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Subject: First impressions and comparisons from a Haggis player rss

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Gustavo
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Background: getting over the partnership-game trauma

I've been playing Haggis for a few months now, and it quickly became the favorite 2-3 player game in our house. The elegance of the design and the strategic depth really caught us, and it was awesome to finally find a good card game that didn't involve partnerships.

My trauma with partnerships comes from playing traditional card games with my family and friends. There was always somebody who wouldn't get the game and ruin the whole experience to his partner and to everyone else. Or usually somebody would end up talking more than they should and giving away important information that should be kept secret. Haggis doesn't have any of that: everybody against everybody, the more secrets the better, best player usually wins.

This weekend me and my girlfriend were dying to play Haggis again, but a couple invited us to play games at their place. I thought this would finally be a good time to try Tichu. After all, if this was one of the inspirations for Haggis it must be some good right?

Comparing Tichu with Haggis

Accessibility, rules, and frequency of bombs and sets

So we sat down and I, who never played Tichu, had the task of teaching it to a couple who never played climbing games before. In short, it worked, but only because:

- I had familiarity with Haggis, but probably any other climbing game would do;
- I printed the player aids found on BGG (no way trying without them!);
- They are fairly good card players, play Poker quite often, etc.

I should probably say that, if you and your group doesn't meet any of the criteria above, you should start somewhere else. Comparing with Haggis, the rules in Tichu are far less interconnected and more confusing. Haggis seems to be more "rational" in this sense: the point cards are also the bombs, the bombs give the cards away (thus giving points away - an excellent balance mechanism), and the probability of being able to counter a 7 or 8 card sequence is much bigger due to the availability of 3 wild cards. Also, these special cards are visible to everybody, so you feel more in control of the game, and less likely to be destroyed by an incredibly good hand.

On the other hand, I can only see the decision of having 5, 10, and K as scoring cards in Tichu as being arbitrary (or maybe an arbitrary resemblance to Zhen Fen). The special cards give a chaotic feel to the gameplay, especially until you get used to them and start to develop strategies around them. Sequences of 7 or 8 cards were very common, but what makes them more devastating is that there is only one single wild in the whole deck (the Phoenix), so it is incredibly hard to beat a big sequence. Bombs were also much more difficult to get than in Haggis, and felt much more valuable than in the latter.

Another interesting feature of Tichu seemed to be the emphasis on singles. 2 out of the 4 special cards can only be used as singles (the Dragon and the Dog), while the Mahjong is arguably a better card if used as such. Yes, there are rounds of singles in Haggis, but they seem to be much more to get rid of the thrash on your hand. In Tichu they seemed to be frequently determining in who wins the hand, and they are usually quite different than rounds of other combinations due to the special powers of the cards involved.

Betting, other major score boosters, and partnership

Betting seems to play a much more significant role in Tichu than in Haggis, probably because in the former there are only 100 total points in the deck (out of 1000 points to trigger the end of the game) while in 3-player Haggis you can score up to 135 points out of 350 (50 for all the point cards + 70 if you go out and somebody has all 14 cards + 3 wilds) - a pretty unlikely but possible scenario. Calling Small Tichu at least doubles your score! Grand Tichu is a completely different animal and cannot be fairly compared to Haggis. It seems to be a very risky move, one that seems to greatly reward the most experienced players.

But probably the major source of points in Tichu is when the two partners go out first and second (is there a short name for this?), which gives them 200 points flat, nobody scoring for the captured cards. This felt to me as being the core of the game's mechanics. It is essentially as if every hand is on a semi-Grand Tichu mode, in which you or your opponents may end 200 points ahead! This simple feature changes partnership from a necessary evil to the heart and soul of the game. It rewards interaction between partners, and motivates adequate timing of when to go out and when to wait and help your partner to do so. This adds a whole new dimension to the game that Haggis obviously doesn't have (nor is it intended to).

Conclusion: pros and cons comparing to Haggis

Tichu:

- Felt heavier and deeper than Haggis;
- Rules seem more arbitrary and not as elegantly connected, although they make for an interesting gameplay;
- Having to deal with a partner adds a whole level of complexity and unpredictability to the game, which can be mitigated with experience;
- A good hand seems to be more determining in the outcome of the round, and there seems to be harder to balance gameplay when you have good X bad hands at the table;
- Bombs seem to be considerably rarer, and thus more valuable;
- Control relies more on card counting. In Haggis not all the cards will be in play all the time, so the open information of the wilds helps controlling the game;
- Table-talk can be a bigger issue in Tichu because of partnership;
- Betting is more essential in Tichu, arguably making a more risk-taking game than Haggis;
- Playing time seems to be longer in Tichu, although I'm sure more experienced players bet much more, thus reducing playing time.

