Hol's der Geier

(Literally, "The Vulture takes it" - idiomatically, "Confound it!")
A card game for 2-5 players by Alex Randolph, published by Ravensburger, Germany
These comments copyright 1999 by Steffan O'Sullivan
Rules Translation
This page last updated June 20, 1999
Note added January 7, 2002:I have just learned that Ravensburger has released an English language version called Beat the Buzzard. Since there are no words on the cards, this only affects the rules and the availability - but that's still great news!

Hol's der Geier is a quick little filler game of bluff and skill. Very simple in its components and concept, there's still a lot of little game here.

The game has fifteen animal cards: five Vulture cards ranging in value from -1 to -5, and ten Mouse cards ranging in value from +1 to +10. Each player also has his/her own deck of fifteen cards, ranging in value from 1 to 15.

Everyone starts with all fifteen of their own cards. The animal card deck is shuffled and placed face down in the center of the table. The top animal card is turned face up and the game begins.

The object of the game is to have the highest score at the end of a specified number of rounds - one round if you're pressed for time, but three rounds is a better game and only takes about half an hour. Each Mouse card you win counts its point value for you, and each Vulture card you take counts against you. Since everyone knows the range of animal cards (-5 to +10), and everyone starts with the same hand, it's a game of skill.

Once the first animal card is turned face up, players decide which of their own cards to play. You choose one card and play it face down in front of you. When all players have chosen a card, they are revealed. If the animal card in question is a Mouse, the highest player card played wins the trick. If the animal card is a Vulture, the lowest player card played wins the trick. So your high cards are always good: you can win positive points and avoid negative points with them.

Once the winner is determined and has collected the animal cards, the player cards that were used that round are removed from the game, the next animal card is turned over, and the players choose a card to play from their remaining hand. Continue in this vein until all fifteen cards have been played, and the round is over. Count up your Mice, subtract your Vultures, and record the score if playing more rounds.

That's basically the game - it's very simple in concept. There are only a few special rules. For example, if two or more players tie for high card when trying to win a Mouse, the next highest card played wins the trick. Likewise, if two or more players tie for lowest card when trying to avoid a Vulture, the next lowest takes the trick. And finally, if all cards played are matched, the played cards are discarded, a second animal is added to the trick, and another round takes both cards.

For such a simple, quick game, it actually has lots of bluff and strategy opportunities. When the 10 Mouse comes up, for example, you can be pretty sure that high cards will be chosen. But if you choose your highest card, a 15, you may not win it - there may easily be another 15 chosen, and the next highest card played will win. So you think about playing your 14 instead, hoping two other players will play the 15, and you'll have the only 14. But what if someone else decides the same thing? And so on - lots of agonizing "What will they do?" decisions to make. The more you play, and the more you play with specific opponents, the better the game becomes. In this sense, it's related to poker: it's not so much the card you play as what you project to the other players you're playing, if that makes any sense ...

At any rate, if you like bluffing and outwitting games, this is a quick, fun one.

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