Game Buzz: Bug Council of Backyardia

I like trick-taking games. Growing up, I didn’t care much for bidding games like Spades or Bridge, but I loved Hearts and Euchre. When I got into the hobby, I found out there was a whole world of trick-taking games outside those four, and while I haven’t played a lot, I have enjoyed many of the ones I have played. A new one is coming to Kickstarter next week called…

image by BGG user EngroGames

Bug Council of Backyardia is a 3-5 player trick-taking game designed by Patrick Engro and Kyle Hanley, and to be published by Engro Games. The bug council regularly meets to discuss important topics, and the ever-shifting power makes it important to ally yourself with the strongest factions.

The game comes with a deck of 60 cards, numbered 1-12 in five factions. There’s also a faction board, 18 strength cubes, and 2 allegiance/no allegiance cards per player. At the start of the game, you’ll put out strength cubes on the various factions of the board – each one will get 0-4 cubes, based on a card draw. You start the game by dealing each player 11 cards.

image by BGG user EngroGames

The first thing you’ll do is declare your allegiance. You can either choose Allegiance or No Allegiance, and choices are revealed simultaneously. If you choose Allegiance, you’re going to be scoring points based on the faction of the final card in your hand. If you choose No Allegiance, you’re basically saying that you don’t want to win any tricks this round. After declaring this, you discard a card.

Then you play the round. The lead player plays a card. All other players must follow suit if they can. If you don’t have any cards of the led suit, you can play anything. If, after everyone has played a card, everyone has followed suit, then the highest ranked card wins the trick. If someone has played a different suit, the player who has the highest ranked card in the strongest suit (i.e. the faction with the most strength cubes) wins the trick. The player who has followed suit with the lowest card (unless only the leader played in that suit) then gets to adjust strength based on a mancala mechanism. You pick up all cubes from one spot, then drop one in each spot going clockwise. If there are more than five, any leftovers go in the center. Then, whomever won the trick leads the next one.

At the end of the round (ten tricks), you score. For those who pledged allegiance, they check the suit of the last card in their hand. They score one point per trick they won, plus one per cube in that faction’s space on the board. Players who declared No Allegiance won’t have a card left. If they successfully avoided taking a trick in the round, they get ten points plus one per cube in the center. If they won any tricks, they score one per trick they took.

Between rounds, all factions (other than the strongest) get one new cube. Then you’ll shuffle up the cards and start a new round. At the end of the third round, the player with the most points wins.

image by BGG user EngroGames

I have not played a game of Bug Council of Backyardia, though I have fiddled around with the Tabletopia module. It’s an interesting game. I like the mancala system of rotating trump, aka the strongest suit. I think trick takers that don’t have a static trump suit provide more strategic decisions than those that do. It’s one of the reasons I don’t like Spades – spades are always the best cards, and there’s no changing that.

On the other hand, Hearts is one of my favorite trick takers (or trick avoiders), and one of the thrills in that game is shooting the moon, which is taking all hearts and the Queen of Spades and giving your opponents each 26 points. In this game, you have a similar concept, except this one is about getting no tricks instead of all the bad stuff. Because you’re not punishing your opponents for your good fortune and instead gaining 10+ points, that makes this game a lot less mean. But you have to decide in the beginning to do this, so you’ve got to make that strategic decision without knowing what others have. Plus, everyone will know you’re doing it, so you might not be able to wait until it’s too late for others to suspect you.

So yeah, I think this looks like a pretty cool game, and if you’re a fan of trick taking games, I’d suggest you check it out. The Kickstarter goes live next week on August 3.

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

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