Game Buzz: Stick ‘Em

Early on in my hobby game playing career, I was a member of a game group where I got to play a number of games I hadn’t heard much about before. One of these was a German trick-taking game called Sticheln, which was one of the meanest games I had played up to that point. When I say that, I should clarify that it’s not a game that necessarily encourages meanness from other players, it’s just the game is brutal. I hadn’t heard about it much after that. But now, it’s got an English edition called

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Stick ‘Em was first published in 1993 as Sticheln, designed by Klaus Palesch and published by AMIGO. It never had an English release (not that it really needs one), but now Capstone Games has released their version. It’s a 3-6 player trick-taking game where the object is to score the most points, but negative scores are not uncommon.

The game comes with 90 cards, divided into six suits numbered 0-14. Depending on player count, you’ll use a different set of cards – 0-8 in five suits with three players, 0-11 in five suits with four players, 0-14 in five suits with five players, and 0-14 in all six suits with six players. Each player is dealt 15 cards at the start of each round.

image from

Once you get your cards, you choose a Pain Color. This is a color that you do NOT want to collect. You do this by taking a card from your hand and revealing it simultaneously with everyone else. Multiple people are allowed to have the same Pain Color.

Play proceeds with the start player leading with a card. Everyone else in turn order then plays a card from their hand. Unlike many trick-taking games, you don’t have to follow suit. When all players have played a card, you see who won. If only the lead suit was played, the highest number wins. If anyone played a different color, the highest card played that was NOT of the lead color wins. Ties are broken by who played the number earlier. It is important to note that a zero can never win a trick.

At the end of the round, you count up your scores. Each card you collected that was not of your Pain Color scores you one point, regardless of face value. Each card you collected that WAS of your Pain Color loses you points equal to its face value.

The game continues until you have played as many rounds as you have player. At that point, the highest score wins, and it’s not uncommon for people to have negative scores.

image from

In my days of really only playing Hearts and Euchre (I hated Spades and never really got into Bridge), I had no idea how far people could take the trick-taking genre. I’ve grown to be a fan, though I don’t get to play nearly as many as I would like to. I remember really enjoying Sticheln back in the day, even though it was a brutally tough game to do well at. Like Hearts, there’s the impetus to not take certain cards, which is paired with the scoring of getting as many cards as you can in other suits. It’s fun, and hopefully I can play again now that it’s out in this country.

That’s it for today. Stay safe out there, and thanks for reading!

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