PIKOKO a BRAIN GAMES game for 3-5 players aged 10+
Designed by Adam Porter Published by Brain Games Illustrations by Reinis Pëtersons £23.00
You will have to travel far and search wide to find a card game more beautifully designed than PIKOKO, from a visual point it is an absolute delight.
The RULES are well laid out on just four colourful, glossy pages (one sheet folded) with four phases on how to play; Preparation, Bidding, Playing and Scoring.
The components consist of three specific card types: Feather cards, Multi-Coloured Feather cards and Confidence cards, all brightly coloured and of a strong viability as they will be handled and used throughout each game. The other components are five beautifully creative Peacocks, made from extra thick, glossy, card, with their tails spread into the glorious fan that Peacocks are renown for. Once you have carefully assembled them, they are so beautiful, fascinating and splendid that they immediately draw any onlookers to a Pikoko game in progress, you really cannot help yourself, you have to go take a look. The box isn't deep enough to allow you to store them assembled so ensure that when you have finished playing Pikoko you dissassemble them carefully. They are comprised of two slotted pieces, the tail and the body, and by assembling them crossways you allow them to stand gloriously in front of each player (bums towards their owner of course).
PIKOKO is primarily a Trick-Taking card game with twists. To begin with, when you are dealt your hand of cards you must NOT look at them, instead you place them in the 3D Peacocks with their backs towards you, thus every other player can see them but you cannot. As is generally the case in Trick-Takers one card is flipped over from the top of the deck after the deal and this is the Trump suit for the Round. Once each player has studied their opponent's cards they each make bids as to how many Tricks they think everyone will score.
Bidding/Betting is made by the players holding Tokens in a closed fist bid, each player is bid on by the others but does not bid on themselves. Once all the bids have been made each player secretly chooses a Confidence Card from their personal 6 card deck, these are either +1 or +3/-1. There is only one +1 card and it always scores 1 point with no possibility of losing a point but in truth it is a vote/bid of No Confidence. All Confidence cards are played face down and remain that way until the end of the Round when they are flipped over and scores recorded - 3 Rounds and the game ends with the player with the End Scoring and the highest points total wins.
As the players cannot see their own hand of cards they have to play from those they can see but they can only choose to play cards from the player on their LEFT. They take a card and play it face up and the others follow using the rules of Trick Taking, second card must be same suit or if not possible a Trump card or any throw-away. Trick-Taking games are both fun and skillful. Generally you can only see your own cards and thus depending on what you are holding, if you are going first you try to draw out all the cards of a Suit that you are strong in so you can win a couple of times before getting Trumped and losing first player status. In PIKOKO you can see every card except those in your Peacock which means you can almost certainly know all the cards that will make up the Trick, the only card you cannot predict is the one that will come from your hand.
The Confidence cards are played after the Bids are made, playing against the Bid you trust most likely to win, and if you are correct you score the 3 points or incorrect the -1 point (the +1 card will give you +1 but that's the safe bet and no-one should play card games where no money is involved safely).
The Multi-Coloured Feather cards throw spanners (well feathers actually) into the works. Unless you are lucky enough to be able to see all four of them in other player's hands there is always the possibiloity that you are holding, unseen, one or more of these wild cards which may well win the Trick.
Now we come to the real twis and this makes the game even more difficult and more skilful for not only are you playing the cards of the player to your Left you are winning or losing the Trick for the player on your Left. In all honesty this took us a while to get our heads around, it all seems like a regular Trick-Taking game that the designer has continued to bolt bits onto until he ran out of ideas or got himself too confused.
There are many games available where someone has taken a classic game mechanic and fiddled with it, either by changing its scoring, how the cards are played, the colour or type of suits etc. PIKOKO appears to have included every one of these possible angles. By doing so it has made the gameplay a mite more complicated and more thoughtful and fiddly, but at the end of the day it is still a basic Trick-Taking game, albeit a very beautiful version.
PIKOKO is nicely priced and packaged as an ideal Christmas or Birthday present for card game players who enjoy the traditional mixed with a little unexpected.