Sunday, August 14, 2005

Review: Turn the Tide

Turn the Tide is a card game by Stefan Dorra. This is a light blind bidding card game for three to five players in which players score points by keeping their sheep afloat in the face of a rising tide.

The components consist of two decks of cards and a set of sturdy cardboard life preservers that are used as scoring counters. One deck consists of sixty "weather" cards numbered one through sixty. The other deck consists of twenty four "tide" cards numbered one through twelve (two of each). The tide cards provide most of the theme. They depict a small island with a lighthouse populated by some whimsical sheep. As the numbers on the card increase, so does the rising tide, until at twelve, the lighthouse is almost completely under water and the poor sheep are paddling frantically to stay alive. The components are top notch and the artwork is perfect for the theme. The box also contains a stubby pencil and a scoring pad (but you could just as easily provide your own).

At the beginning of the game, each player is dealt a hand of twelve weather cards. Some weather cards have a small picture of a life preserver on them. Players count the number of life preservers on their cards, take that many life preservers from the supply and place them face up in front of them. An average hand will have about five life preservers in it. Some will have more, some less depending on the relative strength of the hand. The tide cards are also shuffled and placed in the center of the table.

At the start of a trick, one player turns over two tide cards. Then each player selects one card from their hand and all players simultaneously reveal their selection. The player with the highest numbered weather card takes the lower numbered tide card and places it in front of him. The player with the second highest weather card takes the higher numbered tide card. Everyone else takes nothing. Then whoever has the highest numbered tide card showing must turn one of his (or her) life preservers face down.

Play continues in this manner, with two tide cards being revealed and everyone bidding on them. As new tide cards are taken, they cover old ones and whoever has the highest numbered tide card showing after each trick (which might well be one that was taken on a previous trick) must give up one life preserver. If a player must turn over a life preserver but has no more life preservers showing then they are out for the rest of the hand and score -1 point for that hand. Everyone else scores one point for each life preserver showing at the end of the hand.

The most unique element of this game is that each player gets a chance to play with every other player's hand. After a hand is completed and scored, each player passes the cards in their hand and their life preserver tokens to the player on their left. The tide deck is reshuffled and a new hand is played. This is done until each player has had a chance to play with each hand in the game. So a five player game will last five hands.

Turn the Tide is a simple game that plays very quickly. It can be rather chaotic but there is definitely some strategy and psychology involved with the bidding and players with a good memory would have a leg up. The novel idea of reusing the same hands for each player is interesting but in practice only someone with an exceptional memory could possibly remember where all sixty cards are in the game so it doesn't seem to influence the game as much as one might think. Of course in order to profit by it, one doesn't need to remember where all the cards are, it might be enough just to remember who has the highest and lowest few. This game fits squarely in the "light filler game" category and shares some similarities to one of Stefan Dorra's other card games: For Sale. I think that For Sale is the better game of the two but Turn the Tide is pretty darn fun as well and I'll happily play either.


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