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Subject: My Family's Ruleset for Tiến Lên rss

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An
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Growing up in a Vietnamese household, tiến lên (translating to go up / go forward) is a staple for me, my sister, and my cousins. Naturally, as it is quite an old game, we heard many different variants and versions and many times house ruled a few things. After years, we finally developed a ruleset we quite like.

Goal
Get rid of all your cards first. The round ends when all but one person has gotten rid of all their cards.

Card Ranking
3 is lowest, proceeding up normally (4 5 6 ...) until 2, which is the highest. Spades is the lowest suit, and then clubs and diamonds with hearts being the highest. When there is more than one card in a set, only the highest card is used to compare ranking (a straight of 4 5 6 with a 6 of hearts beats a straight of 4 5 6 with clubs, regardless of the suits of the 4 or 5)

Possible Hands
- one card
- pair
- three of a kind
- straight (at least three cards of consecutive numbers besides 2, ignoring suits, ie 4 5 6 or 10 J Q K A)

These are some special hands (collectively known as "chops") that will be explained in more depth later.

- three consecutive pairs (ie 44 55 66)
- four consecutive pairs (ie 77 88 99 1010)
- four of a kind

Setup
Play with a standard 52 card deck. Deal out thirteen cards to each player (for three players, deal in the same manner and simply remove the extra cards from the game each round).

Standard Round
For the first round, the person with the three of spades starts, and must play a set including the three of spades. Otherwise, the person who won the previous round starts with whatever hand they wish. Play proceeds counterclockwise.

Players can only beat the hand with the same type of hand. For example, if the current hand is a pair of 6s, the player must play a higher pair. If the player doesn't want to beat the current hand, they can pass and are out of the play for that kind of hand. When everyone has passed on that specific set besides one person, that person may continue playing higher hands of that same type without any opposition (tiến lên), and then will start a new hand of either the same type or a different type.

When someone runs out of cards, the others may choose to beat the last hand they played or pass. If everyone passes, the player after the one who ran out of cards can play any hand they wish.

Some exceptions go with the "chops". These hands beat twos (but only twos). Specifically, the three consecutive pairs and the four of a kind beat a single two, while four consecutive pairs beats a single two and a pair of twos. You can beat someones chop with a higher chop (ie a 66 77 88 beats a 44 55 66), however, the chops are all mutually exclusive, so you cannot beat a four of a kind with three consecutive pairs or vice versa. However, these hands still obey the rules of tiến lên, so even if someone plays a two, you cannot beat it if it is tiến lên, unless it is the last card in their hand.

The person who got fourth place in the last round must shuffle and deal the next round.

Instant Wins
Someone can instantly win the round if they have one of the following types of hands:

- all four twos
- a complete straight including 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 J Q K A 2 (commonly known as a "dragon")
- 6 pairs
- 4 triples (though I've never actually seen this one)

If someone win instantly, they declare instant win and place down their hand, automatically winning the right to lead next round as the other players play normally.

Scoring
We don't usually score, just playing over and over, but when we do occasionally score we just play to a certain number of rounds (normally 20). First place gets 1 point, second place gets 2, and so one. The one with the lowest score wins.

House Rule
This is a rule we always play with after coming up with it one summer, but will probably be distasteful for some.

- If you chop someone else's two, the next round you can ask the person you chopped for any number card. (ie I want a 6.) If they have one, they must give you the highest suit of it they have, and you will give them any of your cards in exchange. If they don't have it, you can keep asking until you find a card they do have and then proceed to take it and give them a card you don't have.

Final Thoughts
Tiến lên is a classic game that I will always hold quite dear to my heart. It's quite simple and luck-based, but there's a good bit of decision-making of how to divide up your hand and whether to pass and let someone have control and whether you should break up one hand for another. Although it's hard to come back from a truly bad hand, inexperience can lose quite easily even with a good hand. (We will never stop taunting our relative for losing with three twos and three aces.) Even if you are stuck with a bad hand, the rounds are very quick. Our house rule adds another layer, as people are more wary with their twos in fear of a chop. This game is a great filler, and even just a way to spend an afternoon.

Feel free to ask me any questions/clarifications about the rules or about how we would play out possible scenarios!
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Nguyên Trường
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Thanks for review Tien Len. It's a good game that I played hundred times
Just a question: I never heard about you can instantly win the round if have 4 triples? Have you played in Vietnam?
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An
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StevenLong wrote:
Thanks for review Tien Len. It's a good game that I played hundred times
Just a question: I never heard about you can instantly win the round if have 4 triples? Have you played in Vietnam?


Thanks for the compliments! I have never personally played in Vietnam, but most of my aunts and uncles grew up in Vietnam playing Tien Len and said they had always heard the rule, though they said they had basically never seen someone win with four triples.
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RecursiveAcronym wrote:
StevenLong wrote:
Thanks for review Tien Len. It's a good game that I played hundred times
Just a question: I never heard about you can instantly win the round if have 4 triples? Have you played in Vietnam?


Thanks for the compliments! I have never personally played in Vietnam, but most of my aunts and uncles grew up in Vietnam playing Tien Len and said they had always heard the rule, though they said they had basically never seen someone win with four triples.

Awesome. In fact, there are so many minor variants here. So when moving to another city and play with indigenous people there, we have to define rules before playing
I use this scoring system: Like you said, first place gets 1 point, second place gets 2, third gets 3 and fourth get nothing. But keep playing to someone got a number of points (generally is 50), when who hightest points is winner!
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I played THOUSANDS of game of this in high school. It's odd how close we were, but my ruleset was slightly different. For one, the only "instawin" was a complete straight. The others were not (though, practically, in the hand of an experienced player, are).

Our variant was called killer, and there was no tien len, only the lead as a reward (which again, was practically the ability to lead another like).

We called 'em bombs, not chops, and they were only four of a kind or 3 consecutive pairs (and similarly, not valid leads). 4 consecutive pairs and two four of a kinds could beat pairs of twos. 5 consecutive pairs and three four of a kinds could beat triplet 2s.

The possible hands and the suit rankings were the same.

We also had silly nicknames- triplet Jacks were called ninjas, triplet threes baby jesus.

If you wanna see tien len the board game, I recommend trying out Dash! A whimsical race through Singapore, as it turns the climbing game genre into a racing game.
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