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Subject: Have a 5+ Card Variant of Tichu Using a Non-Standard Deck Distribution rss

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Ruben Zurita
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Are there any thoughts about using a deck comprised of the following (this deck is used in a trick taking game that I invented that is more closely related to Mu): 2 Aces, King, Queen, Knight, 2 Jacks, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, and 2 in each of 4 suits (all colored differently), and 2 Dragons, 2 Phoenix, 1 Hound, and 1 Mah Jong. My goal was to play Tichu with 6 players with 3 in a team/partnerships, but was not liking the distribution / card play using a standard Tichu deck (and i do not like the printed rules for a 5+ player variant using the standard deck either).

Originally posted this under another thread, but was not seeing any responces so thought to post it as an original thread (though comments have already been posted to a similar posting).

My deck (Ru'Court Game) was designed for 4-9 players, so I have an additional 2 Jacks and 2, 7s in each of the 4 suits that can also be added. So in total if you played with 8 people I would use my Full Deck: 2 Aces, 1 King, 1 Queen, 1 Knight, 4 Jacks, 1-10, 1-9, 1-8, 3-7, 1-6, 1-5, 1-4, 1-3, 1-2, in each of 4 suits (20 cards in 4 suits), plus the 2-Dragons, 2-Phoenixes, 1-Hound, 1-Mah Jong. I do not like playing with the variant rule that the second Dragon beats the first on played, this adds in more luck, so play that you can not play the second dragon (if the first one if played on that trick). I am uncertain whether it would be beneficial to add another Dragon/Phoenix with 8 people (have only tried the variant with 5 and 6 players), using the first deck described (with 16 cards per suit).
 
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Curt Carpenter
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The common consensus among those who enjoy Tichu seems to be that it's a 2v2 game. Period. If you're playing anything other than that, there are myriad other games you could be playing that would be at least as good. Even many other climbing games. I suspect most people who subscribe to the Tichu forums are those who like the game as is, so those proposing other variants usually don't get a lot of traction.

I'd be willing to at least offer my $0.02, but I don't really understand your variant well enough to do so. Is the size of the deck variable with the number of players? It sounds like it, when you say, "if you played with 8 people I would use my full deck", but I don't see how you scale the deck depending on the number of players. So no partnerships at all? (I'm confused because your 1st paragraph mentions 3 partnerships, but your title says 5+, and you also say 4-9). Scoring rules? Tichu calls? Dog always dead weight? Bombs? Is your rules-set merely a deck composition change from one of the Tichu variants in the box? Having tried those only once or twice years ago, I don't really remember them well enough to comment, other than remembering I don't have any interest to play them again. We already have Mu for 5 or six player, and now Haggis for 3.

But as always, more power to you to enjoy playing by whatever variants you enjoy most!
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Ruben Zurita
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Thanks Curt for replying, and I do believe what you say (regarding Tichu adherents liking it as is - 4 player; and that I could use greater clarification regarding my cards/game-play).

The cards i propose to use to play my TICHU variant consist of the following cards: [2-Aces, 1 King, 1 Queen, 1-Knight, 4-Jacks, 1-10, 1-9, 1-8, 3-7, 1-6, 1-5, 1-4, 1-3,1-2] in each of 4 suits plus 2-Dragons, 2-Phoenixes, 1-Hound, and 1-Mah Jong, but this deck was designed to be scaleable. With 5-7 people you should not use 2-Jacks (in each suit), not the extra 7s (in each suit). With 8-9 people you can use the full deck (possibly including an extra set of Dragon/Phoenix). TICHU is not very fun without team play (my opinion), so the variants discussed on the actual rules for 5+ players is a poor system to play (my opinion and the opinion of other players i have played with), so I propose a modification to the team assignment rules. I propose that the player to the left of the dealer (a constantly rotating position), should be allowed to determine their team member assignments, following these rules: they may pick no more than half the number of players total to be assigned to their team (this includes them), [such that with 5 players, they can only assign 1 other player to their team, and with 6 or 7 they could only assign 2 other players to their team, etc.].

