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Subject: Our Thirteen Rules rss

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Eric Walkingshaw
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Thirteen is one of my favorite card games. It's simple enough to play while shooting the breeze, but still has lots of opportunities for creative card play.

Since the rules of this game vary depending on where you learned it, and since our rules are the best (!), I've been meaning to post them here for literally years. I recently got a Geekmail asking for the rules we use, which finally spurred me into action.

The rules we use are almost the same as the rules posted here by user aaarg_ink. The main differences are: (1) our treatment of "bombs", "chops", and "suited runs", (2) the end of the hand, and (3) scoring and who deals (this is important!).


Goal of Each Hand

Get rid of all of your cards first! The hand ends when one player has gotten rid of all of their cards. That player wins the hand.


Scoring, Dealing, and Etiquette

You score one point for each hand you win.

The dealer (determined as described below), deals 13 cards to each player. The game can be played by 2-4 players. If playing with two players, the cards are shuffled only every other hand. So, you will play one hand with the first 26 cards, then one hand with the 26 cards were not used in the previous hand. This is significant for card counting in the even numbered hands. If playing with three or four players, the cards are shuffled before every hand. This means you will play with all cards every hand in a four player game, and there will be 13 unknown cards in a three player game.

Initially, the dealer moves clockwise amongst players with zero points. If you are the last player with zero points, you will keep shuffling and dealing until you score at least one point. After every player has scored at least one point, the current dealer is whoever is losing. You are determined to be losing if: (1) you have the least points, or (2) among players tied for the least points, you have least recently scored a point.

Example: You have one point and I have two. You deal. If you win the hand, we will both have two points. I will deal because you have scored more recently than me.

No cheating, and other players are entitled to know how many cards you have left. (Gamers probably think "no cheating" goes without saying, but many playground card games are explicitly about cheating, such as B.S.)


Card Ordering

Card ranks are ordered from lowest to highest: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K, A, 2.

Within a single rank, the suits are ordered from lowest to highest: clubs, spades, diamonds, hearts.

Example: A 6 of clubs beats any 5, but a 6 of diamonds beats a 6 of clubs.


Types of Sets

* Single -- one card
* Pair -- two cards of the same rank
* Trip -- three cards of the same rank
* Run -- three or more cards of consecutive rank, but no 2s
* Suited Run -- three or more cards of consecutive rank and all of the same suit, but no 2s
* Chop -- three or more consecutive pairs, but no 2s
* Bomb -- four cards of the same rank

Note that although 2s are the highest ranked card (as in the similar game Big Two), they cannot be part of runs, suited runs, or chops.

Suited runs, chops, and bombs have special rules associated with them, described below.


Game Play

One player is always considered to have the lead. The first leader of the hand is the player with the lowest card. In a four player game, this will be the three of clubs. The initial leader's first lead must include the lowest card! (It may be any set that includes this card.)

Each round begins with the leader playing a set face up to the middle. Starting from the leader's left and moving clockwise, each player must either follow or pass. To follow, play a set of the same type but of a higher value than the previous set. Once a player passes, they are out of the round and may not follow again until the next lead. The round continues until all players have passed. The new leader is the last person to play a set in the round.

Note: A player may always pass, even if they could beat the current set.

When following a run, you must play a run of exactly the same length, but with a more valuable highest card. For example, if I play a 3-4-5-6 run, you can beat it with a 5-6-7-8 run. When comparing runs in the same ranks, only the suit of the highest card is significant. So a J-Q-K run beats another J-Q-K run if the K of the first is of a higher valued suit.

When comparing singles, pairs, trips, or bombs, the higher rank wins. If comparing a single or pair of the same rank, the single card with the highest suit wins. For example, the pair 7-clubs/7-hearts beats 7-spades/7-diamonds, since hearts is higher than diamonds.

Remember, that you must follow the type of the set! So you may only follow singles on a single lead, pairs on a pair lead, and runs of five cards on a run of five card lead. However, there are a few exceptions to these rules, listed below.


Exceptions and Special Rules

Runs can be promoted to suited runs by a follow. When following an un-suited run, if you play a suited run of the same length, you may "call suit", after which, all subsequent follows must be suited runs of that length. You are not obligated to call suit. (Calling suit consists of saying "suit", or something more vulgar if appropriate for your audience.)

