Little Devils Game Review

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The Basics:

  • For ages 8 and up
  • For 3 to 6 players
  • Variable game length

Geek Skills:

  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Hand/Resource Management

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • None

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

The phrase “the devil is in the details” is exceedingly apropos when it comes to this seemingly simple trick-taking card game. Playing the winning card is not always the best action to take and sometimes taking a big penalty is exactly what you need to win. This is a game of thinking in two directions at once and keeping track of the little devils that will determine if you win or lose.

Little Devils, available from Stronghold Games under license by White Goblin Games, is comprised of 54 cards. Each card has a single and unique number value in the range of 1 to 54. Included on the cards (but not all) are small icons of a little devil’s head that range in groups of 0, 1, 2, 3, or 5. The entire game fits in a small tin box with a hinged lid. Fancy! Not included with the game, but necessary to play, is a pen or pencil and a sheet of paper to record scores.

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Game Set Up

To set up the game, first have all the players sit around  a central playing area.

Second, and based on the number of players at the table, one player is going to need to go through the deck and remove a number of cards. Recall that all the cards have a single and unique number value that is in the number range of 1 through 54. For every player, 9 cards will be included in the deck, starting with the card number value of “1”. For example, in a 4-player game, cards in the number range of 37 to 54 are removed from play.

Third, shuffle the remaining cards and deal out the entire deck, face-down. Each player should have a hand size of 9 cards. The players should pick up their cards, but keep them hidden from their opponents at all times. Allow the players a moment to organize their hand.

That’s it for game set up. Whichever player is left (clockwise) of the dealer goes first!

Playing With Fire

The game is played in rounds, with 9 tricks each round. There is no set number of rounds in a single game. The first player to start every round is the player to the left of the dealer. Their turn, and all turns after, are summarized here.

Step 1: Play a Card

The first player, or the last player to win a trick in the round, plays a card in their hand. This can be any card they like as long as it does not have 5 Little Devil icons (unless they have no other cards they can play). This card is played face-up to the middle of the playing area where all the players can see it.

Step 2: Set the Trick

The next player going left will now play any card from their hand that they like, but the number value of that card will determine the trick! If a card is played with a HIGHER value than the initial card played in step 1, all players must play cards with a number value HIGHER than the initial card. If a card is played with a LOWER value than the initial card played in step 1, all players must play cards with a number value LOWER than the initial card. The card that sets the trick can contain any number of Little Devil icons.

Step 3: Complete the Trick

Continuing clockwise, all the players now play a single card from their hand in accordance to the trick. All players MUST play a card, even if they cannot play HIGHER or LOWER than the initial card. There is no limit to the number of Little Devil icons that can be played!

WHOA! WHOA! WHOA! Let’s take another hard look at the cards. The number value of the cards determines its place in the trick order, but also included on each card are zero to five Little Devil icons. These little devils are bad news bears. They count as points, and not the good kind. Players do not want to “win” a trick and get points in Little Devils. Players must consider two things before they play a single card from their hand.

  1. What are the odds of me winning or losing this trick based on what cards I know have been played and what I have in my hand?
  2. How many points can I attempt to give to another player or risk taking myself?

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Each player should take a moment to consider these two questions carefully as the answers will determine if they win or lose the game.

Step 4: Award the Trick

After all the players have played a card, the “winner” (actually, the loser) of the trick is determined.

  • The player who played the HIGHEST number valued card gets the trick if the trick was set to HIGHER
  • The player who played the LOWEST number valued card gets the trick if the trick was set to LOWER
  • If at anytime a player is unable to play to the trick correctly, they will win the trick by default

For example, if the initial card played was a “10” and the next card played (that set the trick) was “22”, the card with the highest value over “10” would win the trick. Using the same example, if a card with a number value of “9” was played, it is not following the rules of the card that set the trick (the “22′) and automatically causes the player who played that card to win the trick.

In cases where one or more players cannot play to the trick, the player who wins the trick is the one who played a card that is the highest or lowest value opposite of the trick value (HIGHER or LOWER).

When  a player wins the trick, they take all the cards that were just played and puts them in a pile, face-down, in front of them.

Game play now continues with step 1 above as long as there are still cards to play.

Winning the Round and the Game

The round ends when the last card is played. All players now count the Little Devil icons found in the tricks they have won. This total is recorded under each player’s name and all the cards are now reshuffled and dealt to start a new round.

The game ends when one or more players have earned 100 or more points. The winner of the game is the player who scored the fewest number of points.

House Rule

To make the game even faster, and to ensure that none of the Child Geeks we played with sat for too long, we reduced the number of points needed to end the game to 75. This makes for a shorter game without reducing any of logical thinking or strategy. Reducing it further will make the game a bit too short, however.

To learn more about Little Devils and read the full rules, visit the game’s web page.

Prediction

With the understanding that the prediction portion of our reviews are written after the game play is understood without actually playing the game, I don’t see Little Devils really appealing to the Gamer Geek crowd. According to the rules and the examples provided, this is just a trick-taking card game. There is some thought that needs to go into the cards played and the different points each card is worth is very interesting, but I don’t see that as enough to excite the Gamer Geeks.

