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It All Began With An Invitation: Hats

Hats Box

Hats Cover Art

The invitation has arrived, and your presence has been requested for sweets and tea. In this particular instance, however, it isn’t just any old tea party, but one hosted in the garden of the infamous Mad Hatter! Yes, that Mad Hatter, of course! If any of his other parties offer any inclination, one can only imagine the madness and hilarity that will ensue this time around! In addition to the tea and cookies, the Mad Hatter has a new game in mind to play that fits his notoriety quite well: Hats! This fedora flipping function personifies his peculiar perspective perfectly and now is your chance to join in on the fun.

(Image courtesy of ThunderGryph Games)

In addition to being the newest game from ThunderGryph Games, Hats is also the first game in the upcoming gaming line called Made in Wonderland! These games will all have strong references to fairy tales, folk stories, and fables and will come in a book box with magnetic closure! All games in the Made in Wonderland line will be direct and exclusive to distribution instead of through Kickstarter like many of the other current ThunderGryph titles have been. Hats is currently available as a pre-order but will be unveiled as a pre-release during GenCon 2019.

Hats Card Types

There are 6 suits included with the game. Can you identify all 6 of the stories being represented?

Hats was designed by Gabriele Bubola and is a 2-4 player card game that centers around set collection and hand management. Bubola has also designed Skyliners, which was released in 2015, and the forthcoming title Dunhuang, which is slated to release next year in 2020. The illustrations for the game were provided by Paolo Voto. Prior to working on game illustration, Voto was a sketch artist who also worked in advertising and children’s publishing. The art for Hats is absolutely fantastic! For example, there are 7 different suits of cards included in the game (8 if you get the Incredible Hat booster pack available via the pre-order) and each of these suits ties into a different fairy tale or fable. The hats designed for these suits all include imagery that ties into the story. My favorite one is probably the Wizard of Oz inspired hat (green) even if it isn’t my favorite of the stories being represented. The witch’s hat topped with the miniature scarecrow, corn, lion plushie, and metal funnel all wonderfully tie together to create an homage to the story.

Hats Set Up

A 2-player set up of Hats
(All photos of ThunderGryph Games products were taken and edited by KristaG unless otherwise specified)

As with all of the ThunderGryph Games products thus far released, the components are top notch in quality, which helps make set up a breeze! First, the long Tea Table board is placed within reach of all players. The thick, cardboard Scoring Napkin is placed face down near the Tea Table board with the plastic Chocolate Chip Cookie on top of it. At the end of the party, there is only one cookie left and all players will be fighting over who gets to keep it – and the delicious reward it grants the receiving player! All Hat cards being used for the game are shuffled together to form a draw deck (the number of suits being used varies based on the number of players). Hat cards are then dealt face up to the spaces on the Tea Table board as determined by the number of players and described in the rulebook. Each player is dealt 9 hat cards from the draw deck, which are to be kept a secret from the other players. For our games, we also kept the dry erase marker near the Scoring Napkin. Before the game can begin, the first player is determined by discerning who most recently ate a cookie, which I feel is not only thematically appropriate but wonderfully silly!

Though the box says the game is playable for 2-4 players, the gameplay differs for 4-player games. Instead of a large free for all, players team up into teams of 2 and play similarly to the 2-player game, but with more cards and an alternative optional action that allows them to trade 1 card with each other during their turns instead of simply discarding and drawing a new one from the draw deck. Players may also openly discuss which cards to exchange with each other as long as they do not mention specifics when it comes to color, number, or type. Otherwise, Hats is a game that is played over 8 rounds where each player gets a choice of 1 out of 2 mandatory actions on their individual turn as well as 1 optional action. These 2 mandatory actions consist of either Exchanging Hats or Creating a Black Hat. When Exchanging Hats, a player will swap a card from their hand with one on the Tea Table board and place it in front of them. The cards being exchanged must either match in type or the card being played to the Tea Table board must be higher in number than the card being taken. If a player chooses to Create a Black Hat instead of Exchanging Hats, they simply place one of their cards face down in front of them. These Black Hat cards will count as a separate type of hat (similar to creating a new suit) when it comes to scoring and are worth 1 point each. As mentioned above, the optional action available to all players on their turn is that they may discard a card to the discard pile and draw a new one at any point during their turn. This can be advantageous to do not only before you play a card, but also if you have a card that appears unplayable and you want to take your chances on getting a better card for the next round. After 8 rounds (all players have played 8 cards), the game ends and scoring begins. What about the 9th card, you ask? It is used to determine a player’s “Favorite Hat” type at the end of the game, which will affect scoring.

Hats Final Scores

Thanks to the cookie, my Player 2 beat me by a point!

Scoring a game of Hats appears a little daunting if you’re just reading over the rules, but the Scoring Napkin is definitely a useful aid when trying to tally everything up. There are 3 different categories involved in scoring: Hat Collection, Favorite Hat, and Last Cookie. If there is more than 1 card of the same type on the Tea Table board, players must first find the card of that type that is in the lowest position and then turn over all other cards of that type. When scoring a Hat Collection, the points earned are determined not by the value of the cards, but by the position the cards are in on the Tea Table board. For example, if the green card is in the 5 position, every green card a player has in their collection is worth 5 points. The Favorite Hat score is the only scoring area that can cost a player points. All cards in a player’s collection that match their Favorite Hat card (the unplayed card still in their hand) are totaled based on the sum of the card values. Then, the value of the Favorite Hat card is subtracted from this number – yes, if you have no matching cards, this does mean you subtract from 0! Though not included as a scoring category, all Black Hat cards are worth 1 point when working your way through the list on the Scoring Napkin. Lastly, the cookie needs to be awarded. To receive the cookie, players compete to have the most different types of hats (Black Hats are considered their own type). If there is a tie when it comes to types, the player who has the card with the lowest value in their collection will win the cookie. If there are further ties, the tiebreakers are explained in detail in the rulebook. The winner of the cookie is awarded an additional 5 points. These 5 points can undoubtedly make or break the game for a player so winning it can earn a huge advantage! 4-player scoring is done by adding up each team member’s individual score and combining them to make a team score. Once all of the scoring it tallied, the player/team with the highest total wins the game.

What I love about this game is that it has a bunch of layers to it and is far deeper than it first appears. Every game after the first was drastically different as we uncovered new strategies and subtleties that changed how we played. Hats is another one of those games that is easy to learn and to teach, but takes time to master. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t have fun learning along the way! The game itself is completely language independent, incredibly portable, and has gorgeous shelf presence thanks to the book box (I am always a sucker for these…). Hats can be played quickly and with players of all ages, though younger players may not fully understand all of the depths available in the game. As someone who has a soft spot for games with a fairy tale theme and epic artwork, I’m looking forward to seeing what else ThunderGryph Games comes out with for the Made in Wonderland line; especially now that I’ve seen how well they can tie together so many different stories in a way that can still be presented thematically as part of one package. When it comes to joining in at another one of these tea parties – or any chance to play Hats again – I will always RSVP with a yes!

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