6 nimmt came on the scene about eight years before I started getting into what I’d call serious gaming; actively (and eagerly) seeking out new games as they were published, discovering the variations between light, medium and heavy-weight games, along with my discovery of a vast, worldwide boardgaming community. It took another dozen or so years before I actually played the game, even though it was (and continues to be) a game on the German gaming site, Brettspielwelt.
Thanks to Mayfair Games, which has been supportive of my review efforts from the very beginning, I recently received a copy of 6 nimmt, and at a recent family and friends gathering, I brought it to the table. It was an eclectic group of five; a couple of serious gamers, a couple of semi-serious gamers and one newbie, who was suspicious at first, because she’s almost allergic to anything requiring even a modicum of deep-level strategy and tactics thinking.
“What does 6 nimmt mean?” she asked.
No one knew. Now I know that, roughly translated, nimmt, in German, means “to take” That, combined with the number, relates to the fact that when a certain row of cards, inherent in game play, reaches six cards, a player is forced “to take” that row of cards, collecting points, which, as in the game of Hearts, is not a good thing.
It was the first time for everybody, and everybody had a ball. You can tell. When play of a single card can elicit groans and outright explosions of amused grief and pleasure from the whole group (as a given player is forced to nimmt a pile of points), you know that everybody’s having a good time with it.
It is almost absurdly random. In each round, you play with a hand of 10 cards, drawn randomly from a deck of 104. The decision you are required to make as you play each card is almost (and I stress, almost) a foregone conclusion. It’s initially tempting to assume that the best option at any given moment in time is to play the lowest card in your hand (the deck consists of the cards, numbered from 1 to 104; the only variation is the number of point-yielding ‘bull heads’ on each card). It would be a mistake, because while playing the lowest card is very often your best option, it is by no means the only option, and as you ponder this in game play, you discover that there is indeed a level of strategy involved.
Here’s how it works. At the start of the game, from your shuffled deck of 104 cards, four cards are drawn randomly and placed in a column. Let’s say, for example, the four cards you draw are 20, 38, 90, and 91 (just did this randomly, from the deck). Ten cards are then dealt to each player, and again, for the example, let’s say you’ve drawn 11, 12, 17, 23, 35, 41, 48, 77, 79, and 94. Note that three of your cards (11, 12 and 17) are lower numbers than any of the original four, now sitting at the center of your playing area. On your turn, you will be expected to play a card, from your hand, next to one of the original four and it must be a higher number card. So, for example, you could play your 23 card next to the 20 card. Or the 41 next to the 38, or the 94 next to either the 90 or 91.
Before you do that, however, you will select which card you’re going to play, secretly. When everyone at the table has selected the card they’re going to play, everyone reveals. Play commences with the player who has selected the lowest of all cards selected for play. Now, let’s say you want to play your 94. While you can technically play it next to any of the four cards on display (it’s a higher number than any of the four), an important rule dictates that you must play it next to the card with the number closest to the one you’ve selected; in our example, that would be 91.
The initial, play-the-lowest-card temptation would dictate that you play your 23 next to your 20, but your 94 is the only card in your hand that can ever be placed next to the 90 or 91, and in my humble opinion, it would be a good idea to get it out there. The thinking behind this has to do with the circumstances involved with having to nimmt (take) a set of cards, that give you points you don’t want.
A given row of cards becomes ‘closed’ at the point when there are five cards in a row. The next card placed there will force you to take the five cards, leaving your selected card as a new ‘start.’ You’re forced to play the card you’ve chosen, and if other players have put cards down in a given row ahead of you, you could well end up being forced to play into a ‘closed’ row, and collect some unwanted points, which is where a lot of the good-natured moaning and groaning comes from during game play.
When you choose, in our example, to play the 94, next to the 91, you are minimizing to a certain degree, opportunities for opponents to shut you out of that row. There are only 13 cards in the 104-card deck that are higher than 91, and only two cards between the card on the table (91) and yours (94). Unless someone plays one of the two possible cards (92 and 93) between 90 and your card, they’ll have to play a card higher than yours, which means, in game play, that you’ll be playing a card before they do. If by chance, you have selected a card for play that is lower than any of the cards on display, you must take all of the cards from one of the four rows; your choice, and it will obviously be the row that bears the least amount of points, and again, your selected card now becomes the first card in a new row.
Once all players have played their secretly chosen card to the table, and someone has either been forced to take a row of five cards and collect points, or not, another round of selecting a card to play commences. Play continues until all players have exhausted their supply of 10 cards. All cards are re-shuffled, a new starting four is laid out and the process is repeated. When one player has collected 66 points, the player with the least amount of points, at that time, will be the winner.
So, in essence, there are four rules to be remembered: Ascending order (have to place a card higher than the one on display), least difference (have to place next to card that represents the least difference), full row (collecting five cards and their points if forced to do so), and lowest card (when you’ve selected a card lower than any of those on display, and don’t forget – when you select, you may have chosen a card that at the beginning was higher than a card on display, but an opponent may well have played a card that renders yours unusable).
The board gaming community jury is in on this game. It won the 1994 Deutscher Spiele Prise (German gaming award) in 1994, was recommended for the Spiel des Jahres (another German gaming award) and was a Mensa Select winner in 1996. It maintains a just-under “7” rating (6.89) from over 8,000 people. You’ll find a relatively long list of ‘nay-sayers’ at the bottom of the comment pile, who don’t like its randomness, or the chaos of playing with larger groups (it’s capable of being played by up to 10). But it’s a keeper – an “8” from me – from one of the hobby’s most prolific and respected designers, Wolfgang Kramer, a five-time Spiel des Jahres winner with Heimlich & Co. (1986), Auf Achse (1987), El Grande (1996), Tikal (1999), and Torres (2000); some of these designed in collaboration with others.
Pick it up at your local game store or on-line. It’s an entertaining filler kind of game. Great for either the start of an evening or the tail end of one. It’s stood the test of time already (21 years) and is a worthy addition to any game shelf.
6 nimmt, designed by Wolfgang Kramer, is published by a lot of companies, Mayfair included. It can be played by up to 10 and bears an age range that starts at 8. It takes about 45 minutes to play. It retails for under $12 (a terrific bargain), though, as usual, it can be had for less. At last look, there was an “acceptable” copy available on BoardGameGeek for under $3 (snatch that up, if you get the chance; even with shipping, it’s worth it).