"Xactika" is a proprietary
card gamefor two to ten players created by Set Enterprisesin 2002. The trick-taking gameis played with a dedicated deck of 81 cards, in which the object is to obtain the highest number of points after eight rounds of play. Points are awarded by taking the exact number of tricks that one bids before each round.
The card deck consists of cards with face values ranging from 4 to 12, each with different combinations of four different suits -- balls,
cubes, cones and stars. A card can have anywhere from one to three of each of the suits, the sum of all of the shapes equaling the face value of the card. For example, a card with a face value of 9 could have 1 ball, 3 cubes, 3 cones, and 2 stars, as 1+3+3+2=9. Alternatively, a card with a face value of 9 could also have 2 balls, 2 cubes, 2 cones, and 3 stars (or any other combination of suits that sums 9).
The deck is not composed of an even distribution of face-values. For example, there is only one card in the deck with face-value of four, and likewise for face-value of 12. The most common face-value in the deck is eight (19 of the 81 cards have a face-value of eight). The following table outlines how many cards for each suit exist in the deck.
Using this table, it is simple to see which cards are the most powerful. For example, for each suit, there exists only one card with a face value of ten that has a suit of one-unit (i.e. there is only one card in the deck with a face value of ten that has one cube on it). So if a player is dealt this particular card, they can be guaranteed to win a trick if they get the opportunity to lead and chose "one cube" as the suit.
Play begins with the deck being shuffled and the dealer dealing eight cards to each player. Eight rounds of eight hands are played to constitute a complete game. A round consists of the deal, bidding, eight hands, and scoring.
Each player, starting with the player to the left of the dealer, places a bid by declaring how many tricks they will take during the hand. Bids can be any number from zero (i.e. the player believes that they will win no tricks during the round) to eight (i.e. the player believes that they will win every trick during the round). Bidding continues clockwise around the table and the dealer bids last, and the dealer must bid a number that does not bring the total number of tricks bid to eight. (For example, in a three-player game, if the first player bids five and the second player bids one, the dealer can bid anything "except" two, as this would bring the total number of bids to eight.) This forces at least one player to miss their bid each round.
Play continues with the player to the left of the dealer who leads first. This player plays a card from their hand and calls one of the four suit combinations on it (for example: three cubes). Going clockwise around the table, each player must play a card with the same suit combination (three cubes) if they have it (if not, they can play any card). The card with the highest face value that has the same suit combination wins the trick, and the player who wins the trick leads the next round. In the case of a tie, the last player to play a card wins the trick.
After eight hands, the round is complete and scores are tallied. Players who take exactly the number of tricks that they bid get a point for each trick taken (i.e. a player who bids three "and" wins "exactly" three tricks receives three points). Those players who miss their bid receive -1 point for each trick off their bid (i.e. a player who bids three and wins 5 tricks receives -2 points).
After eight rounds, the player with the highest score wins.
*Knowing the card distribution is key to recognizing the strength of one's hand and placing bids, as well as knowing which suit to call if one wishes to win (or lose) a trick. A card's most powerful suit is that suit which is the "smallest" - for example, a card with face-value nine that has one ball, two cubes, three cones and three stars is more often to win a trick if the ball suit is called, as there are only four cards in the entire deck that have a value greater than or equal to nine with one ball. Conversely, calling the cone suit is likely to have the trick won by another player, as there are 17 cards in the deck with a face-value of nine or greater that have three cones.
rule of thumbis to bid one trick for every 12 or 11, and one trick for every "two" tens and nines in one's hand.
* [http://www.setgame.com/xactika/index.html "Xactika" webpage] at Set Enterprises
* [http://www.nique.net/issues/2003-01-17/entertainment/2 "Xactika: Probability gone wild"] . "Technique". 17 January 2003.
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