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Author Topic: Why is Tichu so popular?  (Read 10423 times)

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Twistedarcher

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Why is Tichu so popular?
« on: January 15, 2014, 04:50:43 pm »
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Something that I've never understood is why Tichu is so popular, yet other similar card games never get touched by the boardgamers I'm around. Many people at the board game night I attend love Tichu, and eat it up and play it several times a week, spending quite a bit of time on the game. To me, Tichu's an alright game, but I have never understood the almost universal love for the game.

I don't mean to disparage Tichu -- it's definitely a good game -- but I just don't understand its popularity, especially at the expense of similar games. Can someone who's really into Tichu explain why it's the trick-taking cardgame, and the only one that a lot of boardgamers will even touch? It has never made much sense to me...it's a pretty good game, but I don't think it's heads and shoulders above all other similar games, yet the amount it gets played seems to indicate that everyone else thinks it is.
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A Drowned Kernel

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Re: Why is Tichu so popular?
« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2014, 05:11:18 pm »
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By similar games, do you mean other "published" card games that require their own decks, or are you including games that can be played with a standard deck of cards? If it's the former, it might just be a snowball effect, where it's the most popular because it's the most popular: people are familiar and comfortable with it, and know they can find people to play it with, so they play it a lot and teach it new people, who then become familiar and comfortable with it, etc., and that it was just a matter of chance that it became more popular than other similar games, or that it came first. If you're including "standard" card games like bridge or hearts, then I'm not sure I have a convincing explanation.
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florrat

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Re: Why is Tichu so popular?
« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2014, 05:12:09 pm »
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I've been playing Tichu a lot, and I certainly think it's a great game. But I can't really answer your question. In mostly played a lot of Tichu (or Tai Pan, the name for it popular in the Netherlands) because everyone around me knew it, were willing to play it and were reasonably good at it.

So for me Tichu is a great game because it is played a lot. I know this is not really a satisfactory answer, but when I think about it, that is the biggest reason. If another game was so popular instead of Tichu, I would have played that other game a lot, and have hardly played Tichu.

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Twistedarcher

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Re: Why is Tichu so popular?
« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2014, 05:16:27 pm »
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Yeah, my main point of comparison is with spades and bridge. I'd rather play spades, but I can NEVER convince anyone to play spades, ever, and if I was going to want to devote so much time to a trick-taking game, I'd rather try to learn bridge than spending so much time on Tichu. I do understand the snowball effect, though, and I understand that's probably the main part of it, but I've also found that people who play Tichu can be resistant to other trick-taking games ("Why would I need to learn another game? I already play Tichu!")
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theory

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Re: Why is Tichu so popular?
« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2014, 05:51:51 pm »
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Tichu has enough luck and drama built into it to liven it up while still leaving it somewhat strategic.  Bombs are exciting!

More importantly, Tichu is not a trick-taking game.  It is a climbing game.  I would submit that the latter is easier to learn and easier to master than the former, which partially accounts for Tichu's popularity as well. 

Finally, there are just not that many good 2v2 games, and Tichu happens to be a good flexible-length easy-to-learn couples game.
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Ratsia

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Re: Why is Tichu so popular?
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2014, 05:10:01 am »
+1

Yeah, my main point of comparison is with spades and bridge.
That explains a lot. After your first post I thought you referred to games like Gang of Four or Haggis that are mechanically similar to Tichu. In comparison to those the answer would be easy; the key difference is the partnership which e.g. makes the playing experience more social; otherwise the competitors are indeed almost as good. There are *very* few good partnership games so Tichu can kind of dominate that market.


Spades simply has nothing in common with Tichu (besides the fact that both are card games) so I don't see the relevance of the comparison at all. The same guys that play Tichu probably would be happy to play a lot of trick-taking games (unless they view the partnership part as a key), but you should try selling them something else than one of the simplest ones. Even though Spades is a good game, there are quite a few more interesting ones out there. As Tichu is considered the pinnacle of climbing games then the relevant comparisons amongst trick-taking games would perhaps be more in the line of Tarot, Skat, Doppelkopf, Mü etc. Offer those for the guys who enjoy Tichu and the response might be better, but expect to run into the problem theory referred to: they are considerably harder to learn, partly because some of the pearls of this genre are very old and partly because it simply is quite hard to come up with very elegant and streamlined scoring systems for trick-taking games (without getting perhaps slightly too simple like Spades or Sticheln; these are good games but somewhat lack competitive element and become slightly repetitive after tens or hundreds of games).

