One of the players that regularly come into my shop has a taste in games that typically runs toward the harder to acquire euro games. He often brings in one or two that I have never heard of in order to let me have a taste, and sometimes when he does that, I just can’t help but order myself a copy. It’s just too darn good.
A few weeks ago, this euro gamer came in with a little brown box with the title “Ebbes” on it. He knows I enjoy trick taking games, and decided he had to show me this one.
Ebbes is a trick taking game, however, what suits are trump, positive points, minus points, etc change every round based upon a magic number. There are five colored suits, and at the beginning of the round, the magic number is revealed.
So, lets say that three is the magic number. The first time a three is played as part of the trick, that will set the color of the trump for the round (based upon the color of the three that you played). The second time a three is played, it sets the positive point cards, and each card you have of that suit at the end of the round will be worth one point. The third time a three is played it will set the “ebbes” for the round, which is a suit that you do not want to have the least or the most of, but somewhere in the middle. The fourth three played will set which suit is worth negative points. And the last three played will set the “Nix” which determines who will choose the starting player for the next hand.
Is your head swimming? Don’t worry. This company uses a small board to not only keep track of your points, but to also keep track of each suit’s properties for that turn.
So why is this game so compelling? Given that each round the different suits abilities are set when the magic number is played, it could be some time before you know what is worth negative points, or positive points. So it makes it dangerous to pick up tricks early on. This leads to players attempting to flush out the magic number that they are looking for in order to make a suit positive, and attempting to throw hands for suits they suspect might end up negative.
Growing up in Indiana, Euchre is the game of choice on college campuses around here. If you aren’t familiar with Euchre, it’s also a trick taking game with changing trump, however, I find it to be much more complicated. This game by comparison is simple to pick up and can play 3-5 players (so you don’t have to have exactly four like you do in Euchre).
“Ebbes”, which according to the rulebook translates into “something”, is a German game produced by a small mom and pop shop. According to my euro gamer friend, they only produced a couple hundred copies of the game, which I was devestated to hear. I was really lucky and found a single copy for sale on boardgamegeek.com, and am now the proud owner of this game. I’ve also heard whispers that a second printing might be coming, which would be phenominal.