Vivaldi fills a strange space. Exactly 5 players. Finding yourself at a game day and having exactly 5 players can be awkward to find a game to play. Enter Vivaldi.
Designer: Marcello Bertocchi
Artist: Michele Mor
Artist: Jonathan Panada
Game Type: Trick-taking
Game Type: bidding
Initial Year of Release: 2019
Age Range: 10+
Expected Playtime: 10-20
Number of Players: 5, no less and no more
Theme and What is it?
Vivaldi is a trick taking card game with so much theme I can say this: The suits are the 4 seasons of the year. Yeah. That is all the theme there is. Don’t let that be a negative! This is a trick taking card game, do we really need a super spectacular theme? Not if the gameplay is good. Note that the fact that one suit is a “trump” that beats out all other suits and another is going to be negative points is explained well by the seasons. If summer is trump, its opposite, winter, is the negative cards for the round.
Like many skilled trick taking games, there is a bidding phase where players attempt to evaluate how good their hand is and bid for how little of an advantage (or big of a disadvantage) they are willing to accept to choose the trump suit. The particularly interesting part about this process is that the player is essentially determining which other player will be their partner. If I win the bid by going all the way down to a 3 value and declare the trump is fall, all players will look in their hand for a 3 value fall card. That player is my partner. I might get lucky and they also have some high value trump, but the lower I go during the bidding the less likely my partner is do well with that specific card.
Now it is important to note, the player who has the 3 value fall card does NOT announce it to the table. Play begins immediately and the other 4 players all know if they are helping or competing against me. But they don’t know if they should trust each other or not because 3 of them are against me but one of them is my secret partner.
All cards are worth their face value in positive points except the opposite suit of whatever is trump for the round, which is face value negatives. This means that if I am taking a trick with a strong trump, my opponents will smile and drop their largest negative cards into the pot potentially giving me a net negative trick that I win. Another really interesting part of Vivaldi is that you DO NOT have to follow suit. It is entirely hand management and attempting to play the other players so your team gets the ones that matter and doesn’t get the ones that hurt. Eventually the critical card will come out and everyone will now KNOW the teams. Most hands, players attempt to keep their secret alliance hidden as long as possible so that the 3 on 2 dynamic doesn’t favor the other team.
Game Build Quality
XVGames has delivered exactly what they should for a game like this. A deck of cards. In a small cardboard box. It travels easily in my pocket and takes up no space worth noting in a bag of games. This is exactly what I want to see for a short trick taking filler game.
Well, there isn’t anything to rave about. There also isn’t much to be disappointed by. It is a simple deck of cards that look pretty on the table and serves their purpose adequately. I do wish the artwork for the trump suit were on the corners of the card by the values as well as in the center. As it is, a colorblind player has to splay each card enough to see the artwork in the middle to figure out what suit they are looking at. Colorblind players have had far bigger issues in games than needing to look at the whole card to identify it. But it would have been easy to make it no issue ever.
Vivaldi is just as much of a play the players kind of game as it is playing the game. Counting cards so you know what trumps still are in play and what negatives you stand to get smacked with is definitely part of it… But being the secret partner to the player who called trump and seeing they are about to take the hand you can easily drop like a -4 or -5 card in there. You are working against them! So the other (everyone!) players at the table feel pretty good that you are their ally. So when you are about to take a trick, they throw some nice beefy points in there for you. Or when they could trump over you and take it, they feel no need and let you take it. Everyone at the table is surprised when you get identified, but the damage is done. This only works so far… But that is when everyone starts adapting hand by hand!
Age Range & Weight
10+ is a fair rating. Any player who has experience with trick taking games can adapt to HOW to play this quite quickly. It takes the first couple hands to get experienced enough to feel good during the bidding phase and to start to get in the head space of the hidden ally mechanic. But getting things flowing isn’t very difficult. If you have players who have NEVER played a trick taking game… you probably should start somewhere else first for their introduction to the mechanism.
Vivaldi. Hmm. This is a tough one to sum up. I love trick taking games and usually enjoy them. There are a few that I pull out regularly as end of night fillers or waiting for someone to show up.
Vivaldi fills a strange space. Exactly 5 players. Finding yourself at a game day and having exactly 5 players can be awkward to find a game to play. Enter Vivaldi. The amount of time you have left in the game day or how much investment of the day you want to spend on a game often eliminates some of your other go to options. This is where Vivaldi comes in. It is a satisfying way to spend 20-30 minutes with 5 players that already understand trick taking in general.
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