The Hound would allow you to pass to either of your team mates if they have more than one (this is a stated rule on the actual TICHU variant rules). The Mah John determines the first player. Having multiple Dragons / Phoenix presents with some changes. First, Dragons: Dragons can be played as a double but only with another dragon or phoenix, if played as a single set, the first Dragon ranks as highest card (so you can not play the second over it - this runs counter to TICHU variant written rules, but i believe offers more strategy play and less luck). Second Phoenix: Phoenix cards are .2 higher that the last card played when played as a singleton (though they can not be played after a dragon singleton), and can be used as a wild card with another Phoenix wild card when part of another set. Two double Phoenix plays as .2 higher that that last double set played, though they can again not be played over a double Dragon set. Bombs follow standard TICHU rules.

There was some debate with my friends over how many Dragons/Phoenix to include in the deck, and whether or not to include more of them with more people, but in general, no one liked a deck compromised of more Phoenix cards than Dragons.

Hopefully I have detailed the card distributions better, to offer you some sense of my card deck. Any further feedback would be appreciated.
 
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Curt Carpenter
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zurita7 wrote:
I propose that the player to the left of the dealer (a constantly rotating position), should be allowed to determine their team member assignments, following these rules: they may pick no more than half the number of players total to be assigned to their team ...

Ok, so it is still a team game. But teams are chosen based on what? The team selection process in Mu works quite well, given that the bids provide some information on which to choose a partner. But in your variant is it just blind? Wouldn't people always people the players they feel are the strongest? A game where every hand is the strongest players vs the weakest players doesn't sound very interesting to me.

And if teams are selected every hand, how do you keep score?
 
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Ruben Zurita
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With even numbered players I think it would be ok to follow standard Tichu convention, with alternating players comprising a team, with a static team assignment. But I was entertaining an alternative strategy that I believe would be necessary with an odd number of players, but could also be used with even numbered groups. If individuals score individual scores per team assignment, I do not predict that people will pick the strongest players, in fact, it would make more sense to pick different members given that picking the same set of partners for a new hand would only lead to a tied score between individual players.

So, to be clearer, in any hand of play, individuals score what the team scores, but by being able to switch team members, between hands, you can start earning more points than your previous team mates from your previous hand (of course if you picked less capable partners you might be giving your previous partners the upper hand).

Team selection in a given hand would be blind (or more logically based on a combination of factors, like: current individual scores, player ability, and possibly position around the table). To make things even, I would say each player who is dealing the cards can establish team membership for that hand (of'course more experienced players, and especially players accustomed to playing with each other would have distinct advantages, but i would rather not introduce randomness in the selection process).

I just finnished another round of play testing, and my 6 player group was liking the addition of 2 Dragons and 2 Phoenix, though there was a general consensus that having a whole team go out before another was very difficult, so we were debating how to modify this feature.

These were some ideas and I wondered what feedback others might have: (1) Increase the incentive for all three going out before any of the other team to 300 bonus.
(2) Increase the number of Hounds (by adding 2 more Hounds, there would be an even spread of cards for 6 players), though I would hate to be waited by multiple Hounds, so i would add an additional rule allowing you to discard any number of multiple Hounds that you wished when using a Hound. [In case it is hard to follow my card distribution for 6 players: 2-Aces, 1-King, 1-Queen, 1-Knight, 2-Jacks, 1-10, 1-9, 1-8, 1-7, 1-6, 1-5, 1-4, 1-3, 1-2, 2-Dragons, 2-Phoenix, 3-Hounds, 1-Mah Jong]

 
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Ruben Zurita
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yikes i forgot to detail the card distribution for 6 players mentioned above is in 4 separate suits, plus the TICHU majors (Dragon, Phoenix, Hound, Mah Jong).
 
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Curt Carpenter
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zurita7 wrote:
If individuals score individual scores per team assignment, I do not predict that people will pick the strongest players, in fact, it would make more sense to pick different members given that picking the same set of partners for a new hand would only lead to a tied score between individual players.

Ok, I wasn't really thinking about that, since you hadn't mentioned how scoring worked yet. But I still don't think it would change that much. People want their score to go up the most, and the best odds to make that happen are to choose the best players for their team, even if that means their score goes up as well. I could possibly see late game intentionally putting the player who's winning with the worst players. Do you like that idea? I don't. I honestly really don't like picking teams at all -- everything about it. If it were me, I would maybe try assigning teams based on score, alternating from high score on down. Yes, this may result in teammates sitting adjacent to each other, but you already have that both with choosing teams, and with playing with an odd number of players, so I guess that doesn't bother you (it seems weird to me).

zurita7 wrote:
(1) Increase the incentive for all three going out before any of the other team to 300 bonus.

