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When you think of all the hundreds, nay thousands, of different types of games on sale, display and demonstration
at this years Spiel in Essen, it is surprising that the game I heard the most buzz about is this Mike Fitzgerald trick-
taking card game. I heard a couple of attendees making discerning comments about the cost of the game (between
$15-$20) saying  that it is basically a regular trick-taking mechanic using a deck of cards plus 2 additional cards per
suit and a handful of plastic gems. Having played it I can say that you are paying for the quality of the components
and the excellence of the twists and turns.




The main thing I heard around the Essen show about DIAMONDS though was how good it was and how different
and interesting award  winning author, Mike Fitzgerald, had made a regular trick-taker. The cards are numbered 1
through 15 in four suits, Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds (of course) and Spades. The Gems are valued at 1 point for the
sparkling clear crystals and 5pts for the large red "diamonds" (not sure about having "red" diamonds someone in our
group suggested they could be Blood Diamonds), Naturally the player with the highest value in Diamonds at the end
of the game is the winner.


The players are dealt a hand of 10 cards. As in most trick-taking games one player leads and the other players have to
follow suit. If you can't follow suit then you throw away. All 10 cards are played out before a new Round begins, thus
there are 10 Tricks per Round.

There are several games on the market that follow this mechanic and a few others that have twists on the theme. The
trick twists in "Diamonds" hinge on the way the cards each player holds are played out. After the deal, everyone looks
at their cards and then the dealer says 1, 2 or 3 for the number of cards that each player must pass on. This gives you the
chance to create a strategy for each Round. Of course it is always possible that the cards you are handed will be of the
same suit or suits as those you passed on - you aren't allowed to check what cards you are being given before you pass
the cards on. 


The trick twists in Diamonds are also achieved through suits and the cards discarded during the play of a trick. Each suit
has a special action attached to it that takes effect when the card is played out of turn.




Apart from playing out cards to make tricks, the game also involves the collecting and distributing of the Gems. You need
to get the Gems into your vault where they are safe and more valuable - the vault is a folded card shield behind which you
place the Gems you gain. Once a Gem is in a vault it cannot be touched and because it is safe it is worth double points at
the game end. Gems you have collected but are not in your vault have only single value points. Gems in front of you and
not in their vault are in their "Showroom".



As noted, each suit has a special ability. So let's look at a couple of tricks in a Round. The players are Chris, Fran, Grant and Jo.
Chris starts and plays 10 Diamonds, Fran follows suit with the 2 Diamonds, Grant has no Diamonds so he plays the 5 Hearts and 
immediately he activates the effect which for Hearts is to remove a Gem from the supply and put it in front of his vault. Jo also
has no Diamonds so she plays a Club and steals the Gem Grant just got. Jo could steal from anyone who has Gems on display but 
she decides that Grant is fair game as he just won the Gem. Chris wins the hand having led the 10 Diamonds and thus takes a Diamond
from the supply and places it straight into  his vault. That is one hand or Trick. All cards get to be played out each Round so there are
10 Tricks to be won per Round.


The game continues until all 10 cards have been played from the player's hands and that ends the Round. After all rounds have been
played anyone who hasn't won a trick then takes a bonus of 2 Gems from the supply and places them straight in their vault. This isn't
enough to win you the game if you never win a trick (unless you are extremely lucky) but it does mean that all players are usually in
contention until the game ends.




After 10 Tricks new hands are dealt, the dealer calls for cards to be passed and the new Round begins. The game ends after a number
of Rounds depending on the number of players: 
4 Rounds for 2 players. 6 Rounds for 3 players. 4 Rounds with 4 players. 5 Rounds with 5 players and 6 Rounds for 6 players.

Because of the actions of the Suits and the fact that players have a chance to adjust their hand after each deal there is a lot of scope for
players to try out various strategies and change tactics mid-stream if necessary. This is a fast, fun game for families and friends, not a
gambler's game, but gamer's will find it good for a light change.


At the end of the last Round everyone declares the value of the Gems they have. You need to win tricks to control the cards, you need to
lose the lead so you can discard cards in suits not led to get their immediate effect, you need to control your Gem collecting so you can put
them into the vault where they are safe and you need to be wary of what the other players are doing. All in all it is a very clever take on a
traditional card game mechanic.




© Chris Baylis 2011-2015