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Subject: Token Mü rss

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Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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This variant was devised by Steve Root, a former co-worker of mine. Steve is an excellent Bridge player, and was intrigued by Mü, but bothered by the fact that so little information was exchanged during the bidding, making critical elements such as choice of partners or undertrump far too luck dependent. This variant - played many times, and very successfully - was devised to deal with this issue.

The remainder of this text was written by Steve; I've cleaned it up a bit to post, and have added a few notes in italics.

=====

There can be hands (in the absence of Joe [I am a notorious overbidder, whether in Bridge or Mü]) where the bidding dies are a very low level. I saw player 1, open the bidding by playing a 7. Player 2, holding four 7's, never had the bidding space to raise.

Let's fix this!

Each player gets 3 tokens, be they coins or poker chips. [For those with a Doris & Frank copy of the game, the cubes which come with the game work very well.]

A card played with a token on it, doesn't count for the bidding. (Although a tokened play DOES count toward keeping the bidding open!)

So, for instance, the first bid may contain 0-3 tokened cards! And, the first bid, may contain no non-tokened cards!

A later bid can be made, by removing token(s) from card(s). Each token can be only employed once per hand.

BIDDING:

The first/second round of bidding is suits, and raises. Controls can come later. We can now also play the highest card(s) in our proposed trump suits !!

Openers:

one of a color is a four-card-suit
two of a color is a five-card-suit
three of a color is a six-card-suit

one of a (1,7) is a four-card-suit
two of a (1,7) is a five-card-suit
three of a (1,7) is a six-card-suit

one of a (0..6) is a three-card-suit
two of a (0..6) is a four-card-suit
three of a (0..6) is a five-card-suit

(Shorter 1,7's can be bid on the next round.)

Raises:

(Again, please play the highest one(s)! Chief would like to reach you at trick one, so you could either continue trump, or return a singleton.)

one of a color is a three-card-raise
two of a color is a four-card-raise
three of a color is a five-card-raise

one of a (1,7) is a three-card-raise
two of a (1,7) is a four-card-raise
three of a (1,7) is a five-card-raise

one of a (0..6) is a one-card-raise
two of a (0..6) is a two-card-raise

You'd like to get to an eight-card fit with color, a seven card fit with (1,7), and a five-card fit with (0..6). Sometimes, you have to make do with less. Shorter raises, especially with good high cards, can be shown on a subsequent round.

Ambiguity:

So, say someone opens with a black 7, does he have black or 7's? (With a five-card suit, the second card would have clarified this.)

Someone can then clarify, on the next round, by adding another card (which doesn't show additional length, as that would happen on the first round).

One can avoid ambiguity in choosing, say which 7 to open. If someone has already bit a suit; the 7 of someone's suit would be construed as a raise. So, play a different 7.

If no one has bid, doen't play the seven of a suit, with which you might be interested in raising, should someone else open it.

Also, a seven of some suit in which you might be planning to bid a control, should be avoided.

Controls:

Both on offense and defense, show your 9's and 8's!! In the long run, this info will help you.

If vice picks as undertrump a chief suit with too many 9's, 8's, 7's,(to reduce those tricks to undertrump), chief can in some number of cases, counter with no-trump.

Purpose:

Don't dilute your message with random plays, because...

Void-showing:

It's clearly in the interest of defenders, and raisers, to show voids! It's more dangerous for chiefs to show voids, as it helps vice to pick under.

If trump is expected to be a number, a stray play in a suit shows a void in the next-higher suit red => yellow => green => blue => black => red. Most of the time you will be able to find a card to do this.

If trump is expected to be a suit, the intent is the same, but, the trump suit is eliminated from the plays. So if green is trump, it goes red => yellow => blue => black => red.

It's especially valuable if raiser is to the left of chief. Chief gives partner a ruff. A trump return gives chief a free finesse. Then another ruff. (Consider how high a trump is prudent on the second ruff.) Then another trump finesse.

On defense, a void bid, may help vice pick under. Total length of under may now be less valuable than under with a quick entry.

[As a pratical matter, we never made much use of Steve's void-showing structure, but I include it for those who might. And we never quite managed to avoid random bids...]
 
