OSKAR - Reviewed by Mike
Category/Format: Fun/Card Game
Trick-taking card game with a difference by Uwe Schewe, published by Amigo, in which players have different 'alliances' throughout the game, depending upon the outcome of dice rolls. A unique ranking and distribution system for the cards adds to the flavour of a game that takes about an hour to complete and can accommodate up to 6 players.
The theme is based around the 6 categories of films, these being Action, Comedy, Horror, Love, Sci-Fi and Westerns. After each round of play the points gained by each player is entered onto a scoresheet and for those categories which total 120 points or more an Oskar(OK, a grey chip really) is awarded. The game ends when 1 player has gained 7 or 8 Oskars.
Preparation At the start of the game each player is allocated two 6-sided dice on which each face represents one of the categories mentioned above. The result of rolling the 2 dice indicates which categories each player will be trying to gain points for in the coming round. At this stage an example may help make sense of this review.
In a 5-player game the following rolls are thrown which results in the indicated alliances : -Player, Rolls, Alliance with
1; Action & Western; Players 2, 4
2; Comedy & Western; Players 1, 4, 5
3; Love & Horror; No other player
4; Sci-Fi & Western; Players 1, 2, 5
5; Sci-Fi & Western; Players 2, 4
So that's tough on Player 3, who's on their own, whilst players 2 & 4 have a good chance of gaining at least one Oskar as they have 3 'partners'.
So what about these cards and their unique ranking and distribution ? There are 38 cards in the pack, in 5 colours, but the number of each colour and the values of them are variable as the following table shows, which is in descending order of priority : -
Colour, Value Range, No of cards
Yellow; 1-4; 4
Green; 2-8; 7
Blue; 3-11; 9
Lilac; 4-16; 13
Red; 0; 5
Play a Round At the start of a round all the cards are shuffled and dealt equally to each player, any remainder forming a stock pile of 1 or 2 cards. Players each play a card to a trick but are not required to follow suit. The trick is normally won by the player who placed the highest ranking card. So in our example game for 5 players a Green 7 would win over a Lilac 8, Blue 9, Blue 8, Green 3, scoring a total of 35 points, a healthy contribution towards the target of 120 points. However, if the player of the Green 7 had played a Red 0 then the colour of the suits are ignored and the highest value card wins the trick, this being the Blue 9, but the hand is only worth 28 points.
However, if a second Red 0 is played in a round the player of that card automatically wins the trick and the contents of the Stock pile, which they place onto their pile of trick-winning cards but these are not looked at until the scoring phase at the end of the round. If subsequent tricks contain 2 Red cards there is no stock pile available for the player to take.
Hopefully from the above description you will see that as long as one of your 'alliance partners' is winning the trick you don't need to beat it, as both your scores count towards the final reckoning. So again in our example if you were last player and could have beaten the Green 7 you may have chosen to play a high-scoring Lilac card to boost the score for the trick. This takes a bit of thinking about and is not easy when you're say 3rd to play to a trick.
End of Round When all the cards for a round have been played the total points scored by each player in their trick-winning cards are calculated and entered under the appropriate categories for that round. All categories are totalled and if that equals or exceeds 120 or more a chip is awarded to each player showing that category on their dice. Using our example again let's suppose that Comedy & Western both score the magic figure; the distribution of Oskars would be :-
Player 1 = 1; Player 2 = 2; Player 3 = 0; Player 4 = 1; Player 5 = 1.
So Player 4 didn't gain 2 Oskars despite having 3 alliance partners, probably because Player 5 was helping to get Comedy in. Sometimes the aggregate total for a category can be 118 or 119, which is very frustrating !.
Next Round - The player winning the most Oskars in the previous round must roll both dice again for the categories for the next round. Other players except the player who gain the least Oskars may re-roll both dice or stick with what they have displayed already. The lowest player may re-roll 1 or 2 dice, whichever suits them, having seen the result of the other players rolls, and new 'alliances' are formed. In this fashion the lowest scoring player has some chance of doing better on the next round, which makes for a close scoring game.
Oskar is not really suitable for family play due to the need to understand the suit ranking. However it is rewarding for gamers and provides an interesting diversion from other trick-taking games.