Publisher: Victory Point Games
Game Designer: Zoran Dobrijevic
Artwork: Ashley Anderson
Players: 2 players
Ages: 8 and up
Playing Time: 15-20 minutes
Game Mechanics: Trick taking, Math
Contents: 45 cards, Rulesheet
Suggested Retail Price: $10.99
Parental Advisory: Safe for children
Trifecta is a trick taking card game designed by Zoran Dobrijevic that was originally a Kickstarter project that met its funding goal back in 2013 and is now being published by Victory Point Games as part of their Gold Banner Collection where it was released last month.
I’ve spent a good bit of time with some new card games for reviews lately and have been pleasantly surprised by many of them which has astonished me because I’ve never fancied myself a big card gamer, however that is changing. Trifecta is a very casual and relaxing game that makes it a perfect fit for couples that want a simple, light strategy game to enjoy while sipping a coffee or an adult beverage. The goal of the game is simple, to be the first to score three points. It’s a simple to learn and play yet challenging game that has high re-playability thanks to some clever rules that keeps the experience from getting dull over time.
Trifecta is played with a deck consisting of 39 playing cards with six extra row cards for a total of 45 in the box. Of the six row cards, you really only need three of them as the game rules have been modified from the original Kickstarter version that required two sets of row cards. This along with other rule changes have improved the game considerably while also keeping the footprint down and allowing for some fun gotcha plays on your opponent.
The 39 cards are broken into three suits (2 through Ace) that are artfully done, unique designs that evoke a clever and authentic 1920’s feel. The three row cards are the heart of the tableau and are represented by plus, minus and suit cards.
The play tableau is set up by arranging the three row cards vertically with the plus card on top, suit card in the middle and minus card on the bottom. Both players are dealt a starting hand of two cards and each player uses the right of the tableau as their playing area while seated across from each other.
The row cards each have specific rules to follow in order to score a point; on the plus row you must play cards that are equal or higher in rank to the previous card. The suit row is where you must play cards of the same suit in any rank order and the minus row is where each card played must be equal to or less than the rank of the previous card. Each row must have five cards played on it to be able to score.
Straightforward and effective, but there are a couple of little twists to keep things from being too simple or dull. To score a point you must follow the individual row rules while keeping the total point value of that row between 20 and 27. The point values for the 2 through 10 cards are self-explanatory while the Jack, Queen, King are 1 point each and the Ace is a wildcard, just as in Blackjack, with a value of either 1 or 11. The King, Ace and 2 cards also have special abilities which we’ll talk about later. If a row is over or under the point value threshold after the fifth card is placed, the row is discarded and no point is awarded. When you run out of cards, you shuffle and use the discard pile.
On your turn you have one of three choices to make, either place a card, discard and redraw your hand or place a card on one of your opponent’s rows. When placing a card, the row card is your starting point, building the row out to the right, or you can completely discard your hand and draw two new cards but that will mark the end of your turn.
Finally, you have the option to throw a monkey wrench into your opponent’s plans by placing a card on one of their rows instead of your own and this leads to the games other little twist.
The option of placing a card on any of your opponent’s rows can be particularly devious since you can finish out a row for them, keeping them under or pushing them over the scoring threshold. This not only costs your opponent the precious point but also to discard the row and start fresh, yes it can be frustrating when it’s done to you so be sure to do it first!
The Ace, King and 2 cards all have special abilities that will keep everyone paying attention to their placement. The Ace is a wildcard in terms of value as we talked about earlier but it also allows a card of any rank to be played after it, which comes in handy when you don’t have the cards you want to complete a row.
Let me give you an example of how this works. You’re on the plus row and you have a 9 card so the next card must be of equal or higher rank. If you play another 9 or 10, you will likely go over the upper limit total of 27 to be eligible to score; this is where the Ace can save your bacon.
Instead of playing another 9 or higher card, if you lay down an Ace next to the 9 you can then use it as a one valued card and build up from there following the plus row rule. So you could have the 9, A, 2, 5, 7 cards in the plus row giving you a total of 24 and scoring you a point.
When the King is played on the plus row, the plus card is flipped over to the minus side and the new row rules apply and when the 2 card is played on a minus row, the minus card is flipped to the plus side. These rules apply to both players’ rows, since each row card dictates what is placed on each row for each player. It can stall your opponent a little, allowing you time to play your cards right and steal a quick point or maybe even two!
With these special abilities, things can get a little hectic but it flows well as long as you pay attention, otherwise you could put yourself beyond your scoring threshold. The new rules are a big improvement over the initial Kickstarter ones which seemed very limiting and make Trifecta a solid card game that anyone can enjoy.
The components are nicely done; the cards are of good stock with clear and vibrant art and I really like the packaging too, it’s minimalist to the max which makes the game very portable. The rule sheet is trifold card stock that wraps around the cards and slides into the main card sleeve completing the storage box. It’s about the same size as a standard poker deck and 5/8” thick, fitting easily into a pocket for gamers on the go. The only downside to this packaging is that you will not be able to sleeve the cards, which can be a sticking point for some gamers.
Overall I find the game a relaxing yet comfortably challenging mental exercise that offers a nice balance of strategy and planning while minimizing luck. Although it doesn’t play the same, it reminds me of and gave me a similar feel to the many games of Spades I played while in the service and I always had fun with those!
Club Fantasci Scoring (Based on scale of 10): 7
Rules Book: 7
Component Quality: 7
Club Fantasci Overall Score: 7
I’m giving Trifecta a 7 out of 10 score because I really appreciate the simplicity of Trifecta and how with just a few rules, the game feels elegant and refined without being pretentious or overbearing but most importantly, it is an engaging and very fun way to pass 15-20 minutes with a fellow gamer. A great game for couples that is very easily transported in a pocket or purse and with the math and reasoning aspect I think this would make for good play with a child as well.
The only thing I might change would be the price point. While not high at $10.99, I do think this game would be better placed in the under $10 range to make for wider audience appeal.
This game is Club Fantasci Certified!
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