Bonus = 100 * team size
(smaller of the two teams when playing with uneven team sizes)

zurita7 wrote:
(2) Increase the number of Hounds (by adding 2 more Hounds, there would be an even spread of cards for 6 players),...

I don't like all this weird card distribution, and how the relative # of ranks changes with number of players. And what is this "knight" card you mention? I would simply say that for every player after 4, you just add one more full suit 2-A (duplicating a color of course) + 1 special. You would never add another Mahjong, but you could rotate through adding extra Dog, Dragon, and Phoenix. I'm not sure what the best order there would be. Not sure what to do about bombs either. Would be a shame to get rid of them completely, but straight bombs in duplicated suits would be easier, and 5/6/7 of a kind bombs would be harder.
 
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Ruben Zurita
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Thanks Curt for your considerations/input, I really appreciate it.

I see your point about there being an advantage to picking the same set of better players until the "last" hand, (although that would be kinda riskier than how I would play, wishing to take an earlier lead on the better players), and really enjoy more balance by taking on your suggestion of picking teams based on Current Individual Scores (Highest scorer has to be aligned with lowest scorer, starting with the highest scorer closes to the dealer, and repeat assignments until no more pairs can be assigned, with any stragler going to the team with the lowest total points across players).

Frankly, I also thought it was weird to break convention by having team mates not seated across from you (or alternating selection), but I guess Mu broke that feeling away from me, and although there might be certain strategic advantages to having a team mate play last in a trick taking game, I am ok with letting it play out based on the balanced selection mentioned above.
_________________________________

I was thinking exactly what you posted regarding the bonuses, given a smaller bonus for the smaller sized Team (Bonus = 100 * Team Size), I was wondering, would it make sense to allow the 3 Player Team to score 200 Bonus points if they go out first/second in a 5 or 6 Player game?
__________________________________

I must admit I have an ulterior motive to maintaining my card deck distribution, in that I was planning on posting my card-game in a print-n-play posting (my game is called Ru'Court) and this way I can print out rules both for my trick taking game (that is more similar to Mu than Tichu, and also print out rules for the Tichu Variant). For all your helpful feedback, I would gladly send you a copy of the printed deck once I work out this Variant Tichu Rules (provided you would be interested).

The Knight is a standard Tarot Card or European Card Rank (typically in older card sets), i believe that that rank was lost when we moved to the current regular playing deck (where we only have the King, Queen, and Jack). Much as we ended up losing all of the Majors (from the Tarot deck, except for the Joker = "Fool").

I agree that adding another Mah Jong just doesn't make sense, but i like the idea of having more Hounds, which could possibly facilitate the Team members going out easier.

I defintely do not wish to get rid of the bombs, though my head spins when i try to take into consideration the probability distribution of each specific set (namely the higher probability for Jacks, and Aces, and lower probability distrubution for the 2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9's). I wondered how the makers of Mu came up with their scoring system which appears to take into consideration the probability distribution of their cards sets?

 
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Curt Carpenter
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zurita7 wrote:
...and really enjoy more balance by taking on your suggestion of picking teams based on Current Individual Scores (Highest scorer has to be aligned with lowest scorer, starting with the highest scorer closes to the dealer, and repeat assignments until no more pairs can be assigned, with any straggler going to the team with the lowest total points across players).

Doing it that way, the "straggler" will be the player with the middle score (w/ odd # of players). That will create more imbalance than choosing the straggler to be the player with the lowest score. Thus I would simply go down the score from top to bottom and do A BB AA BB AA. I think that works out pretty well for any player count.

zurita7 wrote:
I was thinking exactly what you posted regarding the bonuses, given a smaller bonus for the smaller sized Team (Bonus = 100 * Team Size), I was wondering, would it make sense to allow the 3 Player Team to score 200 Bonus points if they go out first/second in a 5 or 6 Player game?

Actually, it doesn't really matter much whether you choose # of players on the small team or # of players on the large team. But the bonus needs to be the same for both teams (see more below). My first thought was 100 * average team size, or 50 * number of players. But then with odd numbers of players you'd have bonuses of x50, which would then break the law that says running Tichu scores always add up to a multiple of 100. But then I realized that with the addition of more decks, this law will no longer apply anyway. So I guess that's what I'd suggest (50 * # of players). When team sizes are unequal, it's ok for the bonus to be the same for both sides because the challenge is effectively the same. With fewer players on the team, it's fewer players that need to go out, but more players that have to all be beat. And vice versa.

