Review – Sandbag

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Designer Ted Alspach

Artist Greg Bartlett

Publisher Bezier Games

Category Trick-Taking

Length 30-60 minutes

Release Date March 2024

Player Count 3-6

Growing up, long before I played other board games, my family played Euchre, Hearts and Spades extensively, so I’m always eager to look at a new trick-taking game. But Sandbag is of the thoroughly mean variety, more like Hearts than Spades. Is it any good, however? Let’s take a look!

The components of Sandbag are serviceable for a small card game; the cardstock is good and the graphic design is clear. (I cannot find information on the price of the game.) However, the rulebook is, well, bad. I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to wrap my head around the (rather weird) sequence of play, primarily because of a glaring omission. Face-down cards are used as “Sandbags,” but not if they are face-down cards in your “Basket” (which are just cards rotated 90 degrees from each other). This important detail is crucial to the gameplay, but it also makes the actual physical play confusing. Players are not always great at keeping their cards in a certain spot on the table, or a certain rotation from each other, particularly as other player’s swipe your cards and replace them with their own. Some people also have a tendency to lay their cards flat, face-down on the table while waiting for their turn, and when you have 1 or 2 cards near the end of a round, those are easily confused with other face-down cards. 

The amount of face-down cards in this game grows as the game goes on, and this is not just practical, physical confusion but also strategic and mental confusion. I love traditional trick-taking games like Euchre, Hearts, and Spades, as well as modern games like The Crew or ladder-climbing games like Scout or Tichu. In those games, part of the joy of the game is card counting. Being able to do some mental deduction in the midst of strategic maneuvering is what defines the genre for me. In Sandbag, the game is much, much muddier, and far more tactical, as many cards are never revealed. It’s also full of schadenfraude: the goal is really not to do clever things for yourself, but to screw other players. Combine that with the fact that while you can put any card you want into your Basket, you’re completely at the mercy of other players in terms of what happens (which will possibly cost you points), and the game feels quite chaotic and unmanageable, to me.

That isn’t to say that there’s no fun to be had. It’s just not my kind of fun. There are people who play board games not to exercise their mind on a deep level, but for the camaraderie, the theme, and some silly fun. Some of those players play “mindless games” like Munchkin or Fluxx, but I also see some with this same attitude, completely competently playing games like Flamecraft, Wingspan or Villainous. For that latter crowd, Sandbag is probably a fun game. For me, I will stick to Scout and The Crew. 

The Bottom Line

Too little information and too much schadenfraude for an old trick-taking fogey like myself.

 

6

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Author: Derek Thompson


I’ve been a board game reviewer on Geeks Under Grace since 2011. I love card-driven games and party games. I have a Ph.D. in Mathematics and teach the subject at Taylor University in Upland, IN. My wife and kids are my favorite gaming partners.