Full disclosure, I’m a big fan of trick taking games. I grew up on a steady diet of Hearts, Euchre and Tarot. More recently, I’ve had a lot of fun with The Dwarf King and Abluxxen. There was a pretty good chance that I was going to be a fan of Diamonds by Mike Fitzgerald.
On it’s surface Diamonds is a standard trick taking card game. The four familiar suits are all there, but face cards are done away with and the cards run between 1-15, making a 60 card deck. There are also vaults which act as a player blind and diamonds that come in different sizes.
Each player starts with a vault, a showroom and three diamonds in their showroom. The goal is to get as many diamonds into their vault as they can. Once the gems are in there, they’re safe from thieving opponents.
Diamonds is played over a number of rounds with ten cards dealt to each player to get things started. At the beginning of each round the dealer will select one, two or three cards. That will be the number of cards that everyone will pass to the player on the left. Once the exchanges have occurred, the start player will lead off.
Unlike some other trick taking games, there is no trump in Diamonds, but players are forced to follow suit if they can. When a player is unable to follow suit they are forced to ‘throw off’ (or play a card of another suit). Normally, without trump, this means a more or less wasted turn, but here’s where it gets interesting. In Diamonds ‘throwing off’ gives you a suit action. Each of the four suits has a special action associated with it. Playing an off suit will trigger one of those actions for you.
Now the goal of the game is to get diamonds into your vault. The person who has acquired the most points from diamond gems in their showroom and vault is going to win. Each diamond in your vault is worth two points, each one in your showroom is worth one.
Playing a diamond card off suit will allow you to take a diamond from the supply and put it directly into your vault. An off suit heart moves a diamond from the supply to your showroom. The spade suit action is to move a diamond from your showroom to your vault and just to be jerky a club suit action allows you to steal a diamond from an opponents showroom and put it in your own.
All of a sudden the card you throw away takes on immense importance. A suit action is also given to the player that wins the trick. They will the the action associated with whatever suit they won the trick with. At the end of the round the players that have taken the most cards of each different suit will get to perform a suit action of that type and any player that took no tricks over the round will get to perform two diamond suit actions.
Diamonds is not going to revolutionize the gaming world, but it doesn’t set out to do that. It is a really fun, fresh approach to a well tested mechanic. It plays two to six players and the rounds are relatively quick. If you’re a card player with an affinity to this type of game I can pretty much guarantee you’ll like the new feel that Diamonds brings to the genre.