A card game for 2-4 players by Henning Poehl published by Sphinx Spieleverlag (Germany)
These comments copyright 2002 by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page written February 5, 2002, and last updated March 2, 2002 (added strategy discussion)

What is it?

Auweier is a card game based on the mating habits of a European bird, the dunnock (or hedge sparrow). Honest. At least it was initially, but it grew from its original design and no longer mimics this behavior quite so closely. Still related to it, though.

The title is a pun, which are usually tricky to translate: "Au weh" (more commonly known in the USA through its Yiddish cognate, "Oy vay!") means "Oh, woe!" - and "Eier" means "eggs" - that part is simple enough. So you have a pun on "Woe is me" and "eggs" - "Wova is me," perhaps? Or, "Eggstreme pain!" I'll stop now.

At any rate, all the actual mating has been abstracted out of the game, so it's not an X-rated game (Eggs-rated? - oops, sorry). Instead the players take the roles of the male birds courting the females by supplying them with worms. The rewards are eggs, which presumably have been fathered by the best worm provider.

This little card game is one of the best games, in my opinion, to come out of Essen 2001. It has some interesting and unique features that make it a true gamer's game.

What You Get

You get lots of cards, rules in German and English, and an incredibly sturdy box. Each player has 28 cards and up to four can play, so that's, um, 112 cards plus one Start Player card making a total of, um, 113 cards. Each of the 28 cards per player are identical except for the colors: red, blue, green and yellow. The artwork is cute. (You can see samples at the publisher's web page, link above. Go to Auweier and click on the links in the description, under "Worum geht es," even if you don't know what the German words mean.)

Six of the cards are kept out: a male bird, which simply identifies which color you are to the other players, a female bird who is placed near the center of the table, next to her a stack of three egg cards (the nest), and finally a scoring summary card, only in German, but not hard to figure out. The egg cards have one, two, and three eggs, and are stacked with the one-egg card on top and the three-egg card on the bottom.

The other 22 cards form each player's draw stack. You have 13 worm cards, ranging in value from 1 - 7, six Wedding cards, two crow cards, and one fake worm card. Unlike most games, you don't shuffle your cards: you stack them in any order you like. Each player only draws from his own draw pile, thus there's no luck involved.

So, lay out the female and egg cards in front of you, sort your deck to your liking, draw the top six cards and you're ready to play.

Object of the Game

To have the most offspring, represented by egg cards. But for true genetic diversity for the good of the species, you really want to have offspring by lots of females, of course. (Honest, ladies, that's the only motive in a roving male eye!) But you also want to have a lot by the female of your own color. So when the game is over, everyone counts their points: a one-egg card is worth one point, a two-egg card is worth two points, etc. Then you get bonuses based on color of eggs collected: +1 for each egg card of your own color. +2 if you have eggs of two different colors, or +5 if you have eggs of three different colors, or +10 if you have eggs of four different colors (which is only possible in the four-player game).

Course of Play

All right, you know you want lots of eggs, so how do you get them? The key to every female heart is a worm, of course. And the better the worm, and the more of them, the better you'll do in your courtship.

So on your turn you may play one card, typically a worm, then draw a card. You can play a worm to any of the females on the table: there are four in a four-player game, and three in a two- or three-player game. Play continues clockwise until a Wedding card is played.

Once a wedding card is played, the game changes: no more cards may be drawn by any player until the wedding phase is over. Each player may now decide to play their own wedding cards - you can't win eggs of a given color unless you have a wedding card by that nest. You can try for more than one wedding in the same wedding phase, but you have limited worm cards to back them up.

(A note on the language: "Hochzeit" means both wedding of humans and pairing of birds in German, so it doesn't read so awkwardly in the original. The wedding cards have an "H" on them for "Hochzeit," of course, but we say "Honeymoon" to remember what it stands for.)
When no one wishes to place any more wedding cards, the second part of the wedding phase starts: more worms. Still no drawing cards, though! So you now have limited resources to build up your worm supply at each nest, either to win the eggs or simply defensively to make someone spend more worms. (Can't let them get that egg card for a single 1-point worm, after all!) Once you pass, you drop out of the wedding phase.

Once everyone passes in the wedding phase, a male successfully mates with a female and collects the top egg card if he has both a wedding card and the highest total value of worm cards by that female. Tied males get nothing - sorry, boys. Likewise highest worm total without a wedding card means nobody mates with that female - strong defensive play, we call it.

Once the mating for each female is calculated, all wedding and worm cards on the table are removed permanently from the game, everyone draws back to six cards, and the game starts again with the player who played the first wedding card taking his turn.

The game ends when one player can't make a legal play.

Crows, Fake Worms, and Asterisks

I haven't yet mentioned these types of cards, so I will now. They're kind of important.