I left my first play of Tichu feeling that Haggis was a better game for me, because it feels more rational, more controlled, and more concise overall. But after thinking on all the interesting events that happened during the game, on all the moments that kept me on my toes, and on how the interaction and understanding between me and my partner evolved during a single match, I believe that Tichu can perhaps be a deeper experience over time. Right now I feel both games are different sides of a same coin, and I will always be looking forward to play any of them with the right group of people.

------------

Edit: so many fixes could be done to my English that I would end up coming back and editing this dozens of times, so I think it will stay as it is. Please apologize me for my writing.
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Cory Ledoux
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Nice review.

Both great games. Tichu's an all time favorite for me, and Haggis is one of the better three player games I've played (works well for two as well, but there are of course a lot of great two player games).
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Huzonfirst
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While Tichu is undoubtedly a great game, I agree with you that many of the rules are disjointed and inelegant. Consequently, I've always felt that it's a difficult game to learn. Fans of the game have played it so long that it's many complexities seem like second nature, but to an outsider, all the exceptions and special rules are quite bewildering. It's interesting to see someone whose first exposure to climbing games is not Tichu come to a similar conclusion. Nicely done.
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Jeff Chunko
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gmsa84 wrote:
But probably the major source of points in Tichu is when the two partners go out first and second (is there a short name for this?), which gives them 200 points flat, nobody scoring for the captured cards. This felt to me as the core of the whole game mechanics.

I'm curious to know what other experience Tichu players think of this statement. For those I know it's false - the major source of points is calling Tichu. What percentage of your hands had a Tichu call? I'm pretty sure that we average more than one Tichu call _per hand_. (The rare hands where no one calls are made up for by the ones where two (or more!) people call.
 
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Clyde W
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Just to add a new twist to the conversation, I'm a big Tichu fan and like Haggis too but recently was reminded of how wonderful Mu was. This afternoon I played Nyet! and Was sticht? from Mü & Lots More and was blown away, especially by the latter, though both were fantastic. If you enjoy incredibly clever card games you must check these two games out.
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Curt Carpenter
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First reactions to Tichu aren't very meaningful. Tichu is not a game that everyone who tries will appreciate on their first play, or even first few. Even for people who love the game. The guy I've played Tichu with the most (about a thousand games, including online) didn't like the game until he had played for about a year. It slowly grew into a 10 for him, as it is for me.

The only inelegance I find is the out-of-turn calling of bombs, and the subjective measurement of time of when you can/can't bomb. As much as I used to love out-of-turn bombs, I now wish they could only be played in turn, to eliminate that one rough edge. Everything else fits together beautifully.

1-2s are not the major source of points in my experience, unless one team is spectacularly bad. For a rough number, I'd say each team gets 0-2 1-2s during the course of an average game, in like say 80% of the games I've played. Sure, you're always thinking about it, but it's one of may things you're thinking about.
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Andrew Foerster
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curtc wrote:
First reactions to Tichu aren't very meaningful. Tichu is not a game that everyone who tries will appreciate on their first play, or even first few. Even for people who love the game. The guy I've played Tichu with the most (about a thousand games, including online) didn't like the game until he had played for about a year. It slowly grew into a 10 for him, as it is for me.

The only inelegance I find is the out-of-turn calling of bombs, and the subjective measurement of time of when you can/can't bomb. As much as I used to love out-of-turn bombs, I now wish they could only be played in turn, to eliminate that one rough edge. Everything else fits together beautifully.

1-2s are not the major source of points in my experience, unless one team is spectacularly bad. For a rough number, I'd say each team gets 0-2 1-2s during the course of an average game, in like say 80% of the games I've played. Sure, you're always thinking about it, but it's one of may things you're thinking about.


Keep in mind that I'm hardly a seasoned Tichu player.

Indeed, though 1-2s are big points, they're pretty difficult to pull off. What I think is great about Tichu (and I haven't played all that much Haggis) is that going 1-2 is one element of several (gently conflicting) scoring methods.

Shooting for a 1-2 can be abetted by doubling down with a Tichu call, but can then be especially penalizing if you fail. However, going 1-2 often means you're more focused on dumping cards than trying to secure the valuable tricks, including playing the Phoenix in such a way as to "win" it. Failing the 1-2 may mean you won the battle (of going out first, if you didn't call Tichu) but lost the war (in not scoring).

