“Ding!” is a trick-taking card game with a huge twist that will catch players by surprise. It is designed for 3-8 players ages 8 years old and up, and a typical game lasts around 30 minutes or so. The game contents include 63 playing cards, with 15 cards in each of 4 colored suits, blue, orange, yellow and green, plus 3 wild cards. Within each of those suits the cards are numbered from 2-12, plus a D, i, n and g card, each with a numbered value of 1. There are also 8 player pawns, 8 in/out tokens and a colorful circular game board measuring just under 10″ in diameter.
The game board is made up of 18 spaces, 4 in each of the four colored suits plus a start and finish space. To begin the game, each player takes one of the player pawns and a matching two-sided in/out token. The player pawns are placed on the starting space on the game board, and the matching in/out tokens are kept in front of each player. Each player is then dealt 5 cards, with the remaining cards being placed nearby and the top card turned up. The color of that turned up card is the trump suit for this hand. After looking over their hands, each player decides if they think they can capture one or more tricks, but does not reveal their decision immediately. Instead, each player picks up their in/out token, and decides if they want to stay in or drop out by placing the token face up in their hand (but hidden from view) with their decision (in or out). All players must show their tokens at exactly the same time to avoid any last second changes.
Any players who opt out are not allowed to play the hand. Players who opted to play can first discard up to 3 cards and replace them from the deck. The player to the left of the dealer goes first and leads any card of his choice. Keep in mind that high trump always takes the trick, but if there is no trump card played, the highest card value takes the trick, and players must always follow suit based on what was lead. The 3 wild cards are the highest cards (the word “Ding!” is written across the card), and will always take the trick when played. Once a hand is completed, each player counts up the number of tricks they won, and advances that number on the game board. If only one player opts to play a hand and all other player opt out, that player automatically wins all 5 tricks and moves ahead 5 spaces on the game board.
Now here is the twist. After the initial 5 cards are dealt on any hand, and all players have declared if they are in or out plus selected any replacement cards, there is a chance for a “Ding.” Here is how it works…if any player is able to spell the word “D-i-n-g” (must have one card for each letter) they can yell out “Ding,” and immediately win all 5 tricks that hand. That player can move ahead 5 spaces on the game board and all other players must move backwards the appropriate number of spaces. Wild cards can be used as any letter needed and the initial trump card turned over is also a community card that can be used by everyone, if it happens to be a D, i, n or g. We found it very difficult to get a “Ding,” as we played lots of 3 player games where no “Ding’ was declared. It is also easy to miss the combination of cards, if you look at your hand too quickly.
Although the first player to reach the finish space wins the game, the game board is designed in such a way that it also provides a twist of its own. As players progress around the board, their player tokens enter 4 suit colored zones along the way, where players who do not get at least one trick have to move backwards more than one space, and sometimes up to 4 spaces, depending on the color of the space they are occupying.
The Toys Bulletin staff had a lot of fun playing “Ding!,” and lots of close games too. Players might be leading by a wide margin after just a few hands, and then suddenly drop back, as their luck changes or an opponent plays the “D-i-n-g” combination. “Ding!” retails for $16.99. Look for it at Amazon.com.