Stick 'Em was designed by Klaus Palesch and has been published in Germany since 1993...almost 30 years. Capstone Games published Stick 'Em in the US in 2020.
Stick 'Em is a trick taking game and I love trick taking games. Normally I can apply +40 years of card game experience and quickly learn these games...not so with Stick 'Em.
Stick 'Em takes everything about normal trick taking and turns it 180 degrees and inside out. It made my head hurt in a good, fun way.
I played Stick 'Em in a friend's garage for the first time and immediately came home and ordered it.
Stick 'Em has 6 suits with cards numbered 0 through 14 for a total of 90 cards.
You only play with the full deck when there are 6 players. The number of cards and suits are reduced as player count decreases. For example, when there are 3 players 5 suits are used and only the cards numbered 0-8.
Shuffle the cards and deal all the cards out evenly to the players.
Players look at their cards then simultaneously select and turn face up 1 card. This card is their Pain Card. Multiple players can turn up a Pain Card of the same suit.
Hands end when all cards have been played (15 tricks).
Scoring is easy. Players look at the cards they have taken.
They gain 1 point for each card that is NOT the suit of their Pain Card.
They lose points equal to the card values for the cards with the same suit as their Pain Card (including the Pain Card).
Players can easily (and often do) end up with negative points.
Play as many hands as there are players...high total score wins!
The rules are very, very simple (but my head still hurt).
- Players can play any card (they do NOT have to follow suit).
- If all the cards are the suit of the lead card then the highest card wins the trick.
- If at least card of a suit different than the lead suit has been played then the highest card of a non lead suit wins the trick. In case of a tie the first highest card (not of the lead suit) wins the trick.
- A zero card can never win a trick.
- Whoever wins a trick leads the next trick.
Simple. Unique. Fun. Mind Bending.
We all greatly enjoyed Stick 'Em.
It was cool to watch as people learned the highly unconventional trick taking rules.
We all agreed that player position was incredibly important. In a four player game nobody wants to be the second player. Third and fourth player have some unique advantages.
Stick 'Em is more about dumping cards on your opponents and avoiding being dumped on than scoring oodles of points. It has a very high Take That feel.
After 7 or 8 games we haven't come up with many repeatable tactics...you constantly adjust to the cards and your position of play.
Stick 'Em is one of those games that all card players should try.
The Good: Highly challenging and unconventional.
The Bad: Not a game where you make friends.
The Dastardly: The Pain Card was aptly named!