find out!
Lifting the lid on the game players merely need to follow the overview card for the player count, reducing the number of cards in play, before shuffling and dealing the remaining deck. After placing the befooled token into the middle of the table and randomly selecting a starting lead player the game is ready. Fool! revolves around trick taking with somewhat of a twist. On a turn, starting with a lead player, players choose a card from their hand to play into the trick. The suit of the trick is defined by the lead player. For example if the lead plays a Red 16, the lead suit is Red. Each subsequent player must then if possible play a card of that suit. If you cannot play one of the same suit you must play a card of non-lead suit but it is effectively discarded.
Tricks are won by the player whom plays the highest valued card of the lead suit. The winner of a trick will start the next round off by playing a card, but not before the loser, or fool, is determined. The fool is determined via a couple of rules: if everyone has played a lead suit card the lowest value is befooled; if one player has had to discard they are befooled and if multiple players have discarded the lowest value of the discard cards loses. Note, if two numbers match the last played one loses. Befooled players aren’t completely eliminated however. Instead, they simply cannot participate in the next trick, taking the befooled token to indicate this.
Each suit only goes down to a value of 2, with a number of 1s included. These are deemed to be wild in suit and can be played as an lead suit. Crucially these never count as a discarded card but are always beaten by cards of the lead suit. Note, if these are played first by the lead player the second player gets to set the suit of the trick.
As a minimum the game will last 12 rounds, unless playing with 8 when this drops to 11. The aim is simple, to finish a round with no cards in your hand. For players that manage this they gain 10 points, unless in the final round they are befooled – gaining 0 points. At this point, for those left with cards the negative points are about to rain in. For each wild 1 left in your hand 5 points are lost and the face value of all other cards are also lost. Whilst you could stop there if tight on time, officially the game may not be over. Dealing the cards back out the game starts again until one player has reached -80 points or 6 scoring events have occured. At this stage the player with the most points wins!
Fool! is designed for 4 – 8 players, yet included in the box are only setup rules for 5 – 8. These are done on great overview cards, making the game super simple to set up for those player counts. However the exclusion of the 4 player setup card, with no mention in the rules seems an oversight. Realistically, the only differences are the amount of each suit and 1s included, but it shouldn’t be left to players to guess. For reference, it seems to be -3 cards for Green, Red and Yellow -2 cards form Blue and one fewer 1 card, from the 5 player setup.
Becoming befooled and missing a round is the perfect amount of punishment. It surfaces the fears of not wanting to be eliminated from the game but without the 10 minutes sat on the sideline. At 7 – 8 players two befooled tokens are put into play with the worst two cards, via the same losing rules, knocking players out for the next round. This is an easy way to reduce the cards played each round and keeps some speed to the game that could otherwise had been lost.
Irritatingly little is done to distinguish cards of the same value when losing tricks. The rule that the the last person to play the number loses not only feels lacklustre it is also smuggled into the rules and is easily missable. This situation is compounded by what could be the worst round possible. If all players were to play a 1, the starting player would win the trick, the middle players would be fine and the last player would lose the trick. In this situation it would surely be easily avoided by the final player but the way that the ties are broken in this way doesn’t quite sit right. 1s aside the rest of the deck could have easily been distributed differently so that the same numbers are never used, circumventing the majority of the problem.
Each game has somewhat of a unique flavour to it based upon the distribution of cards in your hand. Regardless of the numbers available it is entirely possible to have a great or awful round. However, only have one green in your hand and the other players will swiftly cotton on and easily be able to force you out of a trick. Applying this same logic it is this working out what others have that adds to the deduction side of all trick taking games, and is very prevalent in Fool!
Fool! isn’t a game that will be winning any awards for visual presentation any time soon. The befooled tokens are thin green discs that do little to spark the imagination, not even having a B for befooled or a Fool! logo on them. The cards are of good quality, shuffling easily with the same backing. At the same time the artwork isn’t anything special, though it is clear which suit cards belong to. At times the font makes some double take, with the values of 21 and 27 a tad similar. This is a quick double take however with no game breaking problems caused. A theme or great visuals aren’t necessary for a card game but the visual styles and flairs of a games like Jaipur or Arboretum put this title to shame.
So, Fool! isn’t the prettiest game, and it has some nuances in the rules that are a bit lacklustre. However, for fans of the trick taking genre this offers an experience that scales upwards with little to no increase in downtime. The concept of being knocked out for a round at a time strikes a great balance of punishment but not full elimination. The game is trick taking at an almost base level, with very little extra to teach past what beats what. This will help it get played at gatherings, especially with non-gamers. The saving grace for Fool! is its size, making it an easier decision to keep for the occasional play it’ll get.
[Editor’s Note: Fool! was provided to us by Asmodee UK for review purposes. The game is currently available from local UK board game stores, find your local store here]