Crows eat worms. So if I play a crow card, I can take the top worm showing of any color by any nest. (When you play more than one worm to a nest, the second worm is placed on top of your first worm so the value is visible. You only stack on your own color. But only the top worm can be eaten by crows. So a 7-point worm is very tempting - best to cover it while you can with a 1-point worm. But if two opponents work together, the first could have his crow eat your 1-point worm, and the second your 7-point worm ...) Crows are one-shot cards - once used, remove them - and the worms they eat - from the game. Each player has two. Crows may not be played during a wedding phase!

Two of your worms, a 2-point one and a 5-point one, have asterisks by them. Crows don't like these, but dunnocks do, so your sweetie will accept them at face value, but there is no risk of them being eaten by crows.

You have one fake worm - a piece of wire. Its value is zero, of course, but it has a very high game value as a decoy. On your turn, you may swap the fake worm card from your hand for one of your own worms on the table, taking the real worm back into your hand. Likewise, the reverse is possible: pick up the fake worm and replace it with any real worm. Thus you can bluff high at a certain nest, then reclaim your high card one turn, replacing the fake worm the following turn with a low card. Or the reverse. Fake worms are so powerful that you cannot use them more than once by each nest during a wedding phase.

Some Strategies

There are various things to consider in this game

  • Order of your deck,
  • When to initiate a Wedding,
  • How hard a defense to play,
  • Use of Crows,
  • Bluffing,
  • etc.
Stacking the deck: you have six Wedding cards to last the whole game. Since you can't score without them, they're pretty important. In my experience, there are usually three Wedding phases before the game ends, so you may want two Wedding cards in each of those three. Having three Wedding cards in a phase means you don't have enough worm cards to win them all - just a waste of a Wedding card. (Remember, you'll only have six cards total in a Wedding phase, since there is no drawing until it's over.) And therefore having only one Wedding card in a Wedding phase is wasting a Wedding card somewhere, assuming you'll have only three Wedding phases in the game.

So spread those Wedding cards out throught your deck, but not too deep - better to have an extra one than not have one at all in case some wild maniac starts a Wedding phase early in the round. (By the way, you'll always have at least one play and card draw in a round before a Wedding phase: you can only play the first Wedding card of a round on a nest where you have the highest worm value.)

Your Fake Worm should be early in your deck - it's a very powerful card. The only downside to using the Fake Worm a lot is that you don't draw a card when you swap it (or for it), since you're taking a card back into your hand as part of the swap.

You may want those three 1-point worms spread throughout the deck, too - they're great for swapping with the Fake Worm, so it's nice to have one available each Wedding phase. (Others may disagree, and would rather have higher-point cards during the later phases - take your pick.)

Crows and the worms crows don't eat are much tougher to call. You don't want crows in your hand once a Wedding phase starts - they can't be played, and you have limited cards for the rest of that phase. Some players simply put them at the bottom of their decks to assure themselves that they won't clog up their Wedding hands - and they may even be useful then against those who kept their high-point worms for the final Wedding phase. Others like to space them out a bit, surprising other players with an unexpected Crow play now and then. If you do this, don't hold on to them too long - better to snipe a 1-point worm before the Wedding phase begins than to be stuck with a crow during it.

Crows can also be used defensively, of course - and I don't just mean the obvious picking off of high worms. Some players like to play Wedding cards very early in a round, hoping to catch other players unready. Using a crow to eat their first worm stymies them for a turn - you have to have the highest worm value by a nest to play the first Wedding card.

And of course if you play with the same people a lot, you'd better learn to vary your deck-stacking strategies, so take all this with a grain of salt!

I see that just talking about deck stacking I seem to have covered most of the strategy during play, too - so I'll just get on to the next section.

Why Wouldn't You Like This Game?

Hmmm - faults are actually hard to find in this game. I suppose limited number of players might be a factor: it plays best with four, acceptably well with three and two. (You add a third "neutral" nest when playing two-player, so there's more territory to fight over.)

It'll take you a while to learn the deck-stacking strategies - where to put your crows, how to space out your wedding cards and high-value worms, etc. Cards only appear once in the game, except the fake worm which you can reuse. There's no reshuffling when the deck runs out, so if you've miscalculated and your opponents have out-played you early, it can be a lost cause and you may be depressed the entire last round as you have no hope of winning. The rules do give you some deck-stacking tips, but only time will really tell what works for you.

So it's not a game that is easily taught by experts to beginners, unless the more expert players are willing to shuffle their decks randomly to even things out. (Take your fake worm and one wedding card, shuffle the rest, and draw four more to start the game.) And it's a game in which you can get into a very bad position early and have no hope of winning, but can act as kingmaker. Some people hate these types of games, so be warned: don't get off to a bad start!

Summing Up

Eggsellent game! It plays well in about 45-50 minutes, works well with two to four, and allows for some varied strategies. Do you go for lots of the one-point eggs early, trying to get different colors easily, or save your high worms for the more valuable eggs later in the game? Do you use crows early, late, or one of each? How many different colors will you go for each wedding phase? And so on. And although it's a fairly intense game mentally, the theme is such that there's a lighter mood at the table than with other serious games. I like this one a lot - and it's not very expensive, either. Recommended.

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