Playing Bridge makes no sense if you haven't spent a lot of effort learning it, since it is so much a game about the bidding system. The rest of the game is dull, so there is nothing to enjoy unless you master the system.

Quote
if I was going to want to devote so much time to a trick-taking game, I'd rather try to learn bridge than spending so much time on Tichu.
The thing is, you don't really need to spend that much time with Tichu. Like theory said, it's the kind of a game that is easy to learn and actually not that hard to master either. A newbie can easily join a game of three Tichu-veterans and enjoy the game almost right from the start, and quite likely the pair can even play relatively well.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2014, 05:11:05 am by Ratsia »
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Davio

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Re: Why is Tichu so popular?
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2014, 05:51:24 am »
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I like the Chinese aspects of the game.

"In feodal China, players do no wait for cards to get dealt to them, they TAKE cards!"

And of course it shouldn't be played in a clockwise (European style), but a counterclockwise manner, if you want to play it properly.

I love Klaverjas just as much, but that's mostly a native Dutch trick tacking game comparable to Bridge light. Hearts, Gin and others not so much.

Tichu is more like The Great Dalmuti than any other card game perhaps, but it's probably the other way around (TGD is more like Tichu).
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Ratsia

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Re: Why is Tichu so popular?
« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2014, 08:33:56 am »
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Tichu is more like The Great Dalmuti than any other card game perhaps, but it's probably the other way around (TGD is more like Tichu).
Haggis is definitely a lot closer to Tichu. After all, it was explicitly designed as a 2-3 person version of Tichu, trying to capture as many aspects of it as possible (such as bombs) while losing the (fixed) partners (similarly to how Mü was an attempt of creating a "Bridge" that does not require as much study for the bidding phase and that can be played also with not exactly four players).

I'd say quite a few other climbing games are also closer to Tichu than Dalmuti. In fact, almost all of them are, since Dalmuti focuses so much on the metagame and because it only covers sets as possible hands. That said, I find it interesting that we haven't seen that many commercial climbing games. On top of my head I could only name Frank's zoo in addition to the ones already mentioned in the thread. Perhaps there would be room for a few more.
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Polk5440

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Re: Why is Tichu so popular?
« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2014, 10:35:55 am »
+1

Playing Bridge makes no sense if you haven't spent a lot of effort learning it, since it is so much a game about the bidding system. The rest of the game is dull, so there is nothing to enjoy unless you master the system.

This is just false. That's like saying, "Once I analyze the kingdom, the rest of Dominion is so dull. I could never enjoy it unless I master the ability to analyze kingdoms first."

The key is to play games with/against people who are at about your skill level. Or learn the game together with people. Just like with Dominion, there is a high skill component and it's not fun to always lose.

If you just want to play with friends, you can learn the rules for bridge in about 5 minutes. The scoring can be referenced after each game. Bidding basics can be learned in about 10 minutes, or you can just "bid naturally" for the first few games as you learn (especially fine if you've played trick taking games before). We had a lot of success in college recruiting people to play casually this way.

----

I do think most board gamers like having specialized or thematic components. I mean, you don't even need to buy the Tichu cards to play Tichu; just add in 4 extra cards to a poker deck (e.g. the two Jokers and two spare cards that usually come with it).
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Twistedarcher

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Re: Why is Tichu so popular?
« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2014, 11:15:04 am »
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Spades simply has nothing in common with Tichu (besides the fact that both are card games) so I don't see the relevance of the comparison at all.

To me, the relevance is that they're both partner card games that take a similar amount of time to play. Yes, one is trick-taking and one of building, but I tend to think about them pretty similar, and I think there's enough similarities between the two that people who would want to play one type of game generally want to play the other.

Quote
The same guys that play Tichu probably would be happy to play a lot of trick-taking games (unless they view the partnership part as a key), but you should try selling them something else than one of the simplest ones. Even though Spades is a good game, there are quite a few more interesting ones out there. As Tichu is considered the pinnacle of climbing games then the relevant comparisons amongst trick-taking games would perhaps be more in the line of Tarot, Skat, Doppelkopf, Mü etc.

I guess we have different views of spades, since I find spades to be a very challenging, thought-provoking game even after hundreds of plays (mostly online, unfortunately). I learn every game I play against people of similar skill, and I don't find the game "inferior" to Tichu in the way that everyone I talked to has -- but I am probably in the minority here.

