There will probably be a number of these coming up as I play through different games that I got from GenCon. But Hats is the first of the games to hit the table multiple times. And get played multiple times each time it’s been pulled out.
Hats was one of the games, going into GenCon that I was really excited to try and definitely knew I wanted to pick up. There were a few different things that drew me to the game. The first was the Alice in Wonderland theme. The idea of Hats is that you’re at the Mad Hatter’s tea party and you are trying to get the best collection of hats. I have liked the theme on other games, mainly Parade, which might have an Alice in Wonderland theme, but like this game also be a primarily abstract game. The next was that I got to watch a play through that Man vs Meeple did on their Youtube channel. In it the game seemed like it was a lot of fun, but as importantly, and the last thing that drew me to this game, the game seemed simple but challenging.
Hats, like I said, is a game with an Alice in Wonderland theme, but really it’s an abstract puzzle. In the game, you have a hand of cards that you are using to swap with the cards on the Mad Hatter’s table. There are seven different suits in the game, numbered 1-6. You can swap the cards out, as long as the card you’re replacing is the same color or has a smaller number than the card that you’re playing. You then place the card you took in front of you, and that will be what you end up scoring. The tricky part of the game comes with the fact that you only score the colors on the Mad Hatter’s table. So, if you have three blue cards, and the blue card on the table is in the first spot, you get three points, one for each card. If there is also a blue in the six spot on the table as well as the one spot, you still get three points, because you always score the lower numbered spot. And it’s possible that you’ve collected a couple of pink cards, because they are in the six scoring spot, so it’s going to score you twelve points, but one of your opponents on their turn, seeing that you’ll be getting a lot of points from it, can potentially swap out that pink card, as long as they have a higher number.
In most card games, you know which cards are going to be used to score form your hand. In something like Uno, you know that you want to get rid of high numbers. In Hearts, you know you don’t want to take hearts of the queen of spades. In Euchre, you know you want to take so many tricks. You can plan how you are going to use your hand to score or not score points. In Hats, your hand probably won’t be the majority of your points. You’re going to be taking the cards that were dealt to the table originally, and what your opponent is playing. So you have to think about what cards on the table you can use to score, and what cards you can put down so your opponent doesn’t score. And as you get more information about what your opponents are taking, you have to consider more what you want to grab yourself and what you want to try and take away from your opponents.
There are two final ways which you score in the game. Sometimes you can’t play a card, you don’t have the right colors and you have low numbers. The game realizes that this sucks, so it gives you two options. At the start of every turn, you can discard a card to draw a new one, as long as there are still cards to draw. But if you still can’t play, you can play a hat card face down, and that’s worth a single point. The other way to score is the more interesting way. At the end of the game, you still have a card in your hand. You add up your total in the color, say I had three blue cards the 1, 3, and 4, I would add that up and I have 8, and then I subtract the blue card I kept in my hand from them. Hopefully I kept the 2, and I’d score 6 points, but I might have kept the 6, in which case I’d score to points. Black Hats shouldn’t be a big strategy in someones scoring, scoring off the table is basically always better, but if it’s late in the game, and you can’t play or don’t want to help an opponent, it’s a valid strategy. But the scoring based off of the last card in your hand, that can be huge. I’ve seen people get over 10 points, and I’ve seen people get negative points from it.
They’ve done a great job with components and theming of the game. I did say that this is an abstract game, and this is really an abstract game. But it works with the theme, and the cookie is amazing, the board and art are beautiful, and the scoring pad is a dry erase board. My only complaint about the quality of the game is that the dry erase marker that they sent with the game doesn’t have an eraser. Fortunately, I have a lot of dry erase markers with erasers, so I can swap in one from what I bought for roll and write games that I’ve laminated. But if you don’t have that, you’re always going to need an actual napkin or something to clean off the scoring sheet. It seems like a pretty obvious oversight, but not anything that really knocks the game or the ability to play the game.
Overall, I like this game a lot. I think that it’s challenging, even though I’ve probably played it eight times. I think that there’s good strategy to it, but you have a single action, playing a card to the table, and taking the one you played it on for scoring. So it’s a simple yet tricky game, and a fast game. The game says 20-30 minutes, and I think most of the games I’ve played have gone 10-15. Granted, that is two players, but with the full four players, I think that time frame seems accurate to maybe a little bit long. If you want a game that you can teach fast, have some interesting choices, and play multiple times, Hats is a very good game for that.
Gamer Grade: B
Casual Grade: B+
Overall Grade: A
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