For the Parent and Child Geeks, I think this game will do very well. The game play is very straight forward, but the different point values on the cards might throw off the Child Geeks a bit. Regardless, I don’t see why this game couldn’t be taught to my 5-year-old. There are no trump cards, no suits, no complex math, and the hand size is pretty small (no more than 9 cards, ever). The majority of the game is focused on knowing what the trick value is and then making sure you play the best card accordingly. My 5-year-old can do that, easily.

And so, I taught it to both my 5 and 8-year-old, answered the one or two questions they had, and got ready to play our first game. As my 5-year-old shuffled the deck of cards, I asked them their thoughts on Little Devils so far.

“Meh. Looks like just another card game to me. I like the devil kid on the front. I want that on a shirt!” ~ Liam (age 8)

“I think it looks like a good game. I like the devil boy, too, but I want it on a hat!” ~ Nyhus (age 5)

The cards have been dealt and it’s time to play! Let’s give Little Devils our full attention and see if it returns our love or burns us.

Final Word

The Child Geeks didn’t care for this game at first. In fact, they were exceedingly frustrated by it. The original idea was to teach it to my 5-year-old and the older Child Geeks. That didn’t really pan out. While the game itself is very straightforward, what constantly tripped them up was the scoring. They would often forget that it wasn’t the number value on the card that counted as much as the Little Devil icons. For our younger Child Geeks, they understood this concept, but could not keep it in mind when they were playing cards. As a consequence, they kept loosing game after game after game. For the Child Geeks who were 8-years-old and older,  it took a round or two for them to really get the gist of how the scoring worked. When they fully understood it, they played like champs and approved the game.

My little geek laughs evilly as he knows he's going to win the game

My little geek laughs evilly as he knows he’s going to win the round

Parent Geeks didn’t care for the 3-player game, but the 4 to 6-player game really kept them interested. They liked the fact that the game was simple to play, easy to learn, and wasn’t “just another trick-taking card game”. They liked how each card was worth different points and everyone knew what the smallest and largest card number values were. This allowed players to make smart moves and have a much better grasp of how many points they stood to win. It challenged just enough to keep them engaged, but never to a point where it confused them. They also liked how the game could be played very easily with the family, including non-gamers. The game was approved by the Parent Geeks enthusiastically.

The Gamer Geek endorsement was firmly rooted in an individuals enjoyment of trick-taking card games. For those who didn’t care for them, they acknowledged Little Devils as “interesting”, but didn’t want to endorse it. For those who did enjoy trick-taking card games, they thought it was highly enjoyable. Recognizing the fact that the Gamer Geeks who did not approve the game did so not because it was “bad”, but because they simply didn’t have an interest in it, let’s ignore them and focus on the Gamer Geeks who did.

For the Gamer Geeks who did approve of the game, the trick-taking game mechanism was old hat, but they really liked how the points were earned. They immediately recognized the level of thought it would take to keep tricks and points collected down to a minimum and that there were a number of options for card plays. Players were able to balance what cards they wanted to play and how many points they wanted to risk winning. Up until the last card was played for the round, the players always had a choice. Choice means logical thinking, which leads to critical thinking, which ends in strategic and tactical actions. Every Gamer Geek was surprised by this, as the simple tin and the cards do nothing to suggest that the game play had this level of depth.

The illustration of a little devil boy was never brought up among our Parent Geeks (which is why I don’t mention it in the review…well…until now). Sex, violence, and drug or alcohol abuse is always a sensitive topic, but the image of a little devil boy didn’t concern them in the slightest. It hardly registered with me, either. I was aware of it, but it didn’t strike any moral or social cord. I did, however, make sure to show the image of the little devil to our play groups, but stopped short of discussing it unless it was brought up. Which it wasn’t.

Now, Battle for Souls was clearly not the game for a number of the Parent Geeks and the Child Geeks, but Little Devils has NOTHING to do with satanic or christian ideals. Well, other than the image of the devil, but that could just as easily be an infernal Jinn or any of the countless Dungeons and Dragons monsters I grew up with as a kid. As always, Parent Geeks, use your best judgement.

The game suggests that it can be played with 3 to 6 players. This is technically correct, but I feel the game fails with only 3 players. Recall that the player who plays the first card in the trick will never win it. This means the trick is being fought over by only two players and one of the two gets to set the trick. The result is something closer to War and utterly fails to impress. Go ahead and try the game with 3-players, but it is much more fun with 4 or more.

None of this detracts from the game, however. Not in the slightest. Little Devils is a lot of fun, plays relatively quickly, and is challenging. It’s light on the strategy, but it’s there. The game depends on logical thinking more than anything else. The strategy portion comes in when you start looking at controlling the number of points a specific opponent might get by keeping track of what cards have been played and the likelihood of being able to play a better card than your opponent. If you can, LOAD THEM UP WITH POINTS! If not, reduce the pain that might be coming back to you as best you can.

This is most definitely an “every gamer” type of game and would be well received at family gatherings, family game nights, or with friends who like a really good card game.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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