[crossposted at BGG]
At Spielbany, the upstate New York playtesting event, I got Chicane out on the table for several hands.
Chicane is a trick-taking game. In a given hand, each number card is treated as having only one suit: either the top or bottom suit on the card. Players bid for the right to decide whether the hand will be top or bottom.
We played several four-player hands, and feedback led us to try out two small changes to the rules.
First, a player must announce whether they want cards to be their top suit or bottom suit when they bid (rather than waiting to announce only if they win the bidding). Top bids are one step higher than a bottom bid at the same number of tricks. For example, '3 top' can be bid over '3 bottom.'
With two bids possible for each number of tricks, there was more space to inch up. This loosened up bidding.
Second, the high bidder must make their bid exactly in order to score points. (If they make their bid, the high bidder scores their bid plus 3 bonus points. Other players just score 1 per trick they won.)
This discourages a player with a power hand to bid just the number of tricks they can definitely take but then to plow ahead and take a bunch more. A player who wants control over top or bottom, wants to lead the first trick, and wants a shot at the 3 bonus points needs to play more carefully. If they bid and take their guaranteed tricks, they then need to wriggle out of taking any more.
Alternately, a player with a power hand can let somebody else win the bid and then try to take as many tricks as possible. But they don't get first lead and don't get bonus points. (This fits in with the first change. The player who decides not to go after the bid will do so knowing in advance whether the hand will be 'top' or 'bottom'.)
This means there are two viable approaches, depending on your cards and your temperament: Bid precisely and go after the bonus. Let someone else bid but try to win a lot of tricks.
These small changes are going to be incorporated into the game.
We played about half a dozen four-player hands. Then I sat out and watched several three-player hands. It was satisfying that people were ready to continue playing. But it was Spielbany, so we moved on to playtesting something else.
I only have one remaining concern about the game: With more tricks in the three-player game, the trick-winning strategy may be stronger than the bid-and-duck-tricks strategy. Perhaps the bonus for making a bid should be 4 points rather than 3. This has some numerical sense, since +3 with 9 tricks in four-player would change to +4 with 12 tricks in three-player. I need to play more before deciding. Maybe it's OK if the three-player game has a slightly different feel to it.