Review: 6 Takes!

By Kelsey Rinella 19 Jun 2014 0
A risky situation. The 100 has a slightly better chance of sneaking into the fifth spot on the top row than the 103, but then the 103 will almost certainly stick me with the whole row. Play the 103 first, and it's a bit more likely to take the row anyway, and you still have to find a place for the 100. I have no idea why this game is themed around bulls.

6 Takes! (also known on the tabletop as 6 Nimmt! or Category 5) sits at roughly the halfway point between Uno and Go. It's a popular family card game which is quite easy to learn, but manages to use a single mechanic to produce recognizable maneuvers and finely-balanced decisions. Players simultaneously select numbered cards from their hand, which are then allocated, lowest first, to the row which ends in the highest lower number. Play the sixth card in a row or a lower number than any which ends an existing row, and you collect a row's worth of cards to score. That's all you need to define the gameplay--just score the fewest bull icons, and you win.

For those of us who live in castles and sip Glensillynameich neat, that's not the greatest pitch in the world [hmm, quite. --ed.]. But from my vantage point, deep in the bowels of Playroom Rinella, there's a clear attraction to games my children can easily learn but which give me enough to think about to remain completely engaging. It's quite stimulating to be constantly on the lookout for an opportunity to fill the fifth slot in a row with the number one higher than the last card, or to replace a row so as to force some opponents' cards onto a row with less space. It's similarly mortifying how frequently I forget about the existence of a full row while concentrating on the other three, and toss out a card guaranteed to gain me points.

If only there were some room to the right of the players' bull icons where the scores could remain visible at all times. Here's a case where the blue player has a choice of where to put the five, but can't see the players' scores because they're covered by the cards they've played.

Unfortunately, what 6 Takes! does best is advertise the physical game. Simultaneous action selection lends itself to playing the other players, and while Yomi demonstrated that online play or play against an AI (which comes in three levels in 6 Takes!, and provides and excellent challenge) can be satisfying, it's even more so face-to-face. Similarly, the impact of successfully outmaneuvering a player and forcing her to take a row she wasn't expecting is sweeter in person. While it is possible to play locally with the app, doing so makes actions which are simultaneous with respect to the gameplay sequential in real time, so the game takes far longer. Though it seems an excellent fit for asynchronous online multiplayer, only local play is available.

That oversight is emblematic of a surprisingly poorly executed app. I've been hearing about 6 Nimmt! and Category 5 for years, so I expected the development to be well-resourced, and it's a simple enough game that the interface need not pose any terrific problems. But, in portrait mode on the phone, I couldn't see part of my hand. I often had difficulty selecting some cards, and found the drag detection oddly unforgiving, causing me to accidentally play the card next to the one I intended several times. The cards for the turn cover the players' scores even though there's more than enough space to display both, denying you vital information when deciding which row to replace when you've played a low card. Animations are time-consuming even at their fastest setting. But at least the game offers a 3D view, because making the cards somewhat harder to see is just what the interface needed.

For some reason, portrait mode also hides the scores. Portrait mode in action, complete with invisible lowest and highest cards.

6 Takes! plays quite differently with different numbers of players--most notably, you'll be buggered far more often in five-player games. With skillful AIs and an evergreen game design, this variety could help it rack up a truly frightening number of plays. Unfortunately, because it's relatively slow to play locally and has no online multiplayer, its broad appeal doesn't matter and it loses some of the strengths of the physical card game. While none of the interface annoyances are seriously problematic, taken together they might well leave you feeling like the embarrassment of riches which is the modern mobile gaming market has something more to your taste for solo play.


6 Takes! was played on an iPad Air for this review.

Review: 6 Takes!

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