|Release Date: 2023||Players: 2-6|
|Designer: Daniel Newman||Length: 15-45 minutes|
|Artist: Rob Turpin||Age: 8+|
|Publisher: New Mill Industries||Complexity: 2.0 / 5|
|Plastic (by weight): <1%||Air (by volume): 0%|
Off the coast of Queensland, Australia, in warm tropical waters, you can find the amazingly colourful Great Barrier Reef. It is home to over 40 different types of sea anemones, which are home to a lot of different kinds of sea life. Clownfish use sea anemones as shelter, taking advantage of their toxin-filled stingers as protection. Yet, while these two are friends, if you touch one as a human, the resulting painful stings can make them feel more like Enemy Anemone by Daniel Newman from New Mill Industries.
Thin Thematic Skin
“Look, Enemy Anemone is a trick-taking game featuring cards with numbers. There’s not really a lot of theme here, but you’ve got to admit the name is pretty fun to say.”
That’s how the game introduces itself to adventurous explorers of this genre of card games. It agrees that its theme is as thin as the skin on water. Yet, once you’ve overcome the tongue-twister of a name, it is indeed a fun title. The amazing illustrations by Rob Turpin are gorgeous and the contrast of black-and-white drawings and the suits’ colours really draws you in. It’s so visually appealing.
Yet, what drew me in, was something else. I grew up with trick-taking games, but haven’t been able to get them to the table for a long time. Teaching trick-taking to people turned out to be a lot harder than I expected. Many trick-taking games require a specific player count. People bounced off The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine, which I thought would be perfect to teach this genre because it’s a cooperative game. The trick-taking element in Brian Boru: High King of Ireland was a hit, but it’s not a pure trick-taker.
So when Daniel Newman showed me Enemy Anemone I was immediately smitten. Not only is the player count very flexible, but it’s also a must-not-follow trick-taking game. That means players just have to remember they can’t play any of the colours already on the table, while trying to play the highest-value card, if they want to win the trick. There are also no trumps or trump suits. It’s all very straightforward.
The proof came when I taught this game to my wife, then to our neighbours and then to their child. Everyone got it within the first game.
Despite its thin thematic skin and simple ruleset, there is a lot of game here, a lot more depth than you would expect. After a learning game or two, people start to explore winning strategies. With every game, players work out something new to help them win. Of course, others will realize that and adapt their strategies to thwart the other player’s efforts. Enemy Anemone constantly evolves and doesn’t get boring.
As someone who knows trick-taking games pretty well, I found it very hard to remember that I must not follow. It’s so deeply ingrained in me that it’s very hard to relearn. All of the tricks and tactics I learned from playing must-follow trick-taking games have gone out of the window. Strategies such as trying to empty your hand of at least one suit don’t apply to Enemy Anemone. Trying to keep winning several tricks in a row is much harder and in a way, you much rather want to be the last player in a trick, so you can decide whether it’s worth playing a high card to win it.
I’ve played Enemy Anemone probably two dozen times now and I still haven’t worked out how best to play it. I’m sure there are strategy tips to be found, but what these are I’m yet to discover. In fact, these are things I’m discovering with the people I’m playing this wonderful game with. It’s a shared learning experience, which is great. Despite the game being competitive, sharing tips and tricks is one of the great things when playing this trick-taker.
The game introduces a few additional mechanisms to what is really a pure trick-taking game, which add some extra spice in the shape of a wonderful helping of salt and vinegar to what is already a delicious dish.
Gorgeous Enemy Anemones
As a product, Enemy Anemone is simply gorgeous. From the visual appeal, to the wonderful card stock, if you buy a physical copy, to the fact that you can play it with such a wide player count. It works just as well with two people as it does with six and everything in between. The two-player game is more like a four-player one, but it works wonderfully well, which is a huge bonus for any trick-taking game.
If you don’t want to pay for a physical deck, plus shipping, you can buy Enemy Anemone as a print-and-play version. Of course, it’s up to you to print it, cut everything out and then maybe sleeve it, but the gameplay will be exactly the same and you can still take advantage of the wonderful illustrations. In fact, if you love the illustrations of Enemy Anemone, then you can get t-shirts with them on. Anyway, the print-and-play version is a very cost-effective way to support New Mill‘s efforts to bring wonderful trick-taking games into every household – at least, that’s what I think they’re trying to do and I fully support it.
So, if you always wanted to find out what this mystical genre of trick-taking is all about, then you can’t go wrong with Enemy Anemone. It’s so very easy to pick up and a great way into the genre, while also being a game that will keep you entertained for a very long time to come. If you ever do get bored with the game, then you’re ready to explore the wonderful world of trick-taking games. Keep on swimming…
I feel that this review reflects my own, independent and honest opinion, but the facts below allow you to decide whether you think that I was influenced in any way.
- I bought and paid for the game myself.
- At the time of writing, neither the designers, nor the publisher, nor anyone linked to the game supported me financially or by payment in kind.
Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (https://www.
Music by AShamaluevMusic.
These are the songs I listened to while I was writing this review: