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Subject: The Best (so far) of the Trick-Taking Games rss

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Matt Posey
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This article gives a brief description of the game 42, provides a few basic definitions, explains the main rules of the game, and finishes with a quick review. It ended up being much longer than I intended.

Description:
42 is a trick-taking game that uses standard Double-6 dominoes instead of cards. The game requires four players in two-player teams, and each player receives 7 dominoes. Like most trick-taking games, each person plays a domino every round, meaning the hand lasts 7 rounds. After a hand is completed, the winning team receives a "mark", the dominoes are reshuffled, and play starts again with a new hand. The first person to win 7 hands (receive 7 marks) wins the game.

Definitions:
mark - a point received after winning a hand, usually 7 are required to win
shake - because dominoes cannot easily be shuffled like cards, the dominoes are instead placed face down (number side down) on the table and mixed by a designated player
shaker - the player designated to shake the dominoes
pull - after the shaker is finished mixing the dominoes, each person takes 7 dominoes from the table. Common etiquette says that the two players next to the shaker pull first, followed by the shaker's partner, and finally the shaker himself
led - a domino is led if it is the first domino played in a round

Explanation of Fundamental Rules:
These are the fundamental rules with examples. Most of these rules are universally true, but every group will have their own house rules.

Suits:
One of the common rules of trick-taking games requires players to follow the suit of the first card played. So if the first player leads with the 5 of Clubs, then all other players would be required to play a Club if they had one. If a player did not have a Club, the player could play whatever suit he wanted. Although initially confusing to new players, this same rule applies to 42. However, there is the twist that most dominoes have the ability to be two different suits.

When the first domino is played in a round, the higher number is the suit, and the lower number is the value. So the [6|3] domino would be "suit" 6 "value" 3, the [5|4] domino would be "suit" 5 "value" 4, and the [2|0] domino would be "suit" 2 "value" 0 if these dominoes were led. If the [5|4] was led, then every other player would be required to play another domino with the 5 suit. These dominoes are the [5|0], [5|1], [5|2], [5|3], [5|4] (which was just played), [5|5], and [5|6]. As you can see, even though the 6 is the higher number on the [5|6], it is of the 5 suit because a 5 was led.

Another example: if the [2|0] was led, the [2|1], [2|2], [2|3], [2|4], [2|5], and [2|6] would be of the 2 suit because 2 was the suit that was led. As stated previously, this rule causes each domino to have two possible suits. If the 2 suit is led, then the [2|5] is of the 2 suit, but if the 5 suit is led, then the [2|5] is of the 5 suit. The only dominoes that do not have this two suit ability are doubles, and each double is the highest domino in their suit. The [6|6] is the highest 6, the [5|5] is the highest 5, [4|4] the highest 4, etc. The remaining dominoes increase in value from 0 to 6 with 0 being the lowest and 6 being the highest.

Points & Bidding:

Similar to other trick-taking games, 42 involves bidding. The player to the left of the shaker bids first, and bids go around the table with the shaker going last. The minimum bid is 30 and the maximum bid is 42. All bids must be higher than the previous bid. If a player believes he cannot bid higher than the previous bid he must pass. If all other players pass, the shaker MUST bid. This is the only case where a player must bid. Every other case allows the player to pass. Winning a round rewards a team with 1 point, meaning 7 points are possible from winning all 7 rounds. The remaining 35 of the possible 42 points are earned when certain dominoes are taken in a round.

The three dominoes that have a total number of dots equal to 5 -- the [4|1], [3|2], and [5|0] -- each equal 5 points. The two dominoes that have a total number of dots equal to 10 -- the [6|4] and [5|5] -- equal 10 points each. For example, if the [4|4], [4|5], [4|3], and [4,0] were taken in a round, that would equal 1 point. However, if the [4|6] fell instead of the [4|5], then that round would equal 11 points, and if the [4|6] and the [4|1] fell instead of the [4|5] and [4|0], then that round would equal 16 points!

Only the team with the highest bid must make their bid, and these points can be accumulated between the two players. If the bidding team makes their bid, they win the hand and receive a mark. If the bidding team does not make their bid, they lose the hand and the other team receives a mark. There is no penalty for taking more points than bid. Because there is no penalty, if the shaker is forced to bid due to everyone else passing, they will almost always bid the minimum of 30.

If a player wants to bid, but a previous bidder has already bid 42, the player can bid "2 marks". This makes the round worth 2 marks, which means that the winner of the round will receive 2 marks instead of the typical 1.

