I posted this session report at BGG:
Because someone else submitted it, Terrapin had an entry in the BGG database before it had been tested much. Last Friday, I finally got a big group to try it out. (I'll leave out the breaks for pizza eating, dessert, and whatnot. It's a session report, not surveillance.)
The seven of us began with Western Terrapin: Players get two private cards, then there's a betting round. The dealer turns up three shared cards, then there's a second betting round. Players may then request additional private cards until they are satisfied, then there's a third and final betting round.
Hands are scored using the Turtle Butt rules. Pairs and straights are worth points, but a hand that has one or more of every suit is worthless and cannot possibly win the hand.
Most players (5 of 7) enjoyed the game and thought it worked. Someone commented that it felt like a cross between Texas Hold'em and Blackjack. There is betting and a mix of shared and common cards (as in Hold'em) and the chance to push your luck and risk going bust (as in Blackjack). I think the gameplay had a good rhythm to it.
One player was especially frustrated and didn't enjoy Western. (The also was getting terrible cards, for whatever it's worth.)
After about 14 hands of Western, we switched to Provincial Terrapin. The rules call for each player to get 5 private cards. The dealer decides on a stake and pays it to the pot. Subsequent players may either fold, pay the stake and draw a card, play the stake and discard a card, or pay twice the stake to call and end the hand. Hands are scored in the same way as Western.
We immediately encountered a problem. With 7 players, there was only one card left as a draw pile. Our first thought was to play with a double deck. We tried this, but decided after a few hand that it really wasn't working.
We then tried it with a number of face-up shared cards, plus cards private to each player. We started with three shared plus two private cards. The problem was that three private cards could easily having most of the suits, meaning that just one wrong suit in among your private cards could bust your hand. So we changed to two shared plus three private cards.
We played half a dozen hands this way. The two players who had not enjoyed Western liked it, but something was lacking. It almost worked, but not quite. The biggest problem, I think, that the game can end before it even gets around to you (since a player can call by paying twice the stake on their turn). This also meant that the pot tended not to get as big in Provincial as it had in Western.
After Provincial, we tried two rounds of Liar's Terrapin, One player draws a hand and makes a claim about it, the next player can accept or challenge. A standard bluffing game structure. If a player loses a challenge, they're out of the round.
I had fun with this, but I was in the final three both rounds. Players who were eliminated early found it to be less fun.
We then played about half a dozen more hands of Provincial, and two players had to leave.
The five left were the ones who had liked Western, so we played several more hands of Western before calling it a night.
It was a fun evening. The playtest lessons for me: Western worked pretty well, and should be tried again as is. Provincial needs work. The liar's game is OK, but only for a round or two— perhaps just before eating, so players who drop out can wander off to get themselves a plate. (OK, so I mentioned a bit about the food.)