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Lacombe
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Hmm. The charm of Mu, to me, is that it keeps the information-sharing-through-bidding element of Bridge while eliminating the rigidity and certainty of Bridge's bidding conventions. soblue

I'm not particularly fond of the "conventions" (named "bidding") section of this variant, but I do see the appeal of the tokens. Still, the game does have built in incentives to laying down more cards to share more information, as the higher bids (required to lay down more cards for information purposes) bring you more points.

My experience with Mu is that players are loathe to reveal the strength of their hand through bidding because the incentives to bidding more aren't powerful enough, given the point requirements of higher bids. If anything, I think a possible fix might be to shift the scale of points required to take a bid "to the right," making each bid easier.

Even a 1-card bid is hard to make if you don't pick the right partner, but it's almost impossible to since you've only got at most 1 card's worth of information. If the lower bids were easier to make, players would have more incentives to go for the higher "returns" attached to higher bids, which would necessarily lead to more information-sharing. I'm not sure conventions are needed.

I mean, after a certain point of adding more and more elements of Bridge, you might as well just be playing Bridge.

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Mark McEvoy
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NateStraight wrote:
Hmm. The charm of Mu, to me, is that it keeps the information-sharing-through-bidding element of Bridge while eliminating the rigidity and certainty of Bridge's bidding conventions. soblue


I'm with you 100% here. I like the information sharing, I hate the rigidity, but I feel there's a flaw in the Mu system that this at least partially addresses (though its solution carries some undsirable side-effects with it - like rigidity and convention).

NateStraight wrote:
Still, the game does have built in incentives to laying down more cards to share more information, as the higher bids (required to lay down more cards for information purposes) bring you more points.


IMHO, the *problem* is that there's no incentive for the VICE to bid up. The Chief bids as much as he/she feels comfortable with, with escalated reward for escalated risk, but unless the Vice is making a real run an Chiefship him/herself, the Vice has no incentive to increase his/her bid (and, in so doing, give the other players the bidding space to show the chief who would make a good partner). IMHO, that's where the game bogs down - when the people who want to be Chief's partner can't bid because bidding would put them past the current-Vice's bid and put them opposite the chief. So the chief is stuck making an effectively-random partner choice.
 
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Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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NateStraight wrote:
Hmm. The charm of Mu, to me, is that it keeps the information-sharing-through-bidding element of Bridge while eliminating the rigidity and certainty of Bridge's bidding conventions. soblue


To each their own; for me, the charm is that it's a partnership trick taking game that's at it's best with five.

Quote:
I'm not particularly fond of the "conventions" (named "bidding") section of this variant, but I do see the appeal of the tokens. Still, the game does have built in incentives to laying down more cards to share more information, as the higher bids (required to lay down more cards for information purposes) bring you more points.


But - that's an incentive for the chief to put down more cards, not for the other players to do so. This helps the chief to find the right partner - and the vice to find the right undertrump.

Quote:
Even a 1-card bid is hard to make if you don't pick the right partner, but it's almost impossible to since you've only got at most 1 card's worth of information.


Actually, a 1-card bid as chief has _0_ cards worth of information, which for me isn't interesting - it's a shot in the dark.

Quote:
If the lower bids were easier to make, players would have more incentives to go for the higher "returns" attached to higher bids, which would necessarily lead to more information-sharing. I'm not sure conventions are needed.


My experience - across many groups - is that bidding never gets high enough to show much data.

FWIW, people never followed the bidding conventions very closely in my group, but the tokens did make mid-level contracts - and contracts that are just on the hairy edge of making, and therefore very interesting to play - far more common.

Quote:
I mean, after a certain point of adding more and more elements of Bridge, you might as well just be playing Bridge.


But these _aren't_ elements of Bridge; the bidding and play are nothing like Bridge even with Tokens; the only way in which it becomes more similar to Bridge is that the bidding is more detailed. But the flexible partnerships, color/number options, and 2-on-3 nature of Mue keeps them from ever feeling similar.

In any event, I posted this because (1) it's a variant that we've played and enjoyed dozens of times, and (2) I thought others might be interested. I'm not recommending it as superior - simply different and interesting.
 
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