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Sports, Fun & More | Board Games | Tichu Cards - Fata Morgana

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One of the best Chinese board games is Tichu cards. Below you will find the rules of it...

Tichu Nanking (4 players)

The cards, with their four suits (Jade, Swords, Pagodas, Stars), each of 13 values, correspond to the western bridge pack. The Ace is the highest in each family, the 2 the lowest. The 10s rank between the 9 and the Jack, as in most British and most US games (not between the King and the Ace as in the American Pinochle and many continental European games). Four extra cards bring the pack up to 56 cards: the Dragon, the Phoenix, the Hound and the Hemp-Sparrow (or Mah Jong).
The two partners in the two Tichu-teams sit opposite one another and try to help each other obtain points and opportunities to lead.
Before the game starts the winner of the previous round shuffles the pack, allows it to be cut and places it in the middle of the table. The Chinese do not deal cards they take them. The dealer himself takes the top card. Now all in turn take one card at a time until the stock is exhausted and everyone holds a fan of 14 cards in his hand.
Now comes the pushing. Everyone gives everyone else one card from his hand, face down, thus giving away three bad cards and getting three unknown cards in their place. Obviously a player can only pick up the new cards when he has made his own three discards.

The game is begun by the holder of the Mah Jong. The player on lead may lay any of the following combinations on the table:

a single card, for example a 4
a pair of cards of equal rank, for example 8,8
a sequence of pairs of adjacent value, for example J,J,Q,Q,K,K (the example is a sequence of three pairs. Other numbers of pairs are also allowable. Translator)
a trio of cards of equal rank, for example 2,2,2
a full house (trio + pair), for example 5,5,5,9,9
a sequence of length at least 5, for example 4,5,6,7,8,9

The next player (to the right - the Chinese play to the right, like the Swiss and the Hopi) now has the choice of
- passing or
- playing a similar combination of higher value
A single card can thus only be beaten by a single card of higher value, a sequence of two pairs only by a sequence of two higher pairs, a sequence of eight cards only by a higher sequence of exactly eight cards, a full house only by a higher full house (in full houses the value of the trio is what counts). Exception: Bombs (see below)

Play continues to the right. As soon as 3 players in serie pass, the player who played the last (highest) combination gathers in the trick and leads a new one. If this happy player has no cards left, the right to lead passes to his right-hand neighbour (passing further to the right if the latter has also got no cards left).

Among the special cards

the Mah Jong comes first, an interesting card of mixed reputation, with the properties that:
- its owner opens the game but need not lead the Mah Jong.
- the Mah Jong ranks as a 1 and is therefore the lowest card in the pack. As a one, it can be included in suitable sequences (e.g. 1,2,3,4,5).
- whoever plays the Mah Jong has a free wish, that is, he is allowed to wish for a certain rank (for example an 8 or an Ace, but not a special card). The next player who has a card of the desired rank and can lawfully play it must play it (possibly in a bomb!). Someone who does not hold or cannot play a card of the desired value can play any lawfull card or pass. The wish remains in force until someone fulfils it.

The faithful Hound has no trick-taking power at all. It can only be played by leading it as a single card and it transfers the right to lead to partner. (If partner has already gone out, it passes to his right).

The ever-changing Phoenix is the most powerful card in Tichu. However it counts minus 25 points. It can
- be built into any combination as a wonderful Joker replacing any normal card between 2 and Ace. (but cannot make up a bomb)
- played as a single card. It's value is half a rank higher than the card it's played on. (If an eight is on the top the Phoenix counts as 8.5 and can be beaten by a nine or higher.) The Phoenix can beat an Ace but not the Dragon. If led, the Phoenix is count as 1.5.

The Dragon is the highest individual card and counts 25 points. It beats - when individual cards have been played - even an Ace or “Ace and a half“ (the Phoenix over an Ace) and can itself only be beaten by a bomb. However: it cannot take part in a sequence.
The noble Dragon gives the trick away if it wins (including its own 25 points) to an opponent of its holder’s choice.

Bombs are
- sequences of at least five consecutive cards in the same suit or
- all four cards in the same rank
Bombs can be played at any moment (e.g. out of turn) to take a trick. They beat anything, be it a single card or a combination. The higher bombs beat the lower. (The rank of bombs is determined (1) by the number of cards and (2) by the rank of the cards.) A player can even lead a bomb if leading a new trick.

The round ends
immediatly if only one player has cards left in his hand.
Then the tailender (the last player with any cards) hands over his remaining cards to his opponents, his own tricks to the winner (the player who first got rid of his cards).

Now count
+ 10 for each King and each ten
+ 5 for each five
+ 25 for the Dragon and
- 25 for the Phoenix
There are thus 100 points in the hole pack, which are divided between the two sides.

If however the two players on one side achieve a double victory (going out firtst and second) the counting is skipped and they score 200 points.

Oh yes - Tichu
is a sort of doubling. Each player has the right, until he plays his first card, to announce "small tichu". If he then wins the round (being the first out of cards) his team gets 100 extra points, otherwise they lose 100 points.
Note that a tichu is an individual undertaking. It can neither be arrranged beforehand with the partner nor does the partner’s victory help. The tichant (don’t you like the word? How about tichurent?) must haul his own chestnuts from the fire. The 100 points for tichu are scored independently of, and in addition to, the normal scoring of the game.
A "tichu" can also be announced long before the player plays his first card. A call before the cards are pushed can be useful as a request for partner to hand over his best card.

Where the small tichu is romping around, there must be a grand tichu somewhere. An especially brave or desperate player may, before taking his ninth card, announce grand tichu, worth 200 extra points.

The actuel object of the game
is to score 1000 points. If both teams get there in the same round, then whoever have most points win.

For hints on tactics it would be best to ask a Chinese bus driver. In case such a person should prove unobtainable, we will gladly pass on a few tips from our wretched experience, although when placed beside the wisdom of our chinese tutor this must look like a dusty dog-biscuit beside the highest culinary delights of Nanking (for example the inevitable Sea Cucumber Soup).

Good tichu players
- first try to get rid of their rotten cards (low singletons and pairs) and are sparing with their Aces, Dragons and bombs. Someone who is left, after a dazzling piece of power play, with a singleton four is either the poor victim of a bomb or has not yet fully grasped the game.
- unreservedly support their partner’s “tichu“. When playing the Mah Jong, they do not demand any card which might break up their partner’s bomb, even less often do they take his trick (this is certainly lawful, but it is considered unrefined - unless very low ranks are involved)
- try to bring down an opponent’s “tichu" by consistend play against the tichor (tichufant?), the player before him making him take his tricks very dearly
- keep an eye on the score. If the score is 630:970, for example, a grand tichu is begging to be played

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