Monday 12 May 2014

Top Trumps

It's popular amongst kids, especially in the UK. For adults, it probably suits as more of a collector's item rather than as a game.

It is the simplest game you will ever encounter, and chances are you already know how to play it. The emphasis is on theme; whilst enjoyment factor purely hinges on your appreciation, knowledge and how much you are a fan of that particular theme.

My sister refuses to even call it a game - and that's completely understandable.

Name: Top Trumps (1968!!)

Versions/Themes: There are HEAPS of versions. Almost as many versions to choose from as there are topics under the sun (of course, this is a bit of an exaggeration). Here are only a handful of examples:

English Premier League Sport Clubs (Eg. Manchester United, Arsenal - see below)
Top Gear: Cool Cars
Roald Dahl
Wonders of the World
Power Rangers (in Japan)

Lord of the Rings (see below); Harry Potter; Star Wars;
World Football Stars 2013/14
DC Universe: Heroes and Villains
Disney Pixar
The Simpsons Classic Collection (Earlier volumes are dearer because they are rarer)
Plop Trumps (A spin-off, based on animal poo - kind of cool, but may yuck people out - see below picture of tin)

There's even a Royal Wedding Special as below

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge feature in their own card game

Publisher: Winning Moves

Original Game Designer: "None" really - the concept is as old as card games itself.

Players: As many as you want but doesn't play that well with lots of people.

Age: 6+

Time to play: Very fast - can be as little as less than 10 minutes?

Price Range (AUD): $10-$40+, depending on how rare the set is you are after and whether you are paying shipping.

Availability:  Quite widely available online. A very limited range is offered in the ABC Shop at the time of writing (Deadly 60 and Dinosaurs from memory)

  • Kids
  • Card
  • Collection/Special Interest/References/Thematic
  • Classic

Andre Lim's Rating and Brief Summary:

5.0+ out of 10. (Barely Passes as a game, but I reserve my judgement on its "fun" factor as that truly depends on where your interests lie and which themed pack you purchase - See my Rating Scale)

"Highest card wins". That's basically all there is to Top Trumps.

However, the fun factor of this game purely hinges on your interests. It is mind blowing to think that there are so many different versions of the game that appeal to different interests. For example, if you like superheroes and supervillains, you will enjoy the Marvel or DC Universe packs which feature your favourite comic book characters.

If you enjoy sport, you might appreciate some of the teams or sport-specific packs, particularly for a certain year (further you go back, the more expensive), available such as these:

Examples of club football (or to use the allegedly dreaded expression, soccer) Top Trumps
Taken from

Other varieties that I have are below:
From left to right, starting from top row Top Trumps: ....
Deadly 60 (based on the UK TV series featuring dangerous animals)
Simpsons Volume 3 (featuring Apu and Lisa)
Lord of the Rings Collector's Tin (Featuring Bad guys and Good guys - see below pictures in the Rules)

DC Universe Heroes and Villains (Batman, Superman, Joker, Scarecrow etc)
Disney Pixar The Collection (featuring Woody, Buzz, Mike Wazowski etc - see below picutres in the Rules)
Plop Trumps (Cards based on real animal poo - whilst gross for many, it is pretty educational in a very strange sense)

Whatever your interest, there probably is a Top Trumps pack available. And that is the beauty of Top Trumps in a nutshell. The packs can be quite cheap if you buy them in-store, but here in Australia the variety isn't that great. Ordering online can be significantly costlier, with shipping adding on 100% to 200% more on price ($10 or $20 dollars more), which is probably not worth it.

I'll explain the rules below but it's simple enough - each of the cards contains statistics unique to a particular theme. A random player calls a statistic out (for example, number of goals scored; strength; temperature; courage). Everyone plays their top card (they don't seem to have a choice, they always play the top card - for example, if using the Man United deck: Player A might play Robin Van Persie; Player B plays Wayne Rooney; Player C plays Antonio Valencia). Then the numbers of that statistic are compared. Usually the highest number wins (so, for number of goals scored for that season, Van Persie would win based on the 2012-13 season).

At the risk of sounding repetitive, Top Trumps' fun factor purely derives from the theme of the cards you purchase. I find that, no matter how childish the gameplay is, if the topic interests everyone it will still be fun for all and stimulate much discussion.

The Good:
  • Fun if you choose a topic/theme that interests you and the group - promotes discussion and interest in a particular franchise or topic
  • Collectors' item makes for some degree of attachment to the cards
  • Extremely easy to play, perhaps even too easy (can be a bad point)
  • Good for kids
  • Statistics on card genuinely match the topic concerned. For example, you can be sure that Gandalf, Aragorn and Legolas all have high scores for the statistics "Fighting skills" and "Destiny of the Ring" (the latter statistic reflective of their importance to the storyline/events/fate of Lord of the Rings)
The Bad:
  • Childish game - gameplay has very little strategy; some will argue there is no discernible "gameplay" at all.
  • Too many to collect

What makes this game fun? 

The ability to play a game relating to something that interests you - be it a movie, a sport, a comic book series or some other random topic - generates quite a lot of fun, even if it is mindless fun.

- This concludes the basic overview of the game.
If you are interested in reading about the components & rules to the game, please read on -

Rules & Components (Photos courtesy of my mum, Joanne)

Follow these easy steps:

1) Grab a deck of Top-trump cards

2) Distribute the cards as evenly as possible to all players. All players hold their cards face down, or if face up, hidden away from other players.

3) Randomly assign a player to be the starting player

4) Starting player calls out a statistic

5) Everyone takes the top card of their deck (without looking or choosing their card) and reveals their card. Highest number of that statistic usually wins, but occasionally, another victory condition has to be triggered (for example, earlier year)

6) Whoever wins takes all the cards placed down by everyone. (This rule can make the game finish very quickly, especially if a lot of people are playing). These cards get taken by the winner of that round and placed on the back portion of their deck face, hidden away from the view of others.

Example 1

Suppose North calls out the statistic "FIRST APPEARANCE" for Buzz Lightyear (1995)
West plays Nemo (2003)
East plays Alfredo Linguini from Ratatouille (2007)

North wins because they were the earliest first appearance. North takes Buzz, Nemo and Alfredo and places them to the bottom of their deck. North now calls a new statistic. This is repeated until someone loses all their cards.

6a) If there is a tie between two or more players, no one wins anything for that round. Those cards are then placed in the middle. A new round starts with a new statistic being called for a new card of the person who called the previous round. The winner of the next round gets to take all the cards in the middle (from the previous round) and the cards of that current round!

Example 2

Suppose East calls out the statistic "Destiny of the Ring" for Aragorn (a stupid move - enough characters have a high Destiny of the Ring stat, whereas Fighting Skills is unmatchable)  Aragorn's score is 5 - the highest value for this statistic
West plays Gandalf whose value is also 5
North plays Legolas whose value is 4

Because there is a tie, all three cards go to NO ONE. Under default rules, East calls out a new statistic for the next card, and whoever wins that call gets all the cards.

7) Whoever won that round round picks the next card from the top of their deck. They now look at it and get to call out any statistic they like in the next round.

8) Repeat until someone has no cards left. Whoever has the most cards when someone runs out of cards wins.


To increase the fun/strategy/length of the game, perhaps the rules can be altered so that:

a) different people get to call out the statistic?
b) players get to choose which cards they can play?
c) not all cards are given to the winning player, just a few cards?

And that's it!!

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