Likewise, the value of a Tichu call should probably be 50 * # of players on opposing team. In this case, however, I would probably preserve the asymmetry. More opponents probably do more to hinder a successful T call than more teammates do to help it. I'm not totally sure though -- just my initial feeling.
 
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Ruben Zurita
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I am not sure i understood your suggestion, about team assignment so I will rephrase to see if i capture the idea: If 6 people are playing, after a completed hand, their individual running totals would be rank ordered from highest to lowest, the highest scorer (starting from the dealer where ties are present), would be paired with the 4th and 5th ranked player, and the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th players would be part of the other team. This sounds ingenious, I like it alot.

I am not adding an extra deck, just extra cards in each suit, and the total point cards (King, 10s, and 5s) all add up to 100. So if possible, I would like to maintain the symmetry of combined team scores in a given hand addding up to multiples of 100, though this is not necessary. But if I try to keep this symmetry, maybe I can offer a compromise to the scoring, namely a bigger game if made, but not to big a loss if not made, given that there would not be as much incentive to call TICHU fearing a higher probability upset/penalty of not making the call. So, I suggest a 200 Bonus to make a 6-Player TICHU, with a penalty of only 100 if you fail the call.

I do agree with your anaylsis, however, that it would be harder to make a TICHU with having more opponents as a factor over the number of teammates that you may have. But with the hands played with friends, it was harder to estimate successful TICHU hands in general (given the multiple Majors, and Aces, and higher probability of certain bombs). This, however, might improve as I started to measure hand strengths better with the differnt distribution of cards.
 
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Curt Carpenter
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zurita7 wrote:
I am not sure i understood your suggestion, about team assignment so I will rephrase to see if i capture the idea: If 6 people are playing, after a completed hand, their individual running totals would be rank ordered from highest to lowest, the highest scorer (starting from the dealer where ties are present), would be paired with the 4th and 5th ranked player, and the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th players would be part of the other team. This sounds ingenious, I like it a lot.

Yup, that's it. 7th player on B, 8th & 9th on A.

zurita7 wrote:
I am not adding an extra deck, just extra cards in each suit, and the total point cards (King, 10s, and 5s) all add up to 100.

It's your variant, but as a Tichu player, I would prefer to have the same number of cards of each rank. I don't know why extra Jacks or 7s would be a good thing. Besides the issue of how to define rules for bombs, it means things like full houses on those ranks will be almost a given, which is less interesting to me.
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Ruben Zurita
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Thanks for the feedback. I agree that it changes the probability distribution from standard Tichu, though this does not lower it's interest to me as a Tichu player. It does, however, raise the possibility of just adding tail end cards instead of adding extras of the same rank. For example, why couldn't i just add a 1 rank card, and a zero rank card in each suit (making the Mah Jong the begging of any straight (ranking lower than the lowest rank being used which will depend on the number of people playing).

Yet I would need more cards than that for 7+ people (at least that is my feeling after having played some hands with that many people), so maybe i could add a Baroness and Baron ranks for each suit (rank being lower than the queen but higher than the Knight). Well, frankly, it is time for more play testing using the ideas that we have discussed so far (possibly including this one as well, given that it is so easy to creat the cards, I think i will print a set later tonight and report back once i get some games going). Sadly, very few of my friends are into "play testing" as much as i wish they would be, though they have been very kind so far and willing to try things out.
 
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Ruben Zurita
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Yikes! I can be so dense, sometimes I forget about the most simplist and most obvious things. I would not be able to post my variant cards without infringing on the copy rights of TICHU proper. So, I will just have to make use of my own personal deck on my own. Sorry for making the promise to post. I do plan on posting my own game which is nothing like TICHU in the future. I do appreciate all of the ideas shared.
 
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Ruben Zurita
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Can someone confirm my last posting regarding possibly breaking copy right rules? I would not like to impinge upon other's rights while still contributing to the communty of game player's free play. Would postings of print-n-play cards be a violation of copy right? what if i used my own created images? Frankly, the owner of the game could incorporate our previously discussed ideas to print an expansion deck to make multiplayer TICHU more fun, I would buy that expansion deck.
 
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Jeff Chunko
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If you use your own images you can print whatever you like.
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