Menu

CONTROL NUT!

Reviewed by Herb Levy

(James Miller, 2-4 players, ages 10 and up, 45 minutes; $9.99)

 

What? Another trick-taking game? With all the trick-taking games out there, you’d think you’d have to be a nut to bring a new one to the market. Except James M. Miller, who definitely shows sign of sanity, is not a nut but a “control nut”. He has created and self-published Control Nut!, a new trick-taking card game offering a different slant to games of the genre.

The 60 card deck consists of four suits of cards which, in keeping with the theme, represent different types of nuts (acorns, buckeyes, peanuts and walnuts) ranging in values of from 1 to 13. In addition to the number, some of those cards have stars on them (two on the 1 cards, one star on the 3s and 7s). The remaining 8 cards are specials. More on them later.controlnutbox

The basic flow of the game follows the standard play of trick-taking partnership games. (Although the game may be played with 2 or three players, it really works best with four.) A player plays a card from his hand, the other players follow suit if they can, may play trump if they cannot, with high card winning the trick. But it’s those special cards, how you get them and what they can do, that sets Control Nut! apart from the pack.

The 8 special cards are called “Control Cards” because they offer players opportunities to control (or at least “warp”) the gameplay. Control cards allow a player to select trump, automatically win a trick, add stars to your score, randomly pluck a card out of each of your opponents’ hands, sit out one or more tricks, declare a bonus, alter a card value, adds points to your partnership score. And getting them is part of the fun (and strategy) of the game.

The 52 cards are shuffled and dealt out to all four players so that each player has a hand of 13 cards. Before regular card play begins, the auction phase of play must occur. Four of the eight Control Cards are randomly chosen. These are the cards that will be in play during this round. As each one is revealed, all players, in turn order, bid for them. A bid consists of placing, face up, three cards from your hand. The total number value of all three cards is your bid. A player may bid higher or lower than a previous bid but may NOT bid the same value. High bidder gets the contested Control Card. Then, the three cards that were bid are distributed! The high bidder must give one of his bid cards to each of the three other players. When all four Control Cards have been auctioned off, the player who won the most Control Cards determines trump. (If the Control Card that controls trump was auctioned off, trump will be determined by the player controlling that card.)

During regular card play, a Control Card may be played on a trick, regardless of suit led. However, Control Cards have no value and do not win tricks on their own. Because of the auctioning mechanism, players may end up with unequal numbers of cards in their hands. No problem. Cards remaining in a player’s hand (once other players have played out their cards) count as tricks with a conversion rate of 4 held cards (rounded up) equaling one trick. Now we score.

A partnership’s score is determined by adding up the stars captured in tricks and multiplying them by the number of tricks. In addition, each captured Control Card is worth 5 points. (For example, capture cards bearing 8 stars when you’ve taken in 10 tricks and you’ve earned 80 points. Have 2 Control Cards in your stash and you’ve bumped your score for the round to 90 points,) The first team to meet or exceed 300 points is the winner.

Despite its self-published status, Control Nut! shows every evidence of professionalism. The box and cards are of a quality equal to (or surpassing) any card game around. The high quality of the graphic design is also notable and well worth mentioning. Although the same color family (browns, yellows, oranges) is used throughout, it is still surprisingly easy to differentiate the different suits. The high quality continues through the nuances of the game design.

Miller has created a tasty “sandwich”, flanking basic trick-taking with a clever use of auctions and unusual ways to score. Control Card auctions create a variable dynamic as regular cards get re-distributed while the powers of those Control Cards can potentially and radically change the flow of the game. Scoring shakes out differently from the standard trick-taking experience as, quite often, players end up with unequal amounts of cards in their hands. These features keep Control Nut! fresh, exciting and, even more impressive, different. Right now, Control Nut! is only available through Funagain games (www.funagain.com). But this card game is worthy of a larger print run and more extensive distribution. Hopefully, some company with a savvy business sense will take the hint and give this nutty little treat the wider audience it truly deserves.- – Herb Levy


 

Have feedback? We’d love to hear from you.


Summer 2005 GA Report Articles

 

