I’m sure many of you card fans out there have played the game President at one point. It is a game where you must follow the type of hand played by your opponent such as a single card, pair, three of a kind, etc. Well the Tichu game has some minor similarities to President. The play of the hand is similar, but it adds different kinds of hands you can play. Someone can lead straights and full houses to start a hand. On each person’s turn they must either beat the lead or pass. That is where the similarities to President end though!
In Tichu you are playing with a partner, so you must have four players to play the game. Also, in Tichu even if you pass earlier in the hand you can still play when your turn comes around to you. The types of hands that can be led are single cards, pairs, multiple pairs (for example 2-2 and 4-4 together), three of a kind, full houses, and straights. Any one playing after the lead is made must play the same type of hand but a higher value to have a chance to win the trick. The goal in this game is to go out first. There are points involved in the scoring but as you will see the bigger advantage is going out first.
The last player with cards remaining must give all his cards in his trick pile to the person that went out first (they might luck and and have this turn out to be their partner), and also give all the cards in their hand to the opponents. If the first two people to go out in the hand are partners, there is no scoring of the cards won in tricks. Instead they get 200 points and the opponents get nothing.
If that does not happen the cards are scored. Fives are worth 5 points, tens are worth 10 points and kings are worth 15 points, the dragon card is worth 25 points and the Phoenix card is a 25 point penalty. There are a couple other little tricks to scoring, but I’ll go over the special cards first.
The Mah-Jong is the one and is usually played first. If someone plays this card they can make a demand that anyone having a certain card must play it if they can play it legally on their turn, but they can not wish for any of the special cards. To explain this, say the mah-jong player wishes for an A, that means the player with the A can not pass when it is their turn they must play it. The dog card can only be played on a lead, and skips your opponent and transfers the play to your partner who may lead anything they wish. The Phoenix card is wild, it can be used as any card you wish in the deck to add to the cards you play. If you play it on it’s own it is worth 1/2 point above the card played before it. The dragon is the last special card and is the most powerful card, it can only be played as a single card though! The only card that can defeat a dragon is a bomb which will be explained below. The really unique thing is when the dragon wins the trick, the person that won the trick must then give the dragon card to one of his opponent’s scoring piles. Remember the dragon is worth 25 points, so make the choice wisely.
As I said the most powerful card in the deck are bombs. What are bombs you ask? They are either four of a kind, or a straight flush of at least 5 cards. These can be played at any time regardless of the lead. You can also play it immediately after your play before your opponent gets their turn. Before you ask…. no you can’t use a phoenix to form a bomb! Bombs are ranked first by size, if someone plays a four card bomb and you have one of the same number of cards it must have a higher card value. But, if someone plays a four card bomb and you have a five card bomb, your bomb would defeat theirs.
As you can see there are quite a few idiosyncrasies in the rules of this game. It will take a few hands of playing to get a feel for the game and I suggest you play a few practice hands before playing the game for real. Anyone that is familiar with partnership games will probably catch on to this quicker than others. Remember though the goal is to be the first one out of cards as that will always be an advantage to you!
This game can usually be found for less than $10, and if you enjoy partnership card games it is probably a good choice. The drawbacks to this game are the complicate rules that take a few hands to learn, and the fact that you must have exactly four players to play. Honestly, this is one that I would not rank highly in my collection of games because of these restrictions. My feeling on this one is since I got it as a gift I’ll play it occasionally, but I wouldn’t buy it on my own.