Joined: 30 Nov 2014
|Posted: 28.07.2019 22:14 Post subject: Tichu rules (English version)
This is the English version of my posting about the Tichu rules. Note that I am not an English native speaker, so please excuse any mistakes.
Tichu is a game of cards with usually four players involved, who play two against two in teams. There may be other variants of the game, but the four player variant is the only one offered on Gravon.
The two players sitting opposite of each other are team members; and together, you and your partner try to be the first team to gain 1,000 points or more. It is possible yet rare that both teams reach this simultaneously, for example with a final score of 1060 to 1040; in this case, the team with the highert score wins.
In theory, a draw is possible by - for example - having a score of 920 to 980 and then winning 80 to 20 in the final round; but this happens very rarely in practice.
Tichu has the "normal" cards from deuce to ace, yet in a chinese-like style rather than the usual suits - instead of clubs, spades, hearts and diamonds you have swords (black), stars (red), jade (green) and pagoda (blue). Additionally, there are four special cards: the dragon (the highest card in the game), the phoenix (which acts as a joker), the dog and the so-called "mahjong" (the yellow card with the "1"). On the internet, you can find that "mahjong" is basically chinese for "sparrow".
At the beginning of the game, every player holds 14 cards.
Before the round starts, each player deals one card to his partner and one to each of the opponents. Usually, you would give an useful card to your partner, and something low to your opponents. Cards can be played only if either you have the lead, or you play something higher than what was played last. The result of this rule is that a player can easily get stuck with a low card he can't get rid of, while high cards are easy to play.
To get an idea about how "strong" a card is, here comes a personal opinion of myself, giving every card a score of 0 - 100 points: the dragon = 99, the joker (phoenix) = 95, Ace = 92, King = 80, Queen = 65, Jack = 33, Ten = 15, Nine = 3, Eight and lower = 0 points. A Nine or a Ten may seem like a quite high card, but in practice they rarely win a trick.
The player who got the "1" will have the lead in the first round. He / She may play this card immediately, or keep it for later. If played, this player may "wish" for a specific card from deuce to ace which must then be played by the next player who can.
If it's your turn, you may play one of several types of combinations which are quite similar to Poker:
- a single card
- a pair (two cards of equal value, such as two Seven's)
- Three of a kind (such as three jacks)
- a sequence of successive pairs, such as 6-6-5-5 or Q-Q-J-J-10-10
- a straight: 5 or more (!) cards of any suit and successive value, such as 8-9-10-J-Q or 2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-J-Q-K. Note than in Tichu, other than in Poker, a straight can have more than five cards.
- a Full House
The game then continues counterclockwise.
Every player whose turn it is can either decide to play cards, or to skip. If playing cards, they must be the same type of combination as played first, but higher. If, for example, a pair was played, only playing a higher pair is possible. In difference to Poker, "Three of a kind" is not(!) higher than a pair here.
If it is a straight, there are a few things to know:
- only a higher straight of the same length can be played. This means that if someone plays 3-4-5-6-7-8, I would be allowed to play 5-6-7-8-9-10 but not 5-6-7-8-9-10-J.
- The "1" may be part of a straight (as the lowest card), but the dragon (even if it counts as "Ace + 1") cannot. The dragon can be played as a single card only.
- In Poker, an ace can replace a "1", so that Ace-2-3-4-5 would be a valid straight. In Tichu, aces are always the next higher card above a king.
If it is a Full House, the pair means nothing. A "Full House" like 4-4-4-K-K is pretty low, it is just slightly stronger than three Four's and would likely waste the kings.
The dragon is the highest card (Ace + 1), but may be played as a single card only.
The joker, if played as a single card, is 1/2 higher than what was played last; up to a highest possible value of "Ace and a half". The joker cannot beat the dragon. If played on an ace, the joker counts as "Ace plus a half". If played on only a Six, the joker will be higher than a Six but lower than a Seven. Note that the joker has a varying value, it is NOT (!) always higher than an ace!