Chops beat 2s! A chop may be used to follow any single 2, pair of 2s, or trip of 2s (though not a bomb of 2s!). This changes the type of the round to chops. This will usually win you the lead, but other players who have not passed may follow with higher chops, if possible.

Bombs beat anything! A bomb may be played as a follow at any time. As with chops, this changes the type of the round to bombs. This will usually win you the lead, but other players who have not passed may still follow with higher bombs, if possible.


Conventions

Although not strictly required, it is customary to throw down chops and bombs with considerable flourish.


Brief Comments

I really love this game. Although it's light and fast, there really are a lot of interesting decisions. Because of the way runs and pairs interact, there are usually many different ways you can play out your hand. There's a tension between saving cards for a strong sequence of leads, and playing cards to win that lead in the first place (and prevent other players from dumping their bad cards).

The creativity involved in playing out your hand means that a good player can often win with less-than-the-best cards. But a truly wretched hand is never that painful since each hand is so fast.
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Justus
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Interesting, I've always wondered about the two different types of bombs, I'm guessing it was an odd streamlining of this system you laid out (chops>2, bombs>everything).

What's the effect of the suited run on the play? It sounds interesting...

Fun to read variants of your favorite game! Cheers!
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Eric Walkingshaw
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Thanks! I enjoyed reading your rules also. It's really fun coming across people that grew up playing the game in different places, and hearing their rule variants.

A variant that one of my friends learned is that suit only matters on 10+. This makes it a lot harder to get rid of your low singles, since you can only beat a low single with a higher rank (i.e. you can't play a five of diamonds on a five of clubs).

aaarg_ink wrote:
What's the effect of the suited run on the play? It sounds interesting...

The biggest thing is that you often have runs where a sub-run is suited. Say a five card run with a three card suited run in the middle.

Suited runs are really hard to beat, so do you play the suited run on a three card run to win the lead (and leave yourself with two singles)? Or do you save your five card run (also strong) for later? The trade-offs are pretty similar to pairs/trips vs. runs.
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Justus
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walkie wrote:

A variant that one of my friends learned is that suit only matters on 10+. This makes it a lot harder to get rid of your low singles, since you can only beat a low single with a higher rank (i.e. you can't play a five of diamonds on a five of clubs).

Not sure I like that....it seems a bit restrictive...

Quote:

aaarg_ink wrote:
What's the effect of the suited run on the play? It sounds interesting...

The biggest thing is that you often have runs where a sub-run is suited. Say a five card run with a three card suited run in the middle.

Suited runs are really hard to beat, so do you play the suited run on a three card run to win the lead (and leave yourself with two singles)? Or do you save your five card run (also strong) for later? The trade-offs are pretty similar to pairs/trips vs. runs.


This on the other hand sounds really interesting. Makes the game a little heavier but it sounds like it adds a little extra gameryness to the game. Some extra decisions to make along the way.

I think the biggest overlooked thing in Tien Len is the pass and you're out of the round rule. Do you guys play with the "stacking" rule, where the last player in a round can keep playing sets uncontested even after the other players of the table have passed? It makes for some really nasty decisions at times -- and it makes it more viable to hold the cards to the very end and fly out of the round.
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Eric Walkingshaw
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aaarg_ink wrote:
Do you guys play with the "stacking" rule, where the last player in a round can keep playing sets uncontested even after the other players of the table have passed? It makes for some really nasty decisions at times -- and it makes it more viable to hold the cards to the very end and fly out of the round.

We don't, but that sort of happens a lot naturally anyway. I like the idea of "piling on".

After reading some of the other rules here on BGG, I see that our chops seem to be a simplification of some more complex rules concerning which runs of pairs can be played on which 2s (or maybe the others are complexifications--hard to tell which way it goes). Chops are already pretty rare, and some of the rules required up to seven card runs of pairs to beat trip 2's, which I don't think I've ever seen.

I also noted that our ranking of clubs below spades seems to be abnormal. I do remember having to establish the ordering of suits ahead of time, since some people used different orderings.
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