Pikoko: Trick Taking with Peacock Panache
Pikoko is a trick taking game with 3-dimensional feathery flair designed by Adam Porter, published by Brain Games with art by Reinis Petersons. 3-5 players can strut peacock plumage while placing bets on how many tricks other peacocks will win. The only catch is you can’t see the numbers on your own hand of cards! The object of Pikoko is to score the most points after 3 rounds of play.
Players take a peacock, set of confidence cards, and betting tokens in their color. Adjust the amount of cards in the feather deck, depending on the player count. Then shuffle the feather deck.
First, let me tell you about the cards. Feather cards each have a number ranging from 1-11, and come in colors representing 5 suits: yellow, blue, red, white, and purple. There are also multi-color feather cards showing 3 of the 5 possible colors.
Confidence cards represent the players. These are used for secret bets that score at the end of each round.
Pikoko is played over 3 rounds. Each round has 4 phases:
Players receive 8 cards facedown which they place into their peacock card holder. They cannot look at the value on their cards, and must keep the numbered side facing the other players. The most critical rule of the game is that you can NEVER see your cards. Next, flip over the top card of the feather deck to reveal this round’s trump card.
Players review cards visible on all opponents’ peacocks and wager on how many tricks those players will win. Starting with the first player’s peacock, all players secretly choose how many tricks that player will win, then reveal their bids simultaneously. This repeats until all peacocks have bets. Note: you are not required to place a bet. You may, however, bet up to 9 tokens across all peacocks, even though there will only be 8 tricks.
Next, select a confidence card and play it face down. You’re essentially choosing which bet you made is most likely to succeed. At the end of the round, you get points if your guess was correct, but you’ll lose a point if it was incorrect.
The starting player kicks off by playing a card from the peacock to their left by following standard trick-taking rules:
- The first card played can be any color and number.
- All other cards must follow the color if able.
- If the player lacks the required color, they can play a trump card or another color.
- Multi-colored cards can be played as any color depicted on the card. If any of the 3 depicted colors is the required color for the trick, then you must treat the card as that color. Otherwise, the player chooses which color it is.
Once all players have played a card, evaluate who won that trick. If at least one trump card was played, the player who played the highest trump wins the trick. If no trump was played, the player who played the highest number in the required suit wins. Whoever wins, collects the stack of cards and places it near them for use during scoring.
Flip over a new trump card, then the winner leads off the next trick. After 8 tricks, it’s time to move onto scoring.
The simplest way to score is to evaluate bids one peacock at a time. There are three possible bid outcomes:
- Correct bid – the number of tokens matches the number of tricks that player took; bidder scores +2 points
- Close bid – bid is off by 1 (either higher or lower than the number of tricks taken); bidder scores +1 point.
- Bad bid – the bet is off by 2 or more; no points are scored.
Next, each player reveals their confidence card, and scores (or loses!) points:
- The color of a player’s confidence card matches a player whom they placed a correct bid on this round; score +3 points.
- If the color of the player’s confidence card matches a player whom they placed a close or bad bid on; subtract 1 point.
- “No confidence” card was played; score +1 point.
Jot down the scores on the included notepad and then play another round. After three rounds, the player with the most points wins the game.
I’m very new to trick-taking games as I didn’t grow up playing Hearts, Spades or Euchre. Nor I do I aspire to play standard 52-card deck games; they’re too vanilla for my tastes. When I learned that Pikoko was a trick-taking game, I hesitated because it didn’t appeal to my gamer core. I quickly ate crow after the first gameplay. Pikoko turns traditional trick-taking upside down, and its fun! Instead of gaining bad points for taking tricks, you want the bird you bet on to win tricks.
You have agency because you’re able to influence which bird wins the trick by the card you play. At the same time, it’s challenging, because all cards are public knowledge except your own. While bids are obvious, players’ decisions aren’t. Having the capacity to read the room is extremely handy to lean tricks in your favor. There will be tricks where players work together to ensure a specific peacock wins and also the direct opposite; that’s the beauty of the game.
Confidence cards add a slick twist that pay off when correct; however if you’re not feeling it, play it safe and take the +1.
Pikoko’s ingenious peacock panache jazzes up what would normally be a plain vanilla game. The peacock card holders are fun and make managing the cards a breeze. They also make the game more tactile when plucking the feathers to play into the trick. The artwork is charming, and the card back design was quite clever: as long as you can see the green feather, other players have an unobstructed view of the number on the other side.
Pikoko plays equally well at 3, 4, or 5 players, and is a great way to spice up game nights for folks who enjoy traditional card games. Ditch the boring 52-card deck and teach them a more dapper trick-taking game.
- Egg-citing trick-taking game with a whimsical theme.
- Turns an otherwise simple card game into a three-dimension tactile experience.
- Gameplay is very fluid and quick.
- Family friendly.
- You’ll never want to play a standard 52 card trick-taker ever again!
The Family Gamers received a copy of Pikoko from Brain Games for this review.
Number of Players: 3-5
Age Range: 10+
Playtime: 30 minutes