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Posted on Jul 5, 2006 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

Coming to the US – Top Trumps!

Armchair General

Hello. My name is Andrew.

My name is Andrew and I am a Top Trumpaholic.

There, I’ve said it. Ever since I was a schoolboy I’ve loved playing the card game that is Top Trumps. The game is so easy to pick up, the cards are so cheap (compared to Collectible Card Games) and anyone can learn how to play in a manner of seconds.

Of course, I had my Dark Ages – every Top Trumper does. Mine were so bad that I only have one of the cardsets I owned back in the early 1980s – the rest all went to the great trump dustbin in the sky (see if you can guess the one set I kept – there’s a clue elsewhere in the article). And then, just a few scant years ago, I rediscovered Top Trumps, and my life was complete( r ). Amongst all my other interests, I have over thirty Top Trump sets now, and a very understanding wife.

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My collection of Top Trumps - so far. Help me please…

Imagine my surprise therefore when I heard, around the same time, that the game hadn’t made its way over the pond to the US. No – one I spoke to in the US had ever heard of the game. Gobsmacked I was. So gobsmacked I immediately shipped some cards off in a care package to a US friend of mine – yes, to save the American people from losing their trumps! I was going to set up a campaign so the citizens of the US could write to their Congressman to demand Top Trumps in the USA, but decided that was a bit silly…

So, you can imagine my further joy when I later learned, just this week in fact, that Top Trumps was going to be launched properly in the USA in 2007! Yes, that’s right, soon the American peoples will be able to spend all day trumping their colleagues. Hurrah! If you don’t believe me, you can visit the US Top Trumps homepage here and see for yourself.

But what is Top Trumps I hear you ask? Well, put simply, it’s a card game that can be played by any number of people, and it’s probably the simplest game you’ll ever play.

Each cardset focuses on a theme, be it Dinosaurs, Skyscrapers, Star Wars (there are at least four different Star Wars cardsets out there) or Super Heroes. Each card within a set has a series of factual numbers relating to it – for example, on the X – Wing card featured below (this card appears in the Star Wars Starships cardset) you will see that there are five categories, Size, Speed, Fire Power, Manouevring and Force Factor. Of course, the numbers relating to each category differ for every card, some cards will be strong in some areas, weak in others. By playing the cards you are dealt, in the order they appear in your hand (no shuffling!) the aim is to win all of the cards in the set – depriving your opponents of all the cards in their hand, to win the game.

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The X – Wing as operated by the Rebel splitters

The first player nominates a category and reads off the number relating to it, whilst laying his or her card in the centre of the group. Every other player must then give out their corresponding number and if they cannot beat it, they must surrender their card to the player with the highest number in that category. The aim is of course to beat the number – and to “trump” your enemies. The winner of that hand then places the cards to the back of their deck and gets to choose the next category.

It is rare to find cards that are strong in every category, but occasionally it can happen. More often than not, you will have one “killer” card in each cardset which may have one fatal flaw. Equally, there may be one especially weak card that can occasionally score a major victory. The skill of the game lies in knowing the cards in the deck and recognising the “killer” cards when they come up – but of course this is no good to you if your opponent is the one naming the next category.

Games can go on for some time as players make wins and suffer losses, and occasionally you may be frustrated by the dreaded appearance of “N/A” in your card listing for a certain category, but this is rare and only adds to the tension as another round must be played to win all the cards if a card is rated “N/A” in a chosen area.

But hang on, I hear you cry, this isn’t relevant to military history! Oh, but you are wrong, for there are two sets which may especially interest the military historian, and I will turn to these on the next page…see you there…

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