If played as a first single card, the joker counts as a "1 1/2", which means it is higher than the Mahjong (the "1") but lower than a deuce.
The dog can be played only if this player has the lead. Playing the dog means that having the lead is passed to his partner. If the partner has no cards left, it will be the next player whose turn it is and who still has cards; it can even be again the player's turn who played the dog.
Additionally to the combinations mentioned abovem there are so-called "bombs". They equal a "quads" (four cards of equal value, such as four Nine's) or a "straight flush" (a straight with all cards having the same suit) in Poker. A "bomb" is higher than everything else except for a higher "bomb", may be played on every other combination - and may even be played when it is not that player's turn.
A "bomb" is higher than another "bomb" if it consists of more cards (2-3-4-5-6 will beat four Ace's, and 2-3-4-5-6-7 is higher than 10-J-K-Q-A), or if it has the same number of cards but a higher card as its highest (which means four queens are higher than four Eight's, and 4-5-6-7-8 is higher than 3-4-5-6-7). The highest combination possible would be to have all thirteen cards of one suit, from deuce to ace.
The Phoenix acts as a joker, and may be contained in every combination - except for "bombs". For example, to play 8-8-8-Phoenix is against the rules; and something like 4 (green) - 5 (green) - 6 (green) - Phoenix - 8 (green) is possible but counts as a regular straight (as if the joker was the blue "7").
Before a trick is won, every player may have played cards multiple times. For example:
I play a pair of (5,5), my opponent plays (6,6), I again outbid him with (8,8), he outbids me again by playing (10,10), I again outbid him with two queens, he again plays two kings and I finally end this by playing two aces.
On the other hand, a player may decide to skip (I intentionally did not write "pass"). That means that he could still play cards later during the same(!) trick. Here's an example:
Let's say I have a pair of Kings. One of my opponents comes up with (3,3). I think "Nah, that's too low. I don't want to waste my cards, I'll wait for something higher", and decide to skip. My partner outbids this with (7,7), the other opponent again outbids this with (9,9). I keep skipping again. Finally, one of the opponents plays two queens - and now I decide to outbid him with my kings.
Once all other players have skipped / passed, the player who played the highest cards wins the trick. If this player did not finish already by getting rid of all of his cards, he will have the lead for the next trick.
* Every king scores 10 points.
* Every "Ten" scores 10 points, too
* Every "Five" scores 5 points.
* The dragon scores 25 points, but a trick won with this card must be donated to one of the opponents.
* the Phoenix (Joker), as a balance for its flexibility, has a negative score of -25 points.
All other cards do not score any points.
The dragon is a generous being. If this card wins a trick, ALL cards involved must be donated to one of the opponents, Tht means that if a Ten and a King have been played before, this would be 45 points that go to the opponents for the time being.
Some questions I got asked:
- The dragon will always have a value of 25 points, no matter if it was played as the first or as the last card.
- The value of the joker will always be -25, no matter what sort of card it may have replaced.
If the player who has the lead plays the Mahjong (the "1"), he may "wish" for a card from deuce to ace (but does not have to make a wish). This wish forces the player next to play to play such a card if he can legally do so. Only if he/she does either not have such a card or cannot play the given combination, it is allowed to skip. A wish will then continue to exist until fulfilled (or until the round ends).
The Mahjong can be played only either as a single card, or as the lowest card in a straight. A pair is not possible because not even the Phoenix (joker) can replace a second "1".
