Tichu Card Game Review

Work together with your partners and defeat your opponents in Tichu, the exciting and volatile trick-taking card game! Use your strategy skills and teamwork to rid your hand of cards before your opponents can. Take advantage of the powerful effects of unique cards such as the dragon, phoenix and dog. Use bids of confidence, card trick bombs and deductive reasoning to get ahead of your opponents. Risk it all in your quest for victory!

Tichu, whose name in Chinese means roughly to “propose” or to “put forward”, is a fast-paced trick-playing card game with roots in Asia. It bears large similarities to the Chor Dai Dee and Da Lao Er Chinese card games which are hugely popular in East Asia. There are elements of Bridge and Poker in the game, and this fusion of styles and mechanics has created a very popular card game. The Tichu variation of this Asian card game was designed by Urs Hostetler in 1991, and has steadily acquired a growing fanbase.

Tichu is mostly played with 2 teams of 2 players each (though the game can accommodate between 3 to 6 players in total). You sit across from your partner, and your team’s goal is to win more points than your opponents during each game, and games continue until one team achieves the target number of points. A hundred points are up for grabs each game, and the target score is usually a thousand.

The game is played using a standard 52-card deck containing 4 suits of 13 cards each, plus an additional 4 special cards unique to this game. The game is played using tricks, which are very similar to poker hands. You can play single cards, pairs, a series of pairs, three-of-a-kind, full house, and straights of at least 5 cards.

The basic premise of the game is pretty straightforward: the lead player opens a round by playing a trick, and players take turns playing tricks that are of the same kind and larger in value than the previously played trick. Once everyone passes, the player who played the last trick wins all the cards played that round, and he gets to start a new round by playing any trick in his hand. For example, Player A opens a round with a pair of 4’s. Player B passes because he either does not have any pairs in his hand or chooses not to play them. Player C plays a pair of 7’s. Player D then plays a pair of Queens. After everyone else passes (opting not to play anymore pairs), Player D wins the round and claims all the cards on the table, and then starts a new round by playing a full house.

Winning the cards played in each round is what scores you points. However, only a few cards are worth anything. 5’s are worth 5 points each, and 10’s and Kings are worth 10 points each. The other normal cards are worth nothing, and merely act as tools for you to win the point cards. The game continues until one player “goes out” by emptying his hand. The game still continues with the remaining players, until only one player is left. Each partnership then totals the number of points they earned that game. You are penalized for coming in last though; the last player has to give all the cards he won that game to the first player who went out, and all the remaining cards in his hand to his opponents.

As you can see, this is a game where teamwork and strategy are required to win (though partners are not allowed to talk strategy during the game). You have to make sure your team wins the rounds where point cards are involved. You also need to make sure you aren’t the last player remaining in the game. In addition, if your entire team goes out before any of your opponents can, the point cards don’t matter and your team earns a whopping 200 points!

Unfortunately, that was just the basics. Tichu has a lot of other rules to make the game interesting and challenging. As mentioned before, there are 4 special cards in the game. They are the Mahjong, the Dog, the Dragon and the Phoenix, and each has its own abilities. The player with the Mahjong card gets to play the first trick, and can force a card to be played. Playing the Dog gives the lead to your partner. The Dragon is the highest value single card and is also worth 25 points. However, you have to give all the cards you won that round (including the Dragon) to an opponent. The Phoenix acts as a wild card and can be played with any trick, but it comes with a hefty -25 point penalty.

There are also tricks you can play called “Bombs”. If you have a four-of-a-kind or a straight-flush, this acts as a Bomb and you can use it to interrupt any round and immediately take the lead. However, your Bomb can also be interrupted by another bigger Bomb. Lots of fun! There are also a couple of other rules to the game. At the start of each game, you need to pass a card to each other player, thereby slightly influencing the quality of the other players’ hands. Before each player plays their first card, they also have the opportunity to call a Tichu. This means they are proclaiming that they will “go out” first. If they do, they win a bonus 100 points. But if they don’t, they lose the 100 points. You can also call a Grand Tichu when only 8 cards (out of 14) have been dealt. This works the same as a Tichu call, but the bonus (or loss) is 200 points!

The many rules in the game can seem daunting, and they can take a while to learn, especially for players who are new to this game genre or have not experienced trick-playing card games such as Bridge before. However, once you do get the hang of it, you will find that it becomes a game full of strategy, teamwork, guessing and second-guessing. And if your gaming group is of the high-risk variety, the constant calls of Tichu or Grand Tichu will turn the game into a suspenseful and exciting game where the point lead can swing wildly until the very end.

Tichu is a great game that you can play a very many times without getting bored. The level of thinking, planning and tricking in the game can even rival that of Bridge. Suffice to say, if you are willing to learn the many rules of the game, you will be rewarded with hours of fun! You will like Tichu if you like other trick-taking card games such as Bridge, Hearts or 500.

Rating: 4.5/5.0
Complexity: 3.5/5.0
Playing Time: 1 – 1.5 hours
Number of Players: 3 to 6 players

You can read more about Tichu and check out similar games at http://boardgames.gamepudding.com/r/tichu.html

Steven maintains the board game review website at http://boardgames.gamepudding.com/ – a website devoted to the best and latest board and card games. You can read game reviews and customer comments via this website.

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