Is Tricks & Treats a trick or a treat?

Halloween is possibly my favorite holiday. I love the crisp fall air, the smell of pumpkin spice and apple cider, and the sense that there might be spooky things going on as the daylight hours grow shorter and shorter.

Halloween also means that it’s time to get out spooky card games, which brings up the eternal question, “Will I get out Tricks & Treats this year?”

Based on the name, Tricks & Treats sounds like it might be a game about magicians who make dog biscuits, but actually it is about Halloween candy. I bought this game because I’d seen it recommended multiple times by The Dice Tower and, from the rules, it sounded like a game that would be both simple and fun—one of those clever little games that takes a minute to explain but offers endless entertainment.

You start with several candy basket cards in the center of the table. One basket belongs to each player, but you’re the only person who knows which one is yours (there are also two extra baskets that don’t belong to anyone). You take turns placing candy cards onto the baskets. The person who has the most candy on their basket at the end of the game wins. That’s really almost all there is to it.

There’s just one catch. At any point during the game, someone else can guess which basket is yours. If they’re wrong, they’re eliminated. But if they’re right, you’re eliminated. So you have to get as much candy as possible into your basket without making it obvious which basket is yours.

Tricks & Treats also comes with a host of special baskets you can include for a more advanced game. Each special basket has a unique effect, like blowing up certain types of candy or moving certain types of candy around.

If you buy Tricks & Treats, it’s definitely for the gameplay, because as a physical product, it is unexciting. Technically speaking, Tricks & Treats has art. It’s like the Tootsie Rolls of art: bland, simple, and, if you didn’t know that anything else existed, you probably wouldn’t think there was a problem. Tricks & Treats doesn’t look terrible, and the graphic design is extremely functional, I’m just not a fan of the CGI-looking pumpkins.

Also, it comes in an ordinary tuckbox, which sucks more than getting a basket full of nothing but Tootsie Rolls on Halloween. Some tuckboxes have a nice finger cut out that makes it easy to open them. This doesn’t even have that.

On the other hand, the game is ten bucks. If you can’t stand the box, you can stop whining and buy one of those plastic deck boxes.

Part of me feels like Tricks & Treats doesn’t live up to the hype. This is a game that’s been featured on multiple Dice Tower Top 10 Lists. It’s got such an amazing hook—get the most candy for yourself right under everyone else’s nose. But every time I’ve played with people, they’ve kind of been like, “is that all?”

And yet.

There’s just something about Tricks & Treats. It’s simple and ingenious.

It’s like… if I was sitting at a table with Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Mummy, would I get this game out? Well, playing cards weren’t invented until sometime around 600 AD, so it’s going to be tough to explain to The Mummy what we’re doing, but—yes—I would. You can go over the rules in a minute, and—barring the appearance of a 3,000 year old undead Pharaoh who has no basic familiarity with the concept of card games—no one is going to get confused. Tricks & Treats is not a classic game, it’s not something that everyone knows like Uno, but it feels like it should be. It has that same purity of design.

I’m a bit hesitant to recommend it for adults, and it’s not particularly fun as a two-player game, but I think Tricks & Treats is perfect as a Halloween game for kids. It’s straightforward, there’s a bit of math and a bit of deduction, and, if you only bring it out around October, it’s not going to wear out its welcome. For three or four little Halloween partygoers, I think Tricks & Treats is going to be hard to beat.