A few examples:
a) Player 1 plays Mahjong-2-3-4-5-6 and wishes for a queen. Player 2 has a single queen, but cannot play a six-card-straight that would contain the queen. In this case, Player 2 cannot fulfill the wish, and is allowed to skip or - if he wants to - to play a straight like 2-3-4-5-6-7.
b) Player 1 plays Mahjong-2-3-4-5-6 and wishes for a queen. Player 2 has 4-5-6-7-8-9 but also four queens. In this case, playing the four queens would be a legal option that fulfills the wish, and therefore playing this is enforced. Playing the lower straight instead would be illegal since it does not fulfil the wish.
c) Player 1 plays the Mahjong as a single card and wishes for a Five. Player 2 does not have a Five, but wants to play the Phoenix instead. In this case: The joker "is" never the card it shall replace, the joker is the joker. To play it would be possible, but the wish would remain unfulfilled.
d) Player 1 plays the Mahjong as a single card and wishes for a "5". Player 2 does not have a "5", and decides to play a "7". Player 3 has two Five's. In this case, the Seven that is already played makes it impossible for him to fulfil the wish. So, Player 3 may skip, play a even higher card or - if he thinks he should really do so - waste a "bomb" for this.
e) Player 1 plays the Mahjong as a single card and wishes for a "5". Player 2 does not have a "5", and decides to play a "7". Player 3 has a quad of Five's. This case is similar to b); to play (5,5,5,5) is a legal option that fulfils the wish, and is therefore enforced to be played.
The is one nasty trick about "bombs" in this context: A bomb can always be played, no matter if it fulfils the wish or not. So if, for example, I hold 3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-J and that guy to my left hand side wishes for a Seven, it would tear up my straight into several low cards I could then play as single cards only. But if I have (2,2,2,2), for example, I could first play this "bomb". This would grab the lead for me, allowing me to play any type of combination I want - and even if I still have to fulfil that wish, I could then play my straight as a whole.
To finish as last means that all points scored must be given away. The points of the tricks made by this player go to the player who finished first, which - in the better case - is his partner. The points of the cards he still holds on his hand go to the opponents in any case.
This is important for the case of winning a trick with the dragon. The player who won the trick must choose which opponent he wants to donate the trick to; but if exactly that opponent comes last, it is possible to get back those points via this way.
It can make sense to be last place intentionally if a player has a negative score, such as having won no tricks and holding a five and the phoenix as the only cards that score anything at all (resulting in -20 points). In this case, those negative points would be pushed over to the opponents.
If a team finishes as first and second place (a so-called "double victory"), this means that this team will get 200 points regardless of any scores made by winning tricks. The other team will score nothing. That means that keeping high cards to aim for this may be more important than to win a single trick.
Sometimes it is important to come second to stop the opponents from getting this done.
To finish third means that this player may at least keep the points scored.
Maybe you have read something like "whoever finishes first, will win", but in my personal opinion, 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 of doing so.
A player has 14 cards at the beginning of the round, but at first only eight of those are dealt. The player must then decide if he/she wants to call a "grand tichu". Doing so would mean to "bet" by 200 points that this player will finish first. In case of success, his/her team will gain 200 extra points; but in case of failure, this team will lose 200 points.
After exchanging cards, a "small tichu" may be announced as a bet of 100 points to come first place. This bet is possible as long as this player has not played any cards in this round; no matter if the others pile up cards on the table or not.
Of course it is nonsense to announce if somebody else has already finished - I never tried if that is even possible.
Note that "being first place" has to be taken literally. The player who called it must finish as first himself/herself. If it is that player's partner, the bet is lost.
FAQ: To call Tichu has no influence on who has the lead first, that will always be the player who got the "1".
If a team manages to come first and second place, and additionally has a successful Tichu, this can be deceisive since those points are added up. To come 1st / 2nd is already worth 200 points. Together with a "small" Tichu being won, this would be 300 points; together with a "grand Tichu" it would even add up to 400 points.
It is possible that more than one player announces Tichu. In this case, points are evaluated for each player separately. If both players of a team announce Tichu, it would be a negative score for one and a positive score for the other. In very rare cases, this may even make sense - for example, if my partner announced a Tichu but seems to be about to fail, I can announce this myself. If I win, my +100 points compensate for the -100 or even -200 points my partner scores.
The only exception here is that it is not allowed for both players of the same team to announce a "grand Tichu".
Hopefully, this has helped new or inexperienced Tichu players to get a first orientation and an easier access.
Ryuu (Gravon Moderator / assistant admin)
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