Know Chance Games is a publisher with just two games in their catalog as of this writing – an atrocious card game called Stealing Mona Lisa that I covered in my review here and Cabaret!, a trick taking card game that turns trick taking card games upside down with the twist that you may not follow suit.
Cabaret! is a lovely game. I thought I might do better at it then I do when playing other trick taking card games since it behaves contrary to what experienced trick takers are used to, but I still couldn’t pull off a win. There is something about the logical thought patterns required to succeed at these types of games that runs counter to my thought patterns. Still, I enjoyed the game play. It’s relaxing and a bit thinky all at once. My 13 year old daughter proved to be the best at the game over the course of our plays with her, her father, and I. She really enjoyed it also and picked up strategy quickly.
The artwork is well illustrated with a vintage feel and emphasizes the storyline and theme of the game wherein players are competing talent agents looking to book performers for upcoming shows. The cards represent performers and each suit represents a different type of performer. At the start of the game, each agent (i.e. player) selects a suit of performers (i.e. cards). Each round, all agents contribute a performer to the current show (i.e.trick). Each show must have unique performers (suits) to keep the audience’s interest and therefore you cannot lay down more than one type of performer per show (hence the cannot follow suit rule).
The agent who provided the most valuable performer (i.e. the highest valued card) to the show wins the right to control the show (take the trick). For scoring the trick, the agent counts the star power of *his* performer (so, only his suit can score points for him in the trick). White stars give 1 point each, black stars (only present on the 2 highest numbered cards, the 11, and the 12) score a penalty point (-1) each. Finally, there are mime cards distributed to all players at the start of the game to be used when you have no other valid cards to play. The mime cards can be scored by the winning agent just as if they were one of his suits.
After three full hands are played, the agent with the most points wins the game.
The components for Cabaret! consist entirely of the playing cards, and should hold up to repeated use, although frequent players may wish to sleeve the cards.
Win Condition: have the highest point total after three hands are played
Inputs: [star value of each card in a player’s suit they were able to win in tricks aggregated over the number of tricks won] + [quantity of mime cards won in each trick x 2 (star value of mime cards) aggregated over the number of tricks won]
Strategy Tip: Sluff off your negative value cards to other agents and strive to win shows that contain high value cards of your suit (to give you max points) and high value cards of other suits (to deprive your opponents of max points). Easier said than done!
Cabaret! is a clever card game that plays well with both adults and teens. I especially appreciate the strong theming worked into the game, a difficult feat for trick taking card games. The prohibition against following suit will take experienced trick takers by surprise and perhaps throw them off their game, giving newer players a bit of an advantage (I suspect this was in part why my daughter was able to beat my husband who is a veteran at trick taking games). Cabaret! would make a lovely stocking stuffer, if you’re lucky enough to find a copy available for sale.
Publisher: Know Chance Games
Players: 2-6 (We played with 3)
Actual Playing Time (vs the guideline on the box): About 30 minutes
Game type: card game
Jenni’s rating scale:
OUI: I would play this game again; this game is ok. I probably would not buy this game myself but I would play it with those who own it and if someone gave it to me I would keep it.
OUI OUI: I would play this game again; this game is good. I would buy this game.
OUI OUI OUI: I LOVE THIS GAME. I MUST HAVE THIS GAME.
NON: I would not play this game again. I would return this game or give it away if it was given to me.