Reviewed by Greg J. Schloesser (Kosmos/Mayfair Games, 3-4 players, ages 10 and up, about 60 minutes; $49.99) I’ve had the great fortune to have traveled quite extensively throughout Europe and the United States. However, I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting South America, and I’ve always been fascinated by pictures of the rain forest and surrounding Amazon region. One day, I hope to visit the ...
Read More
Reviewed by Greg J. Schloesser (Hangman Games, 3-5 players, 2 hours, ages 12 and up; $40) Last year, the major game highlight for me at the Gathering was Alan Ernstein’s Tahuantinsuyu (Summer 2004 GA REPORT). The game is excellent, and was one of my Top 3 games of 2004. I also thoroughly enjoyed Junkyard, his novel trick-taking game using tiles. So, I was eagerly anticipating ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Ravensburger/Rio Grande Games, 2-5 players, ages 10 and up, 60-90 minutes; $39.95) The Australian continent serves as the setting for the aptly named Australia, the latest offering from the design team of Wolfgang Kramer & Michael Kiesling whose formidable credits include Tikal (Spring 1999 GA REPORT) and Torres (Fall 1999 GA REPORT). The premise of the game is straightforward. With ecology ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Word Salt, Inc., 2 to 4 players, ages 8 to 108, less than an hour; $29.95) In today's world, writing seems to be a dying art. Baffle Gab seeks to restore that aspect of human communication in a game allowing parents AND children to sharpen their pencils and writing skills and still have a good time. Baffle Gab comes in a ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (James Miller, 2-4 players, ages 10 and up, 45 minutes; $9.99) What? Another trick-taking game? With all the trick-taking games out there, you'd think you'd have to be a nut to bring a new one to the market. Except James M. Miller, who definitely shows sign of sanity, is not a nut but a "control nut". He has created and self-published ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Schmidt Spiele, 3-8 players, ages 8 and up, about 20 minutes; about $40) Jewels buried deep within the earth lure players to the table with Diamant, the first collaborative design by Alan R. Moon and Bruno Faidutti. In this light and fast-paced game, players seek to remove jewels from mines all the while knowing that disaster may strike at any time! ...
Read More
We Are NOT Alone In the vast reaches of the universe, we humans have always wondered if we are the only form of life in the cosmos. Outside of books and films and our imaginations, do aliens exist? Is there intelligent life out there? The definitive answer to that question has yet to be found. But when it comes to gaming, the answer has been ...
Read More
(Back in the Fall 1997 issue of GA REPORT, Steve Kurzban took a look at a little game called For Sale. With the new version of this game hitting the marketplace, we thought we'd flashback to see what Kban said about this great little game 8 years ago! ) FOR SALE (Ravensburger; out of print) For Sale is a card game for 3-5 players (best ...
Read More
(The Fall 1997 issue of GA REPORT featured a then new Reiner Knizia game we liked a great deal but, somehow, flew below the radar of many gamers. That game was Palmyra. Today, Überplay has revamped this release under the title Buy Low/Sell High, featured this issue. But here's what we thought of the original way back when.) PALMYRA (Editrice Giochi; out of print) Caravans ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Überplay, 3-6 players, ages 8 and up, 10-15 players; $19.99) Two awkward circumstances often arise during a typical game night with friends: 1) what to do before the rest of the crew arrives AND 2) what to do when the night draws to a close and your brain is too fried to deal with the heavy lifting required by some of ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Buffalo Games, 2-8 players, ages 8 and up, 75-100 minutes; about $30) Some people always like to get in the last word. In Buffalo Games' new adult party game, Last Word, that's the trait that can make you a winner! Last Word comes in a bookshelf style box which includes a playing board, 230 subject cards, 56 letter cards, 8 pawns, ...
Read More
Reviewed by Larry Levy (Alea/Rio Grande Games, 2-4 players, ages 12 and up, 75-100 minutes; $29.95) Last issue, I reviewed Jambo and I mentioned that when it came out, I had really been looking forward to a game from one of my favorite new designers, Rüdiger Dorn, in one of my favorite game series, Kosmos’ Spiele für Zwei. Well, I really like that series, but ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Avalon Hill/Wizards of the Coast, 2-4 players, ages 12 and up, 90 minutes; $45) I love those old B-movies and I'm especially fond of those that feature strange monsters threatening mankind. Well, now these scary monsters have returned. But this time, the return is not on celluloid but on the gaming table - with the new release of Monsters Menace America ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Überplay, 2-4 players, ages 10 and up, 45-60 minutes; $29.99) Reiner Knizia's Palmyra is a terrific game that vanished from the gaming scene, swept under the surface in the flood of other Knizia releases. We featured it and liked it way back when. (The original review is reprinted in this issue.) The game deserved a better fate. Fortunately, Überplay has come ...
Read More
Reviewed by Larry Levy (Zoch Verlag/Rio Grande Games, 2-6 players, ages 8 and up, 20 minutes; $24.95) Dice don’t have a very good reputation in gaming these days, primarily because a lot of us grew mighty sick of them due to our childhood exposure to designs like Monopoly and Risk. But I think that true dice games, where the gameplay revolves around judging probabilities and ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Columbia Games, 2 players, ages 12 and up, 3-8 hours; $59.99) About 20 years ago, Craig Besinque came up with an interesting and challenging design that zeroed in on the North African campaign of World War II. Long out of print, the game has now returned in a new edition, destined to warm the hearts of wargamers everywhere (just as the ...
Read More
Reviewed by Frank Branham (Days of Wonder, 3-7 players, ages 10 and up, 60-80 minutes; $49.95) It has taken two weeks to try and figure out how to start this review decently WITHOUT using a reference to Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Perhaps I shouldn't bother, as Days of Wonder includes at least two references to the legendary movie inside the game itself. What ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Hans im Glück/Rio Grande Games, 3-5 players, ages 10 and up, about 45 minutes; $34.95) The seven wonders of the ancient world - and why the eighth wonder was never built - is the puzzle posed in yet another new design from the prolific Reiner Knizia: Tower of Babel. Tower of Babel comes bookshelf boxed with a mounted game board, 28 ...
Read More

If you enjoy games, then Gamers Alliance is right for you!