There have been few games released in the past decade to such a lousy reception as that greeting Manga Manga. While publishers go searching to find games that will average a 7 rating at BoardGameGeek, Manga Manga languishes with an average rating below 4. The best comments about the game were generally quips; perhaps the best of these was Rick Thornquist's comment: "Needs more Manga".
So why is this game thought of so poorly? Well, it starts on the wrong foot by being a quick reaction game—not the most popular format to begin with—and then goes further off course by dragging on through nine rounds. There is almost nothing available in the way of skillful play, and the scoring adds a random element that sometimes rewards the player who finished last as much as the player who finished first.
Manga Manga had received such negative comments that I felt the need to play it once. I did so in May of 2004, and found it to be every bit as bad as described. A single hand of the game is painless. Not good, or enjoyable, but at least it's over in a reasonable amount of time. The whole of the game, however, drags on interminably; I would not be surprised to learn that many of those who tried the game gave up on it long before the final bell.
Therefore, when this past February I saw that Greg Schloesser was selling his copy, I laughed at his audacity in trying to get someone to give him money for the game. But then I had a thought—the cards are rather nice; might it be possible to put them to better use? So I proceeded to offer Greg a (very small) amount of money for his copy, with the explicit goal of replacing the rules.
This proved to be far easier than I expected. The cards have two salient features—a primary suit and a secondary suit. Why not then use these suits to create a trick taking game? I soon had the basic rules in place, and after a few playtests and some tweaks, had a game I enjoyed far more than the original. Using Rick's comment for inspiration, I've called this game Manga Manga Manga.
Manga Manga Manga
A trick taking game for 3-5 players
- 80 Playing Cards (from Manga Manga)
- 5 Scimitar Tokens (from Manga Manga)
- 1 Card Priority Chart (see below)
Players try to score the most points over a series of hands.
- With 3 players, remove two dragon cards from the deck and return them to the box.
- Each player is given a token with a single scimitar. This is used for bidding, and also shows the suit ordering (as in the card priority chart).
- One player is chosen as the first dealer, and one player (who can be the same player) is chosen to keep score. Paper and a writing utensil will be required for scoring.
There are 72 suit cards and 8 dragon cards (6 with 3 players) in the game.
Each suit card is part of one of six suits; each suit has a particular color in the circles on the top of the card, and a particular drawing. On the bottom of each card, in the egg-shaped area, is a color indicating the value of the card within the suit and the suit that is trumped by the card.
Dragon cards are wild, and can be played to any trick.
The dealer shuffles the cards, and deals them out into two hands per player in the game—6 hands with 3 players, 8 hands with 4 players, and 10 hands with 5 players. Two hands are then given to each player.
Each player now has two decisions to make: which hand to play first, and which hand to double the value of the tricks.
Each trick taken on the first hand has a base value of 1 point; each trick taken on the second hand has a base value of 2 points. Therefore, if tricks in the first hand are doubled in value, all tricks will be worth 2 points. If tricks in the second hand are doubled, tricks in the first hand will be worth 1 point and tricks in the second hand will be worth 4 points. The hand chosen to be played first is put forward, with the scimitar covered on top—face up to indicate that tricks in the first hand will be doubled, face down to indicate that tricks in the second hand will be doubled. When everyone has made their choice, the scimitar tokens are revealed, and play of the first hand begins.
The dealer leads to the first trick. Any card may be lead. If a suit card is lead, this sets the suit for this trick; if a dragon card is lead, the first non-dragon card sets the suit for the trick. (In the unlikely event that only dragon cards are played, there is no suit for the trick, but the normal rules for precedence given below are followed.)
Players then proceed clockwise from the lead to each play one card.
Once a suit for the trick has been set, there are two possibilities:
- If a player has a card of the suit lead, then either a card from that suit or a dragon must be played.
- If a player has no card of the suit led, then any card (whether a dragon or a card from another suit) may be played. If a card is played that matches the suit led in the egg-shaped area on the bottom of the card, it is said to "trump" the trick.
Once each player has played a card to a trick, the trick is complete, and the winner of the trick is determined.
If one or more trump cards have been played, then the card that is highest on the priority chart wins the trick. Note that cards that have a matching suit and suit that they trump are not considered to be trump.
If no trump cards have been played but a dragon has been played, then the dragon card wins the trick.
If no trump cards and no dragon cards have been played, then the card in the suit led that is highest on the priority chart wins the trick. Note that suit cards that neither match the suit led or trump the suit led can never win the trick.
If there are multiple high cards on a trick, the one played earliest wins the trick. Therefore, if only dragon cards are played, the one played first wins the trick.
The winner of the trick leads to the next trick, until the first hand has been completed.
Scoring then occurs. All players who doubled the value of their tricks on the first hand, receives two points per trick. All other players receive one points per trick. These points are recorded by the scorekeeper.
Everyone now flips over their scimitar token (now indicating whether points in the second hand are doubled), picks up their second hand, and the dealer leads again to the first trick of the second hand. After the second hand is played, all players who doubled the value of their tricks on the second hand receives four points per trick. All other players receive two points per trick. These points are recorded by the scorekeeper, and the round is over.
Passing The Deal:
Once the first two hands are complete, the player on the left of the first dealer is given the deck of cards and prepares the next two hands. Deal continues to pass to the left until every player has dealt once. (There will be a total of 6 hands with 3 players, 8 with 4, and 10 with 5—remembering that two hands are played with every deal.) At that point, the player who has scored the most points wins!
- Joe Huber