Bombs are valuable and scoring bombs are really valuable.

I've found that long straights can be really powerful, as they'll have some scoring cards in them, typically be very difficult to beat, they dump a lot of cards, and they appear to be somewhat more common than other game-controlling combos like bombs (though bombs are an interrupt). The problem is you're very vulnerable to a mahjong call, which may split the streak and such hands require some means of getting and retaining the lead (as they're likely to have "random" low cards).

But, yeah, there's also a whole other element of the game in trying to stack that points on one partner and get that partner out, without necessarily caring about the fate of the other partner.
 
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Lang Bedang
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Jeff Chunko wrote:
gmsa84 wrote:
But probably the major source of points in Tichu is when the two partners go out first and second (is there a short name for this?), which gives them 200 points flat, nobody scoring for the captured cards. This felt to me as the core of the whole game mechanics.

I'm curious to know what other experience Tichu players think of this statement. For those I know it's false - the major source of points is calling Tichu. What percentage of your hands had a Tichu call? I'm pretty sure that we average more than one Tichu call _per hand_. (The rare hands where no one calls are made up for by the ones where two (or more!) people call.


I'm by no means an expert, but I have played a fair number of games and I do agree with the OP's statement.

It's very possible for a team to call Tichu but the opponents gain a fair number of points from the point cards which off-sets the Tichu benefit.

Of course, the 1-2 punch off a Grand Tichu call would yield the biggest (and undisputed) point gain.
 
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Clyde W
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curtc wrote:
First reactions to Tichu aren't very meaningful. Tichu is not a game that everyone who tries will appreciate on their first play, or even first few. Even for people who love the game. The guy I've played Tichu with the most (about a thousand games, including online) didn't like the game until he had played for about a year. It slowly grew into a 10 for him, as it is for me.

The only inelegance I find is the out-of-turn calling of bombs, and the subjective measurement of time of when you can/can't bomb. As much as I used to love out-of-turn bombs, I now wish they could only be played in turn, to eliminate that one rough edge. Everything else fits together beautifully.

1-2s are not the major source of points in my experience, unless one team is spectacularly bad. For a rough number, I'd say each team gets 0-2 1-2s during the course of an average game, in like say 80% of the games I've played. Sure, you're always thinking about it, but it's one of may things you're thinking about.
My intro to Tichu was via iPhone. I had no idea what I was doing for my first few games, just playing around with the app, and I lost horribly each time. But each time I played, I found the game to be slightly more addictive, until after a few games, I was beating the weak AI consistently and was totally addicted. So, I would say I liked the game right from the outset, and it was the first modern card game I had ever been exposed to. (Although, can Tichu really be considered a modern card game, given its roots?)
 
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Jeff Chunko
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Clearly Curt needs to run stats on the tichu logs to see where people get their points from.

Heck, I'd be interested to see if good players get a higher percentage of points from tichus than bad ones.
 
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Stefan Alexander
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curtc wrote:
First reactions to Tichu aren't very meaningful. Tichu is not a game that everyone who tries will appreciate on their first play, or even first few. Even for people who love the game. The guy I've played Tichu with the most (about a thousand games, including online) didn't like the game until he had played for about a year. It slowly grew into a 10 for him, as it is for me.

The only inelegance I find is the out-of-turn calling of bombs, and the subjective measurement of time of when you can/can't bomb. As much as I used to love out-of-turn bombs, I now wish they could only be played in turn, to eliminate that one rough edge. Everything else fits together beautifully.

1-2s are not the major source of points in my experience, unless one team is spectacularly bad. For a rough number, I'd say each team gets 0-2 1-2s during the course of an average game, in like say 80% of the games I've played. Sure, you're always thinking about it, but it's one of may things you're thinking about.


100% agree with everything Curt said, he's right on. It's weird - you'd think 1-2's would be more dominant, but they aren't. Maybe because each team is generally trying to have one person go out first (to make or break a Tichu), so each team has one "strong" partner and one "weak" one.

The fun of Tichu is the Tichu calls. Everything else is nice and fits in well, but nothing has EVER got my heart racing in a game like trying to make or break a Tichu.
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Clyde W
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Tichu » Forums » Reviews
Re: First impressions and comparisons from a Haggis player
I do agree.

It's also the most fun when your back's against the wall and you feel the need to call Grand Tichu even though your first eight cards are crap. Winning those GTs is pretty much the best thing in the game!
 
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