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Pikoko trick taking card game review

Written and photographs by Hubert Hung

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Pikoko – designed by Adam Porter and published by Brain Games. A 3-5 player trick collecting and betting card game.

The components straight out of the box and a little unwrapping.

Background
From the outset, trick taking games are NOT ones that I gravitate towards especially ones that do not have a theme. So, if I walked past the stand at UKGE, Pikoko would be unlikely to peak my interest. However, mine are not the only pair of eyes that were present expo. Sammy (Jared’s wife) was there and it did catch her attention. I approached Brain Games for a copy to review (much to Sammy’s surprise and apprehension). We did not walk away with a copy because by late Saturday afternoon they had almost sold out! Undeterred, a few months later, I dropped Brain Games a message and they kindly sent us a copy a week later, thank you!

A slightly different view of the components.

The game
Unlike other trick taking games like the traditional card game Whist, Pikoko has a twist. You do not look at your cards. Everyone else does but you. It is up to the player to your right to play your hand. Any tricks that are won using your cards are attributed to you. But I am ahead of myself.

Each player chooses a colour peacock or peahen. They are given a set of betting tokens and ‘confidence’ cards. Eight cards are dealt to each player face down. The players then fan out their cards to create a peacock’s tail (yes I know, peahens do not have fancy tails) with the backs of the cards facing the player (as shown below). Depending on the number of players certain cards are removed from the game. The top card of the deck is flipped over to reveal the colour of the ‘trump’ card. If it is a multicoloured card there is no ‘trump’ card during the round.

How the peacock should look at the start of each round from the player’s perspective.

The players then scan everyone else’s hand trying to work out the how many tricks the respective player is going to win. All the players, with the exception of the player whose hand it is, bets the number of tokens they think the hand is going to win. Once all of the players have had an opportunity to place the bets in front of them, they bet on themselves based on what the others have placed. Players may not place a token if they think the hand will not win any tricks.

The final twist is each player places a ‘confidence’ card (see below) face down by their peacock. This is will be the colour of player they think will most likely win the number of tricks they predicted. If they are right it is another three points, but if you miss then it is minus one. You can play it safe and play a card that scores one point regardless if you right or wrong. If you predict the right number of tricks you score two points and one if you are out by one above or below.

The ‘confidence’ cards of the blue player.

How do you win trick? The starting player selects a card from the peacock to their left. Each player then has to follow with the same colour suit. If they cannot they play any other card and forfeit the trick. A trump card maybe played (if there is a trump colour) to ‘trump’ the trick. If multiple trump cards are played the one with the highest number wins. Players can also lead with the trump colour and the hand plays just like any other one.

The player who won the trick receives the first player token and then starts the next round. Once all eight cards have been played the round ends and the scores tallied up. After three rounds the player with the highest score wins.

The Pikoko peacocks.

Components (8/10)
The first thing about Pikoko that hits you is just how gorgeous the presentation is. It is very colourful with a stunning table presence that will catch the eye of a passer-by. I thought the peacocks were made of cardboard, but they are made of the same plastic as a picnic or camping plate is made from. The peacocks are easy to assemble although one player found it was easier to have slot facing towards you and not away when it came to slotting in your cards (see photo above). The peacocks/peahens have a different look about them too.

The cards are fine, one did take a bit of damage whilst it was being slotted into the peacock’s tail. The tokens are good too. Nothing to shout about, but functional without being generic.

The insert is unnecessary and just made of card. It does not really need one. I put the peacocks and their respective cards and tokens in zip bags. The box cover has a linen finish and I thought this was a nice touch.

The rulebook is fine and there are a number in there written in various languages. The type face is a little small, but the rules well laid out and are clear.

The score pad is small, but functional. Nothing to shout about and I would have preferred a thicker and larger one, but I am nit picking.

The red ‘peacock’ with a Spanish look. This is how the cards should look to all the other players except they will be far more random.

Replayability (7/10)
Pikoko is a pretty quick game and one that will appeal to regular, casual and non-gamers. It would be great as an after dinner game as well as a filler. Having larger number of players does not add too much time onto the game. I can see this game hitting the table quite a bit. It will change depending on the number of players and even the turn order. The overall replayability is decent, but not huge. It does not scream to be taken off the shelf, but once out there it maybe played a few times. If I discovered group of friends liked playing Whist or Bridge, I would bring this one out. What Pikoko has going for it, is it is light hearted and fun.

You can see the ‘peacocks’ are made of a tough plastic not cardboard.

Mechanisms (8/10)
I have been told this game has elements of bet or contract Whist. Having not played the game, I had to look it up. The mechanisms are what make this game sing. When we play a game we are trying come out in front or you are trying to beat it (if you are playing a co-op) by playing the cards in front of us. In Pikoko, you are trying to hit a target number of tricks a player is going to win and you have to do this for every player. That is far tricker than it sounds! You have a bit of control especially if you chose the first card, but you have none over your own hand. There maybe something about your own hand that will shoot you down in flames. If everyone bets the same number of tricks as you do you have an easier ride, but this is not always the case. The others maybe aiming for a different number of tricks and scupper you. This can happen enough times during the three rounds to frustrate you.

The betting, confidence cards and not knowing what you have in front of you are nothing new, but they come together in a wonderful blend resulting in a simple yet compelling card game.

The betting and first player tokens.

Value for money (7/10)
There is an awful lot of game in this box and it is aesthetically pleasing too. It is one you will be proud to show-off to your gamer and non-gamer friends. As mentioned in replayability, it fills a nice slot in your collection whilst looking very pretty on your shelf. It will catch your friends’ attention board gaming collect and it will see an outing once you explain how simple this game is.

The inside of the box with two unassembled ‘peacocks’.

Playability (8/10)
Once the game is in full flow it is very smooth. However, when players first try to setup their peacock it can be a little fiddly as the numbers are hidden behind another card. Only the other players can see this. It does not take long to work figure it out.

Tugging the card out can be an issue. Sometimes you can cause another card to fall out and drop onto the table. The players can help each other by holding down their peacocks at the back.

Its footprint on the table is pretty small too. The betting token could have been a bit bigger. Perhaps Brain games out produce a deluxe version with poker chips and acetate cards? Overall this game is very playable.

The multicoloured cards in the box.

Conclusions (7.6/10)
As I mentioned at the start of this review, I have little interest in trick winning games and abstract games rarely grab my attention, but Pikoko has done exactly that! I think this quote sums it up nicely from an email I received,

“…at start it messes a bit with your head. Because usually we think only in terms of “my cards” “how I’m going to score” etc., but once you get used to this part it’s really engaging and tricky. Always have to think two steps ahead.”

Anna, Brain Games.

WOW! I like this game and I did not expect that! I really does make you think in a way you never expected when your first started setting up your peacock. At this moment in time, I really suck at this game, but I am determined to improve. This game has dimensions I did not expect at the beginning. I am so glad I got to review it. It came out of the blue and lit up the scoreboard. Another bonus is it is not language dependent and that is great if you have friend who may struggle with games that require a lot of reading.

I picked up another pretty abstract card game at the UKGE 2018 and that game was a huge miss for me and everyone else who I introduce to it, but Pikoko pushes a few of the right buttons for me (ones I did not know I had). It would stay on my shelf along side Century Golem edition (my favourite abstract strategy game at this moment in time), but as Sammy picked this out of the crowd, it will be sitting on her shelf. I am little sad that I am giving this one up, but I will be playing it again when I go over for a board game evening. Definitely give this one a go if you can. A thoroughly enjoyable game with hints of frustration (when your plans go up in smoke). Try this game, it may surprise you too!

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