Review – Tichu
A partnership, trick-taking game.
Year Published: 2014
Designer: Urs Hostettler
Publisher: Rio Grande Games
Game Time: ~60 Mins
Set-up Time: >1 Mins
Mechanic: Hand Management, Partnerships, Trick-Taking
How to win: Score the most points as a team.
Tichu is a partnership climbing card game, and the object of play is to rid yourself of your hand, preferably while scoring points in the process.
There are several variations of this game so I’m just going to cover the 4 player only game I know which is called “Tichu Nanking”.
Shuffle all the cards and deal all the cards (14) to each player. The player sitting opposite you will be your partner.
Each player looks at their hand passes 3 cards, one to each player by placing a card in front of them. Once all players have 3 cards in front of them, players may pick them up and look at them.
The player with The Mah Jong card will play first. (You don’t have to play the Mah Jong, just reveal it)
There are also special cards which I will explain in more detail later.
To play, you can choose one of 6 type of hands…
A run of 3 Pairs
A Full House
A Run of at least 5 cards
Then in order around the table, you need to play the same combination of cards with a higher value, or pass. If you pass, you can come back in to play on your turn.
When 3 players pass, the player who played last, and therefore has the highest value on the table takes all the cards face down in front of them and starts the next round.
If you run out of cards in your hand, you sit out the rest of the round. When 3 players run out of cards in hand the round ends. The final player left in the round gives any cards in hand to the opposing team and any tricks they have won to the player who went out first.
Each team counts each of the scoring cards in their score piles.
If both players on the same team go out first, they get 200 points and there is no other scoring for the round. Otherwise…
Kings & Tens – 10 points
Fives – 5 Points
Dragon – 25 Points
Phoenix – -25 Points
You play to a point total, usually around 1000. First team there wins.
So what do those other special cards do?
The Dog card has no value and can be only used to lead a trick, passing play across to your partner.
The Phoenix can be used as a Joker in any card combination, or as a single card 1/2 higher than the previous card. So if it’s played on a 6, it’s technically 6.5.
The Dragon cannot be beaten as a single card and cannot be used in a run, but you have to give the trick to one opposing player if you win.
There are Bombs, which are a straight flush of 5 cards or 4 of a kind (You can not use the Phoenix in a Bomb) which you can play at any time (even out of turn) to win a trick. A bomb can only be beaten by a higher value bomb.
One of those classic games you need to study to play well, a pro will destroy you. I’m no Bridge aficionado but I bet some of the skills are interchangeable… it’s that level of game.
But, played casually it’s great fun.
A good game to play with casual players, but I can imagine an amateur would annoy a Pro 🙂
I give it 6/10