Sea Change – Aquatic Trick Taking
Many folks grew up playing traditional card games like Rummy, Tripoley (AKA Michigan Rummy), or Euchre with their families. While these games are fine in their own way, they don’t draw me in. Enter Sea Change, a new evolution of trick taking card games. It has great artwork, a thematic twist, and victory point scoring.
How to Play
In Sea Change, players need to be crafty to win tricks with positive point cards and avoid negative point cards. Whoever has the most points at the end of a round earns a victory point. The first player to score 3 victory points wins.
Create a deck using using 3-5 suits, depending on player count. Once shuffled, deal 10 cards to each player. Place the trump track where everyone can see it.
The player next to the dealer leads the first trick with any card. The suit of this first card is both the lead suit and the trump suit. Place the fish token on the matching color space on the trump track as a visual reminder of trump. Play then continues around the table.
If a player has a card from the lead suit in their hand, they must play it, with one exception: a Sea Change. A player can cause a Sea Change by matching the value of the previous card, immediately setting the new suit as trump. Even though the trump has changed, players must still follow the lead suit.
If a player doesn’t have a card from the lead suit and chooses not to cause a Sea Change, any card from their hand can be played to the trick (“sluff”). This could include a card from the trump suit.
Once everyone has contributed a card to the trick, the player with the highest value from the trump suit wins the trick. If no cards from the trump suit have been played, then the highest valued card from the lead suit wins.
Cards are placed face down in front of the winning player, and they begin the next hand. The trump suit will carry over between tricks, but not between rounds.
A round comes to an end once all hands are played out. To score, add up the point values (not the card values!) on the cards and subtract negative points. Whoever has the highest points gains a victory point card.
The first player to gain 3 victory points wins the game.
With snazzy artwork, unique scoring, and ability to alter trump suit, Sea Change brings something new to the trick taking genre. The rules are simple and well written, with great illustrated examples.
Fun fact, Sea Change was originally released as Gorus Maximus, with a more mature theme. This update is totally family friendly and we found it more appealing.
By adding additional suits of cards, Sea Change scales well from 3-8 players. But like most trick taking games, more players means more fun.
A New Wave of Trick Taking
Two things really make Sea Change stand out from the crowd: negative point cards and the trump change (Sea Change).
Negative points add a fun, take-that element. Those cards are a hoot to toss when someone appears to be winning the trick. A high point trick could end up netting out to nothing.
Don’t win too many negative cards, or it’ll be hard to score the victory point at the end of the round. This was very clever, adding an extra layer of strategy and timing. For a thematic tie in, these negative point cards have sea trash in the art, polluting these fragile ecosystems.
The Sea Change turns up the excitement. Instantly changing the trump suit alters the win condition of a trick, and leaves the one who played it in control.
Surprisingly, it happens quite often, and creates those “aw man” moments with other players. The Sea Change also helps players out when they might otherwise have a dud hand. It keeps players engaged and on their toes at all times.
Alternate Game Modes
While trick taking games usually skew towards higher player counts (4+), Sea Change has rules for 2 players, teams, and even a solo mode.
Solo games are my jam, so I was excited to try this out. It pleasantly surprised me, and I played multiple games back to back. Playing against the AI was a lot of fun and perfect for my lunch hour. I couldn’t fathom how a solo trick taking game would work, but it was pretty simple.
The A.I. (the deck) plays a card first, then you play card, then the deck plays another. Determine who wins the trick. There is one small gotcha: you have to have at least one value 8 card (-4 points) or you lose the round. Sounds easy, but it’s challenging to offset -4 points each round while still winning more points than the A.I.
Does Sea Change Sink or Swim for Families?
While the box age says 8+, knowledge and experience with trick taking games will help immensely.
My oldest child (12 years old) struggled a little bit understanding the game. I chalk that up to her lack of exposure to traditional card games, but she was able to catch on after a few hands. If you’re playing with experienced trick takers, the few rule additions will be a breeze.
Dip Your Toes in the Water
Sea Change is the best trick taking game I’ve played yet. It is definitely more engaging than playing with a standard 52 card deck. Here we have engaging theme, stellar artwork, and modern game mechanics.
This would make for a great gift for someone loves traditional trick taking, adding new layers of excitement and challenge.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Sea Change from Inside Up Games for this review.
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Age Range: 8+
Number of Players: 1-8
Playtime: 30-40 minutes