Rules of Tichu
Tichu is a card gabe that is usually played in teams of two vs two players. Other variants for three, five or six players are found in the Internet.
In the variant for four players, those players sittint opposite to each other form a team.
The game uses the usual cards from Deuce to Ace, but in suits that are made look "chinese" - instead of clubs, spades, heards and diamonds, Tichu cards go as Swords (black), stars (red), jade (green) and pagoda (blue). Additionally, the game uses four extra cards: the dragon (the highest card in the game), the phoenix (acts as a joker), the dog and the so-called "Mah-jongg" (which is basically Chinese for "sparrow"):
Game start and exchanging cards
At the beginning of the game, each player holds 14 cards. Before the game really starts, one card is exchanged with the team mate and each opponent.
To get an idea of how "strong" a card is, the following estimation may be of help, ranking the cards on a scale from 0 to 100 points:
The Internet offers statistics that claim that a king would have a chance of 30% to win a trick. A Nine or a Ten may look like a quite high card at a first glance, but in real gameplay, they show being at best moderately powerful. In most cases, such a card may win a trick if the opponents decide against outbetting it because they want to save their higher cards for later. Of course, even a Nine may be the highest card remaining in game, but the lower a card is, the more higher cards must have been played for that - and the less lower cards are still in the game to play it on. Because all players will aim to get rid of their lowest cards first, even an Eight can quickly become the lowest(!) remaining card.
About the topic of "Which cards should I give away?" lots of ideas and opinions can be found online. Generally speaking, a player would give his partner a high card, and
low cards that cannot be used for anything go to the opponents.
The player who holds the "Mah-jongg" (that yellow card with a digit "1") will be the first who has the lead; and this player may now play cards from his hand to form one of the valid combinations listed below. The "Mah-jongg" may be played immediately, or may be kept for later use. The valid combinations may have taken a hint from Poker, except a Flush does not have a counterpart:
The game is then usually continues counterclockwise (an agreement to play clockwise may be made).
Every player whose turn it is may choose to "bet", so to say, by playing a higher combination of the same type, or he/she may choose to "pass" for the moment.
The player who has the lead is not allowed to "pass" ("skip" may be a better word here), but everybody else is. In contrary to other games, Tichu knows no
obligation to play any cards - even if you could outbet the cards played, you do not have to. Note that "passing" is not as final as in other card games, every player
may decide to wait and play cards later in the same trick. This means that the same player may have played cards multiple times before somebody wins the trick.
What is higher than what?
Generally speaking, only combinations of the same type are comparable. Contrary to Poker, a pair cannot be outbet by a triplet (= three of a kind),
and a triplet cannot be outbet by a straight. Pairs can be outbet only by higher pairs, and triplets can be outbet only by higher triplets.
The suits of the cards are of no importance, except in a straight flush (a "bomb") where all cards must have the same suit. Maybe you know this from other games of cards
that a Deuce of Diamonds that was played first will win a trick against a King of Spades that was played later; Tichu does not have such a rule. There is no
rule that forces to follow suit either. For example, a king can be outbet by any ace.
The dragon equals "Ace + 1" in value, and is the highest card in the game. On the other hand, the dragon can be played as a single card only, i.e. it cannot be combined with the joker to form a pair, neither can it be part of a straight. Additionally, the whole trick won with this card must be donated to one of the opponents.
The phoenix (joker) has a varying value when played as a single card. hat als Einzelkarte einen verÃ¤nderlichen Wert.
The value of this card depends on what it was played on. If played on an ace, the phoenix will have a value of "Ace + ½". But if played on a Seven, this card will
count as a "Seven and a half", which means it is higher than the Seven played, but lower than an Eight. That means that the phoenix is not always a card
that beats an ace! Its maximum value is "Ace plus a half", which means that the phoenix can never be higher than the dragon.
The dog is another card that can be played as a single card only, and it can only be played by the player who has the lead. To play the Dog card means to pass the right of having the lead to the partner. If the partner has no cards left, the next player whose turn it would be and who still has cards will have the lead. If both the partner of the player who played the card and his opponent to his left hand side have no cards left, it is again the turn of the same player who played the Dog.
The Mah-jongg (sparrow) is the lowest card in the came, and it is the only card that stands for an "One". Its option to wish for a card that must be played makes it a quite valueable card; so some players keep this card for later use.
"Bombs" - the highest combinations
Four cards of equal value, or a straight with all cards having the same suit (= what would be a straight flush/royal flush in Poker) are calles "bombs".
Those "bombs" are higher than everything else, except for a higher bomb. They can be played on whatever type of combination may have been played.
