I mentioned last week that I played Tichu for the first time and I have to admit, though I sort of "get" it now, I still want to try it out some more to make sure I really have a handle on the nuances. It is in this liminal state, when I kiiiinda, sooorta know how to play a game that I often get inspired to go in divergent paths with my own game ideas. Thus, the following loose outline. There are a lot of gaps here, so don't think this is a playable document yet. It's just a sketch, so to speak.
Compressed tea bricks, or "tea money," are an ancient preservation technique for tea leaves back when they were transported in the rough trade routes. With refined blends and lovely imprinted patterns, some bricks are can auction for thousands of dollars. In this game, players are bidding to get first pick at the available tea leaves, forming blends, storing them, aging them for maximum value.
Start with a Standard deck of Playing Cards.
Deal one card per player, plus one, to the center of the table face-up in a line.
Also place one card face-down below each card.
This line of cards is the FIELD.
Setup Each Round
Draw five cards per player from the deck, minus one.
Add a joker to these cards, shuffle and deal one card at a time to each player's hand.
One player will have the joker by the end of this deal.
Phases of Play
The player who got the joker takes the first turn. Turns continue clockwise.
In the bidding phase, you may bid or pass.
If you pass, simply skip this part of the round.
If you're the first to bid, then play one or more cards from your hand face-up in front of you.
Each subsequent bidder must play an equal number of cards from his hand.
Whoever has the higher value poker hand wins first pick, followed by second-pick, third-pick, and so on.
If you have the joker, it can be used as a wild card in a bid to make a more valuable poker hand.
On your turn to pick, you may take one card from the field, replacing it with a random card from the deck.
Or you may take multiple cards from the field, but you must also replace them with cards from your hand.
You're trying to put together an ideal blend for each brick of tea. Place your newly picked card(s) into your tableau, again trying to make the best poker hand.
After acquiring at least two cards, you may "bank" your current tableau by turning those cards face-down and setting it aside. This represents you compressing those tea leaves into a single brick.
If your tableau contains five cards, you must bank it.
Keep all banked sets separate from each other, because it will matter in scoring.
The game ends when the deck runs out. (Or some other means, I haven't decided.)
Scoring is based on a cross-reference comparing two primary attributes of each banked brick.
- Value of the blend is most important, as a pure blend will be more valued than a melange.
- The age of the brick will raise its value. Age is based on how many other bricks you've banked after this one, so banking early and often might be a viable strategy, even if those bricks aren't worth much on their own.
- Ideally, a brick has a good blend and has been well-aged.
And that's the loose idea for now. I need to fill in lots of gaps to make it a viable playtest doc, but there's some potential juice here mashing up elements of Tichu with Jaipur-style trading and a time-based scoring bonus.