This week will only have a short post about a short game due to me being down for the count all day yesterday. Knocked out by a chicken, how embarrassing is that? It could at least be a grizzly. But a short post doesn’t make it a bad post – I hope – just like a short and easy game doesn’t mean it’s a bad game. 6 nimmt! is a definite proof of that last part.Wolfgang Kramer’s 6 nimmt! is known as Category 5 in some parts of the world and as a local translation of 6 takes! everywhere else and is one of the traditional gateway drugs for board and card games since 1994. for obvious reasons: it’s easy, quick to learn, quick to play, suitable for friends and family and has a great balance between luck and strategy. Oh, and it has cows, at least in the versions called 6 nimmt! or some translation thereof. You can’t go wrong with cows.
As a pure card game, 6 nimmt! doesn’t require a lot of material, just a deck of cards with numbers from 1 to 104 and a varying amount of bull’s heads on them: most cards have one, cards divisible by 5 get two, divisible by 10 brings three and cards where both digits of the number are the same have five. And then there’s card number 55, sporting a very unpleasant seven bull’s heads. I say unpleasant because you really don’t want to have the bulls, the player with the least of them wins at the end.
The game is, as I may have overstated by now, quick and easy: each player receives ten cards, four more go to the centre of the table, each starting one line. Now all players simultaneously chose a card from their hands and reveal it. Starting with the lowest card, each player places his card at the end of the line where the current last card has the closest lower number to his card. For example, if the last cards are 17, 33, 94 and 101 then a 37 would go in the line with 33, a 32 would go behind the 17 and so on. On the first turn not much can go wrong usually, but on the second turn unpleasant things start happening. Each row can only hold five cards, if you would place a sixth card in a row, the five already there go to your score pile and only your new card remains. The other way to gather points is to play a card that is lower than all the rows end cards; in that case, you may decide which row to take restart it with the card you played. This goes on until the players have played all cards from their hands, then each player counts their bull’s heads and records the score. All the cards are shuffled and dealt again for a new round, until one player’s total score reaches 66, then the game ends and the player with the lowest total wins.
There’s undeniably a lot of luck involved in 6 nimmt!: when all your card values are close together, you don’t get much of a choice in what to play and that usually means you lose. But strategy is involved here as well. You know that you won’t end the round without some cows in your score pile – unless your name is Sizi – but you can try to minimise the damage by taking low value lines. Of course, then you find out that one of your opponents would have to take the same row on his next turn and then you could just place your card without taking anything. Playing a low card and picking which line to take offers some interesting choices as well: you already know the other cards for this round, so you may get to decide who has to take a line after he already thought he was safe.
Don’t get me wrong here, 6 nimmt! is not a game of deep strategy by any means, but it is much more than a pure game of luck, and above all it’s fun, keeping everyone involved at all times and appealing to one of our most primal emotions: schadenfreude. Even more remarkable, 6 nimmt! is one of the very few games I can play with my boardgaming friends as well as with my grandparents and even with both around the same table, when that rare occasion arises. It also plays well in planes, trains, hostels and other places you may find yourself while travelling and has a good chance of attracting other travellers to join for a game or two. If any games go with us on a trip, 6 nimmt! is usually one of them.
And what did we learn from this nostalgia? Always carry a 6 nimmt! and always avoid cows and not properly refrigerated chicken.