What I'm mostly confused by is that in the boardgame group I play at, people there love Tichu, and play it every day without fail, yet don't really want to touch any other similar game or trick-taking game. I get why Tichu is a good game, but not why it's the one card game played, at other games' expense. But maybe my group is just unique is that aspect. I think Tichu is a good game, but I don't think it's quite that good to dominate the trick-taking / climbing genre as much as I see it dominate (and I'm combining the two, because I don't know the people who would want to go from one to the other -- a game of Tichu will fulfill the itch to play both types of games).
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Ratsia

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Re: Why is Tichu so popular?
« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2014, 01:53:02 am »
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This is just false. That's like saying, "Once I analyze the kingdom, the rest of Dominion is so dull. I could never enjoy it unless I master the ability to analyze kingdoms first."
Maybe I was a bit too brief there. What I meant was that unless you can connect the information obtained during the bidding into the actual play, you are effectively playing a very simplified trick-taking game. It won't be a bad game, but definitely not the best trick-taking game there is. At least according to my own experience, a typical player would usually enjoy more a game that focuses more on the trick-taking part, for example by having trick-specific scoring system or something like that. In other words, I did not mean to imply that playing the Bridge hands well wouldn't be an interesting challenge, but instead that stripped down to the core the game has a bit less going on than some of the other games where the key elements of the game were designed to be within the trick-taking part. Already something like Spades would often be considered more interesting, or one could try the more modern designer games like The Bottle Imp or Ebbes. A new player will simply have more decisions to make during the hand, and has more small goals to aim at instead of just waiting for a badly bid hand to end.

Getting back to the Dominion analogy, my stance would be that Dominion is exactly the kind of a game where the interesting parts are within the actual game-play. It was specifically designed to have low entry barrier, by always limiting the set of cards within one game to a small set that is public knowledge and not having any pre-game choices. An imaginary drafting variant of Dominion that would start with the players somehow choosing which Kingdom cards to use, maybe even picking some of the piles for oneself alone, but that would have somewhat simplified action phase would be closer to Bridge in this analogy. It would probably still be a good game and might even become the preferred variant for high-level competitive play (especially if the action phase was simplified so much that some other deck-builders would otherwise be considered better), but it would require a lot more expertise and be more boring for players that do not master the selection phase.
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Ratsia

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Re: Why is Tichu so popular?
« Reply #11 on: January 17, 2014, 02:07:19 am »
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To me, the relevance is that they're both partner card games that take a similar amount of time to play.
Sorry. I only now realized we weren't actually talking about the same game. :) I briefly mixed up Spades and Hearts; Spades is really not that popular in Finland and I didn't think of checking the rules. My apologies for the confusion.

So, just ignore all my comments regarding the simplicity of Spades as well, but replace them with arguments on Spades being harder to approach.

Quote
Yes, one is trick-taking and one of building, but I tend to think about them pretty similar, and I think there's enough similarities between the two that people who would want to play one type of game generally want to play the other.
Even though I agree that the same players will usually like both kind of games, the choice between trick-taking and climbing probably is here the key that explains the difference in popularity. Besides the entry barrier, I feel that climbing games usually feel more social because they result in more interesting drama.

I personally actually prefer trick-taking, and given enough time and dedicated co-players would probably play something like Doppelkopf more than Tichu. However, Tichu seems to generate more laughter and discussion when playing in a bar after a few pints of beer, which is the usual context here. I know a lot of people who play on average 50+ games of Tichu every year, but I doubt any of them considers it as a game they spend a lot of time to master. It's simply light pastime that fills the evenings, in contrast to Bridge/Chess/Go/whatever one would actually practice to become better at.
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Davio

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Re: Why is Tichu so popular?
« Reply #12 on: January 17, 2014, 02:09:04 am »
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Maybe the reason Tichu is popular with board gamers is that it uses a custom deck instead of a regular (Bridge) deck?
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Ratsia

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Re: Why is Tichu so popular?
« Reply #13 on: January 17, 2014, 08:37:58 am »
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Maybe the reason Tichu is popular with board gamers is that it uses a custom deck instead of a regular (Bridge) deck?
Even though that basic principle indeed holds, it's not quite a sufficient explanation. There are tons of designer card games with custom decks, none of which reach the popularity of Tichu.

In fact, Tichu is way ahead of the rest. In BGG it ranks 52nd amongst all games, whereas the next "proper card games" (that is, excluding games like Dominion and 7 Nations that are listed as card games) would be Battle Line on 107th position and Hanabi on 111th. One has to go down to roughly ranks of 300-600 to find most of the more famous other card games (Mü is 393th, Sticheln is 474th, Bottle Imp is 676th, and so on). Bridge is actually ahead of almost all of these, ranking 225th and outranking for example Chess.
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Davio

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Re: Why is Tichu so popular?
« Reply #14 on: January 17, 2014, 08:49:04 am »
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Well, maybe Tichu is just popular because it's popular?

Often, the first game to be introduced into a group is the one that stays, even if other/newer games are better.

Why is Dominion more popular than other deckbuilders? Partly because it's simple and just works, but also because it was the first.
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Kirian

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Re: Why is Tichu so popular?
« Reply #15 on: January 17, 2014, 09:42:33 am »
+2

I grew up on the MI/OH border.  There is only one trick taking game, it is Euchre, and I swear if you call Spades while I'm holding two red Jacks, I will cut you.
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Polk5440

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Re: Why is Tichu so popular?
« Reply #16 on: January 17, 2014, 09:44:58 am »
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I grew up on the MI/OH border.  There is only one trick taking game, it is Euchre, and I swear if you call Spades while I'm holding two red Jacks, I will cut you.

I played Euchre almost every day at lunch for a while in high school. The memories.
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A Drowned Kernel

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Re: Why is Tichu so popular?
« Reply #17 on: January 17, 2014, 11:17:19 am »
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I grew up on the MI/OH border.  There is only one trick taking game, it is Euchre, and I swear if you call Spades while I'm holding two red Jacks, I will cut you.

I first read that as "if you call it Spades" and was wondering how someone could possibly confuse the two games. "Gee, my hand is a lot smaller than usual, but at least I got a bunch of high cards!"
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Kuildeous

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Re: Why is Tichu so popular?
« Reply #18 on: January 17, 2014, 11:40:44 am »
+3

I grew up on the MI/OH border.  There is only one trick taking game, it is Euchre, and I swear if you call Spades while I'm holding two red Jacks, I will cut you.

I never played Euchre, but I did study it a bit when I was in a production of Escanaba in da Moonlight. The characters play a game, but a weird supernatural thing happens, and I suddenly had a hand full of twos, trees, and fours. Because of the very specific manner in which you deal cards, I had to stack the deck before every show so that I got the illegal cards in my hand. As a purist, I was a little miffed that the other actors didn't care about playing their cards properly, but what are you going to do? At least everything about my cards was authentic.
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Kirian

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Re: Why is Tichu so popular?
« Reply #19 on: January 17, 2014, 02:40:03 pm »
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I grew up on the MI/OH border.  There is only one trick taking game, it is Euchre, and I swear if you call Spades while I'm holding two red Jacks, I will cut you.

I never played Euchre, but I did study it a bit when I was in a production of Escanaba in da Moonlight. The characters play a game, but a weird supernatural thing happens, and I suddenly had a hand full of twos, trees, and fours. Because of the very specific manner in which you deal cards, I had to stack the deck before every show so that I got the illegal cards in my hand. As a purist, I was a little miffed that the other actors didn't care about playing their cards properly, but what are you going to do? At least everything about my cards was authentic.

That is a great show.  I have only seen the movie version.  "Dere's no twos or trees wit'in a hundred miles o' deer camp!"
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Re: Why is Tichu so popular?
« Reply #20 on: January 21, 2014, 03:33:16 am »
+2

This is just false. That's like saying, "Once I analyze the kingdom, the rest of Dominion is so dull. I could never enjoy it unless I master the ability to analyze kingdoms first."
Maybe I was a bit too brief there. What I meant was that unless you can connect the information obtained during the bidding into the actual play, you are effectively playing a very simplified trick-taking game. It won't be a bad game, but definitely not the best trick-taking game there is.

It would still be around the best trick-taking games, simply due to the fact that you have information of the distribution of half the cards (yours and dummy's) and so you are able to infer a lot. The bidding can be introduced gently in steps, even as an afterthought. So what if you miss the occasional Slam, you'll be able to land in Game very often by simple, natural bidding. Also, counterplay signals indicating odd/even suits can be introduced quite gently and quickly. Look at how people seem to enjoy Mü, mostly without massive bidding system.

The one thing that irates me about Bridge is that it's broken with King's Court people treat the bidding voodoo as a massive barrier to entry, and then miss a really deep trick taking game.
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Davio

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Re: Why is Tichu so popular?
« Reply #21 on: January 21, 2014, 05:42:31 am »
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Klaverjas has no bidding system, but I wonder if it would be fun to add one.

The similarities with Bridge are that there are 2 teams of 2 players, sitting on opposite sides, there are trumps and there are tricks.

