iOS App Review: Cahoots!

Ever since college, I’ve been a big fan of trick-taking games, card games in which each player plays a card and one of them “wins” the trick. Usually you’re bidding on how many tricks you can take, trying to score or avoid scoring points in the tricks, or some other thing. My favorite is probably Sticheln, but I like a number of them and am often on the lookout for new and interesting ones.

So I’m pleased to have been pointed towards Cahoots!, a trick-taking game that does a little something new and fun.

Cahoots! is played with six suits: the traditional four, plus yellow stars and blue cups. In each suit you have these cards: 4-5-5-6-6-7-7-8 (it’s a little different in a three-player game). You are randomly given three suits that you want to make win tricks. If you have diamonds, for example, you want diamond tricks to win, because you score 2 points! There’s a catch, though: one other player also scores for each of your suits, so helping yourself is also going to help someone else.

Starting with the start player and rotating clockwise, each player plays one card to the trick, then a second card. Whichever suit has the highest total face value wins, and the two players who “own” that suit score two points. If two or more suits tie for the win, their controllers score one point each.

Then comes the next interesting part. Beginning with the start player, you again go around selecting one card at a time from those played. One of them will come back to your hand and one will be removed from the game (you can choose either one first or second). So you can help get rid of suits you’re not interested in and keep good cards in suits you like.

The game ends after the eleventh round. Whoever has the most points wins. However, you can also play a variant where you then play more games until someone hits 100 points.

It’s a neat game, and I want to put together a physical version to play.

How does it do as an app? The app is very clear, with a helpful tutorial, clear graphics, and good controls. There is only single-player vs. AI play, but the AI has three different levels of difficulty. I won my first game against all Easy AIs, then lost my second to Easy AIs and got crushed in a me-vs-all-the-different-AIs game. It would be nice for it to have online playability, though it wouldn’t work well asynchronously or pass-and-play.

The background music is a short loop that gets annoying fast, but I usually have sound off anyway. I’d like for the vague Prohibition-era theme to be played up in the card art, like six different gangs or something, but it’s fine as-is.

Cahoots! is currently available in the app store for a measly buck. It’s worth checking out if you dig these kinds of games. The game is designed by Jay Treat and the app by Josh Edwards, who generously provided me with a promo code for this review.

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