… Player A played Random Tax. They went around to each player to take a random card from their hand. When Player A got to Player C, Player C played a surprise to cancel out Player A’s action. Is playing that surprise card allowed?
A: A player wishing to cancel an Action (like Random Tax) needs to do so right away after the Action is played, since it doesn’t protect only that one player, it cancels the entire Action. If that player was waiting to see what card got stolen from them, and only then decided “Oops! I should have canceled that Action!” it’s definitely too late. They needed to decide “Darn! I don’t want to lose a random card from my hand! I’ll cancel that with a Surprise.”
You see, once the receiving player has seen cards from other’s hands, it taints the game. Now, your group could decide that this effect is negligible, and let the Surprising player get away with it on a one-time basis (assuming they timed it that way because they thought that was the correct time to play it – but NOT if they were just waiting to see what card would be stolen; does that make sense?)
Of course if you let the Surprise go through, the person who played Random Tax would have to return all of the cards they took from people because it cancels the entire Action “as though it had never happened”. If it was a legitimate error on the part of the Surprise player, and they’ve been schooled, one should not cut any slack on a second offense, I’d say.
We often have the players being taxed mix up their own cards, pick one blind, and then hand it over to the person receiving the tax. This reduces the temptation to try to play a Surprise only after someone sees what card got picked. Because that’s really not okay.
Doing it the way you did still works, of course, but then we’d encourage players to mix up their hand and present it face down out towards the Taxing player, so that neither one sees what card is taken until it’s actually gone.