Trumps:

Like other trick-taking games, trumps are the highest suit and nothing is higher than a trump except for a higher trump. 42 has the same concept, but the trump can change every hand. After everyone has a chance to bid, the player with the highest bid picks the trump and plays first. Trump can be any number between 6 and 0 and does not need to be played first. The player who calls trump does not get to consult with his partner over which number should be trump. A trump will always win each round unless beaten by higher trump.

The most confusing part about trump is that a trump domino can ONLY be a trump domino and no other suit. In the example given previously, if the [2|0] was led, then the [2|0], [2|1], [2|3], [2|4], [2|5], [2|6], and [2|2] would all be the 2 suit because 2 was the suit that was led. However, if the [2|0] was led and 1's were trump, then only the [2|0], [2|2], [2|3], [2|4], [2|5], and [2|6] would be the 2 suit. The [2|1] would not be the 2 suit, because 1's are trump. If the [2|1] was led, then all other players still must follow suit and play a 1 if possible since 1's are the "highest" number this round.

Rules Overview:
1) The highest number on the first domino each round determines suit
2) A player must follow suit if he can
3) Bids must be between 30 and 42
4) Bids start to the left of the shaker, each bid must either be higher than the previous bid or a "pass", and the shaker bids last
5) The shaker must bid if everyone else passes
6) The person who wins the bid determines trump, and the trump dominoes can ONLY be trump for that round, they are never another suit
7) If trump is led, then all other players must follow suit and play a trump if possible

Order of play for a round:
1) The shaker shakes the dominoes
2) Players pull their dominoes
3) Bids are placed
4) The player who bids highest plays first
5) Other players play dominoes of the same suit if possible in a clockwise order
6) The person who plays the highest value of the suit or the highest valued trump wins the round
7) The person who wins the round plays the first domino of the next round
8) Repeat steps 5-8 until all the dominoes are played
9) The person to the left of the shaker becomes the new shaker and a new round begins

Review:
Although 42 might appear like a standard trick-taking game, the ability for the highest bidder to determine trump, and the fact that most dominoes can be two suits makes it a game of surprising depth. Players are not dependent on pulling a certain suit, which helps negate the luck, and the average player can bid 30 on most hands. More advanced bidding rules, which vary greatly from group to group and were therefore not included above, add even more depth to the game. Even if a player does get a terrible set of dominoes, a hand only lasts 7 rounds, so the player will get a new set soon enough and have a new chance to bid.

Despite the hidden depth, 42 is similar to other trick-taking games in the fact that it still has a good dose of luck in it. The better team does not win every round, but because each game is the first to 7 marks, the better team usually wins the game. I have seen plenty of upsets though. The game also plays fairly quickly, with most games lasting between 25-40 minutes and allows for a good amount of socializing. An added bonus is that games can be played while eating since food will not mess up the dominoes, and the dominoes can stand up by themselves while on the table.

The rules are fairly simple and the game is easy to play, but there is a learning curve when it comes to bidding. Even though a new player could play a game with more experiences players, the new player would probably pass on bidding frequently, and only bid when forced or possessing a superb hand. The same can be said for many games though, so I hardly consider this a serious setback.

The title says it all. I give it a 10. Bonus points for the game being the answer to life, the universe, and everything.
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Brandon Pennington
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mst3k4L wrote:

The title says it all. I give it a 10. Bonus points for the game being the answer to life, the universe, and everything.


It is hard to deny a game that is named after the answer.
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Alan Richbourg
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Got to play this again recently (at a Texas Birthday Party) after many years away, and really enjoyed it.
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Graham Dean
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mst3k4L wrote:
If a player wants to bid, but a previous bidder has already bid 42, the player can bid "2 marks". This makes the round worth 2 marks, which means that the winner of the round will receive 2 marks instead of the typical 1.

If this happens, does the player bidding '2 marks' count as the winning bidder, or does the player who first bid 42 remain the winning bidder, but with higher stakes?

Also, is there any limit to how far the stakes can be raised?
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Matt Posey
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The person who makes the highest bid always wins the bid, and there is no limit to how far the stakes can be raised. However, the rate at which it can be raised does have a limit depending on the group.

There are three common limits for raising the bid
1) Only one mark each time - 42, 2 mark, 3 mark, 4 mark
2) 42 to 2 mark, and then 2 marks each time - 42, 2 mark, 4 mark, 6 mark
3) Double the marks each time - 42, 2 mark, 4 mark, 8 mark

Again, it really depends on the group, but usually having the bidding go above 2 mark in a round is rare.
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TGov wrote:
mst3k4L wrote:

The title says it all. I give it a 10. Bonus points for the game being the answer to life, the universe, and everything.


It is hard to deny a game that is named after the answer.


It does make one wonder if the game happened to be the reason for that answer.
 
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