It’s lightweight (just 104 cards) and plays fast; it says 45 minutes, but as the scores are counted at the end of every short (5-10 minute) round you can play for as long as you like.
You should easily find it for less than £10 and don’t be put off if you can only find it in German; there is no text on the cards, gameplay is super simple and English rules are easily available.
6 Nimmt was originally published in 1994, so the latest edition (above) celebrates its 20th anniversary in print – what better time to review a game that has sold more than a million copies in Germany alone? It was created by Wolfgang Kramer and has enjoyed a string of offshoots (11 Nimmt, 6 Nimmt Junior and, oddly, The Walking Dead card game). The rest of my images are of a standard version.
6 Nimmt is a very simple game to set up and teach. No matter the player number, the cards are shuffled and everyone is dealt 10 (cards are simply numbered 1-104, with each card additionally having a score value of 1-7 represented by a number of bulls heads).
Four more cards are then turned over to start four rows in the centre of the table – cards remaining (if any) won’t be used that round.
On a turn, each player picks a card and these are flipped simultaneously. Starting with the lowest numbered card chosen, these are added to the most appropriate row – being the one with the closest number down from the card you played (so if the rows ended 33,68,79,92 – and you had played the 82 – it would have to go on the 79).
The trick is not to play either a card lower than is possible to add to a row (so in our example above, the 1 through 13) or the sixth card in any row. In either case you will have to pick up a row of cards, which are added to your score pile. The lowest score wins – so ideally you won’t pick up any cards at all, or at best ones with just one bull’s head.
And that’s that. A round lasts until all 10 cards have been played, then you score and go again. I’d be surprised if anyone took more than a third of a round to get the hang of it.
NOTE: There are several variants available, but I’ll just mention the 20th anniversary one here. The new edition comes with 10 extra cards, numbered 0.0 to 0.9. These can be placed after a number on any row you choose (so a 0.9 after the 17 becomes 17.9), as long as another 0. card isn’t already in that row (so it could still bite you in the ass).
The four sides
These are me, plus three fictitious amalgams drawn from observing my friends, and their respective quirks and play styles.
- The writer: I enjoy a light filler and this has been around for 20 years for good reason. There’s a lot of random, but crucially some tactics; and it comes quickly, with the second game enough to get most people up to speed. And if it’s so random, why do I always finish in the first few placings?
- The thinker: While I will play 6 Nimmt while chatting or waiting for the next ‘proper’ game, there’s little to no strategy here. Unfortunately player number doesn’t help; its hugely random at anything up to the high numbers, at which point it just gets tedious. A total luck-skill ratio fail.
- The trasher: Sure this is crazy random and themeless, but with four to six players it has some brilliant ‘screw you’ moments. The only downside is you don’t know who you’ll be screwing – or if, even – you just know you’re safe as you have the perfect card (the next in a row to make that row five long). That’s a sweet feeling.
- The dabbler: 6 Nimmt does what I want a little card game to do. It invokes laughter, can be taught in seconds and takes a good range of players – in age, experience and numbers. And all the while you can chat and be sociable; hell, you can even sit out of a round and not worry – the essence of what a ‘filler’ should be.
The most common complaint is 6 Nimmt! is totally random and chaotic. Some people genuinely go so far as to talk about flipping cards at random and ‘occasionally’ winning.
And there’s the flaw in that argument; you randomly flip but only occasionally win; so I guess the players who are playing properly usually win, kind of throwing that theory out the window? I’m not claiming this is rocket science, or even a light strategy game, but there are tactical decisions that bring the game above these insults.
The fact it’s ‘hit and miss’ in many groups is impossible to argue against, but what’s universally liked – especially when you have this big a player range? sure, gamers gravitate towards people with similar tastes; but based on the evening’s ‘big’ games, not the fillers. There are only a handful of games with higher average rankings in the light filler category.
Finally there’s the lack of theme; but 6 Nimmt! is unapologetically an abstract card game? Accusations of no theme could equally pointlessly be aimed at a standard deck of cards. If you do need theme, try the Walking Dead version (which adds character cards, as well as pasting pointless second rate zombie pics on the cards – enjoy).
I’m a big fan of 6 Nimmt! I embrace the chaos, love the tension it can create around the table and love to watch everyone agonising over their decisions.
Sure, it can fall flat in the wrong company and the game isn’t for everyone – but what is? At under £10 and coming in a small box I’d suggest it’s worth the risk.
I rank it in the same category, and as highly, as For Sale and Love Letter. It’s a bit less fiddly than the former and there’s a bit more to it than the latter, while it lacks a little personality when compared to either – but for me it’s their equal.
I’ve linked to the anniversary version here and I’d certainly consider it. While I haven’t played the variant rules I really like the sound of them and even if they don’t work well you can simply leave those 10 cards out. If I were buying a new copy today I’d get the new one, but do bear in mind it costs a little extra; the original is available on Amazon and elsewhere.