Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Test Your Trick Taking Mettle And Find Something Precious In ‘Aurum’

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Trick taking games are kind of an evergreen form on the tabletop, even going back years with classics like bridge, hearts, pinochle, or my favorite, Euchre. Wikipedia even says the first card games were trick taking. And despite the form being relatively stable (play through rounds, win round, gain points, win with enough points) it’s flexible enough to still get some fun variations even today. One such example is Aurum, a new title from Pandasaurus Games and designer Shreesh Bat, who has carved a great little niche in trick-taking with other new titles like Bitaak and Dealer’s Dilemma. Aurum is a title focused on alchemy, pitting players against each other as Alchemists trying to create precious metals. The bubbling cauldrons and arcane symbology made it, I think, a perfect title to check out for October.

What’s In The Box?

Aurum box and contents
  • 50 base metal cards
  • 15 gold cards
  • 4 reference cards
  • 1 first player token
  • 3 golden nuggets
  • 1 rulebook

Card games need to be on the top of their game artistically in order to stand out and I can’t understate just how good Stevo Torres made Aurum look. Everything about it is steeped in alchemical symbology down to the accurate metallurgical symbols for each metal. The colors are bright without being garish and there’s a really great mystical vibe given to all of it that really elevates it above being just another trick taking game.

How’s It Play?

The game revolves around players bidding in each hand with a metal (which are the suits) and number with Gold cards always being a trump. Winning the suit requires having the highest numbered gold card or, if there’s no gold cards, base metal card. Gold cards also can be used to change your bid or your partner’s bid.

The first twist in the game is that unlike most others in the genre where you have to follow suit, Aurum tells you to NOT follow suit. Instead, players have to play a DIFFERENT base metal from the one already played (or a gold card). The value of cards also goes in reverse, with the player who lays out the lowest card wining the hand and getting the gold.

The other big twist is in the bid guessing. When you bid, you and your partner each play a card. The higher number bid is the one used. Once you’ve taken tricks, you score based on how close to your bid you got. If you take more than that bid, you get that value of points. If you DOUBLE it, you get double the value. And if you go under…you get NOTHING. GOOD DAY!

Scores are added up each round with the winner getting a golden nugget. First team or player (you can do 1v1v1v1) to get two nuggets wins!

Aurum Playfield

The Verdict?

I spent enough time in the Boy Scouts to love any card game, and being from the Euchre Belt means I especially love trick taking games. This one really impressed me thanks to the visual appeal, which I think is great regardless of if you’re an occult nerd like me, and the deceptively simple tweaks to the gameplay. You’d think a “do not follow” mechanic wouldn’t change much, but it actually shifts your entire strategy and makes the way you collect and score feel very different. The bidding mechanic is also super unique, especially in a team setting. It means you and your partner need to be on the same wavelength when it comes to playing the right cards, but in a more impactful way than the pure win/lose of other titles. For a genre that often feels over done and oversaturated, Aurum is a real treasure.

Aurum is available from the Pandasaurus shop, Amazon, or your FLGS at an MSRP of $14.95.

Images via Pandasaurus Games

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  • Dan Arndt

    Fiction writer, board game fanatic, DM. Has an MFA and isn't quite sure what to do now. If you have a dog, I'd very much like to pet it. Operating out of Indianapolis.

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