A "bomb" can even be played if it is not that player's turn. Instead, a player can announce that he/she wishes to play a "bomb", and it immediately becomes
that player's turn.
Bombs can even beat the dragon. There are some players who play a "bomb" to beat the dragon if it was played by their partner or even by themselves, because if they do so, it was not the dragon but the bomb that won the trick, and nothing has to be donated to the opponents.
The dragon is indeed a generous being. If a trick is won by playing this card, all cards involved must be donated to one of the opponents. That means that if a Ten and a King have been played before, 45 points out of 100 go to the other team for the time being. Some players prefer to first play the joker, and then play the dragon upon a card played by another player, because then the trick donates scores zero points.
FAQ:The points scored by the cards is always the same
Wishing for a card
If a player plays the "Mah-Jongg" (the "1"), he / she may wish for a card value from Deuce ro Ace that must be played by the next player who can legally do so.
It is not possible to wish for the dragon or the phoenix. The next player is forced to play such a card if he can play the same type of combination that
contains such a card. Only a player who does not have a card of the value wished or cannot play it legally is allowed to play something else or to pass.
The wish will then remain until it was either fulfilled, or this round comes to an end (= all players except one are out of cards).
"Bombs" allow a trick that may be of interest: "Bombs" can be played even if they do not fulfil a wish! Lets say you hold a long straight like 3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-J, it includes the only Seven you have and that dude to your left wishes for exactly that Seven. Normally this would be pretty annoying because it leaves you with a bunch of low cards that could now be played as single cards only. But if you hold a low "bomb" like (2,2,2,2), it is legal to first play this and "blow up" the combination played (so to say), and play the straight as a whole afterwards. The wish to be fulfilled would remain, but the obligation to play a single card would not.
The last player who still has cards must give away all points he scored:
This rule is important when it comes to the question to whom a player should donate the trick he won by playing the dragon. The player may choose to which opponent (one who still has cards) he wants to donate this, giving up those points to this opponent for the time being. But if exactly that opponent comes last place, the points he scored are all lost to the player who finished first - if that was not the other opponent, the points are gained back this way.
It may make sense to finish last place intentionally if a player has a negative score; for example he could not win any tricks and holds the phoenix and a Five (-20 points in total). This negative score will then go to the opponents. On the other hand, if you cannot avoiud finishing last place but you partner came first, you would want to win as many tricks as possible with your remaining kings and ten's because those points stay within your team. If you keep those cards, those points go to your opponents.
Because of the rule that the player who finishes last must give up all points scored, winning tricks is not the only thing a player should take care of. It is equally important to see how "expensive" winning a trick would be, and what cards would remain afterwards. To triumphantly beat a Full House K-K-K-10-10 by playimg A-A-A-7-7 leads to nothing if that player comes last and loses the points he scored.
To finish as third place meants that this player will at least keep the points scored. It is possible to make up situations where a player with a negative total score could intentionally decide against being third place even if he could reach this; but that requires to know exactly how many points have been scored by winning tricks so far.
If a team mamages to finish as first and second place (a so-called "double victory"), this team scores 200 points regardless of any trick won. That means that to keep high cards to aim for this may be more important than winning a single trick. To finish as second may, too, be important to stop the opponents from getting such a "double victory".
First placeThe player who managed to get rid of all of his cards first will get the points made by the player who finished last.
Maybe you have read something like "whoever finishes first, will win", but in the personal opinion of the author, this is counterproductive nonsense. It is more important to see what is best for the team as a whole. At Tichu, the team whose members score more points together will have success, and not the team where one of the players comes first place most often. A player who plays egoistically and sees his/her partner only as "that dunce who shall help me coming first place" won't win very often.
There are two ways to call a "Tichu".
After the cards are exchanged with each of the others, a player may call a "small" Tichu as long as he / she has not yet played any cards. It is of no importance if the other players have played cards already or not - but once somebody else has finished, to call a Tichu is, of course, nonsensical.
To win Tichu togethewr with a "double victory" can be deceisive because the points add up. The "double victory" alone is worth 200 points. Together with a "small" Tichu being won, this add up to 300 points. Together with a "grand Tichu" being won, this even adds up to 400 points.
It is allowed that multiple players call Tichu at the same time. In this case, points are evaluated for each player separately. That eans if both players of a team would call and one of them finishes first, this would result in a positive score for one of them but in a negative score for the other. There are rare situations like that the partner of a player has called Tichu but is about to lose, his partner may call Tichu, too, to reduce the loss of points. Only the case of both players of the same team calling "grand tichu" is not permitted.
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