In Klaverjas, there are only 8 tricks, because it is played with 7-A of each suit, 32 cards in total.

One team "plays" and the other tries to bring the playing team "down" by scoring more points; cards are worth points, not tricks (only the last one is worth 10). So tricks are less important than the points of the individual cards in them.

I think it might be fun to let the player who accepts or picks trump to announce how many tricks he thinks his team will get and score or lose points for every trick he is off. This way, if you are forced to play with a marginal hand, you might still not lose all the points if you get the number of tricks right.
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Ratsia

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Re: Why is Tichu so popular?
« Reply #22 on: January 21, 2014, 07:39:01 am »
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It would still be around the best trick-taking games, simply due to the fact that you have information of the distribution of half the cards (yours and dummy's) and so you are able to infer a lot.
I'd agree that it is interesting for the people very familiar with the game. We wouldn't have newspapers publishing Bridge puzzles if it wasn't.

However, I'm still talking about people new to the game and the entry barrier is not just in the bidding part. For me the asymmetric play does not make it inherently better or worse, since in my opinion it has both positive and negative aspects. In particular, the added information can be viewed as something that makes it more interesting, or something that makes it less interesting when you suddenly have too much information during some stages of the hand or when the game gets too close to a solitaire puzzle. As a consequence, for me the actual gameplay is hence quite comparable to a very straighforward trick-taking game with one trump, the simplest of lead/follow rules you usually see, and uninteresting scoring system with a very steep step (*). I agree it's a bit more interesting than that and that the simple choices are actually often amongst the best ones for trick-taking games, but I would not rate it near the top in that respect alone. Of course that's a personal opinion, of someone who enjoys trick-taking games in general but has limited experience with Bridge.

Also, I think that being excluded from play for 25% of time inherently makes the game a bit more boring for new players. If you don't quite understand the game yet, there's not that much you can learn/enjoy while the others play.



(*) Of course that kind of a scoring system is not uninteresting as such, but isolated from the bidding system it is. If people don't have a good feeling of how strong their hands are, aiming to collect a specific number of tricks is usually not as interesting as some more detailed scoring systems (say, collecting specific cards or avoiding specific suits) would be. Too often you realize early on that you are either going to fall clearly behind of take way more than that. It still matters how well you play, but not as much as it would be slightly different scoring.
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Davio

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Re: Why is Tichu so popular?
« Reply #23 on: January 21, 2014, 08:13:26 am »
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I will explain one of my favorite custom card games, taught to me by a friend, for your entertainment.

It is a trick taking game for 3+ players (played best with 4 or 5 I think), called "Aunt", after the guy's great-grand-aunt who devised it.

First divide the 52 by the number of players and if it doesn't divide evenly, remove some cards.

With 3 and 4 players, no cards have to be removed.
With 5 players: remove the 2 of clubs and 2 of spades.
With 6 players: remove the 2 of clubs, 2s, 2d and 3c.
Etc. etc. just don't remove any Hearts (you will see why later).

The game is played over several rounds.

Every round, each player gets the same number of cards, 14 for 3 players, 13 for 4 players, ... 8 for 6 players. 2's are lowest, A's are highest with everything in between having their normal value (same with trumps). Each player plays 1 card per trick with the highest card (or highest trump) winning the trick. So with 3 players, 14 tricks are played, with 2 players 13 tricks etc...

The object of the game is score the least amount of points, you can even get below 0! Each round, the scoring is different. You get points for tricks or certain cards you collect.

Round 1: No last 2 tricks; each of the last 2 tricks you take yields 80 points
Round 2: No Queens; each Queen in your pile yields 40 points
Round 3: No Kings or Jacks; each King or Jack yields 20 points
Round 4: No tricks; each trick yields 25 points
Round 5: No Hearts; each Heart yields 15 points
Round 6: No King of Hearts: if you end up with the King of Hearts in your pile you get 160 points!!!

Round 7 - ?: Trump making: Each player gets to decide the trump for a round and every player (not just the trump maker) scores - (that is minus) 25 points per trick. So with 3 players, you play 3 of these rounds.

I like the variation with this game and it's fun to try and give the player with the least points the King of Hearts. :)

Give it a whirl and let me know what you guys think.

You can add/remove rounds with wacky rules to your liking.
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BSG: Cagprezimal Adama
Mage Knight: Arythea

Reyk

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Re: Why is Tichu so popular?
« Reply #24 on: January 21, 2014, 10:06:41 am »
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Sounds interesting. How is the trump determined in rounds 1 - 6 (sorry, if I'm missing something)?
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