Mü & More
English language edition
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A collection of five different card games from Doris & Frank:
Mü: a tactical, trick-taking game for 4-6 players.
The Last Panther: anti trick-taking game for 3-8 players.
Wimmlün: trick-taking game where each player estimates how many tricks he will take for 3-6 players.
Rummü: card laying game for 3-6 players.
Safarü: card catching game for 2-4 players.
I have to concur whole-heartedly with every 5-star review of Mu. The shifting alliances, the bidding structure (with increasingly steep goals as the bids escalate) ... this game is as good as everyone has said or better.
During a recent D&D session, the DM introduced this game as 'a giantish card game.' By the end of the first hand, we were shouting in surprise and dismay as the play unfolded. The bidding became ruthless and a mini-game of Diplomacy seemed about to break out as alliances were formed. This game is fast to play, quick to learn, subtle in its depth and rewards both alliance-builders and aggressive players.
Outstanding. And the cards are beautiful, too - lovely to look at and coated well, so they should be fairly durable.
Maybe I am not a trick-taking malcontent, but the truth is that, other than spades (and Frank's Zoo for those of you who think it counts), I am just not into trick taking games. Sieben Siegel was okay, Great Dalmuti was a Great Disappointment, Rage was one of the biggest disappointments of my gaming career, and so on.
And then there was Mu.
Why do I like spades? I like the partnerships; I like calling bids; I like the ability to really gun for big points (in a Nil or Double Nil). So Mu took all those things I do like in trick-taking added even more levels of strategy and then knocked me over with its depth!
In Mu there are 5 suits. And though numbered from 0-9, there are two 1's and two 7's in each color. That's a little different -- but I've only just begun. The big change is that the trump changes from hand to hand! Big deal, you say? What if I told you that players BID to choose trump? And that there are two trumps? And that there are partners, but they change constantly...and you advertise to become a partner...and that the two trumps combine for a 'supertrump'...and chief has to make a sliding target depending on his bid with a bonus rigged to how scarce his trump is...AY CARAMBA! Let me catch my breath ... *pant, pant* ... and cover that *gasp* a bit more slowly.
First off players will bid cards face-up in front of them. You still get to use them in the game, but what you are doing is advertising what you have in your hand and aiming to become chief or vice-chief. The player with the highest bid (most cards bid) is chief, next most cards bid is vice chief. First the vice chief picks a trump (color or number), then the chief picks a trump (color, or number, or nothing). The two trump combine into one supersuit, in which the chief's trump trumps the vicechief's trump. Then the chief looks at all the advertised cards, and chooses a player that he thinks will help him most (he'll probably being looking at the score too, and since he doesn't want to share bonus points with the leader, chief will often pick a lower scoring player.)
Now the game begins. Players may play cards from their hand or from their bid (bid cards stay face up the whole hand), but many normal-trick taking conventions apply. Players still must follow suits if at all possible. Because of the 'supersuit', if vice trump is led, then trump can be played, and vice versa, and if a number was called as a trump, it no longer belongs to its 'suit' color, but instead belongs to the supersuit color.
Players are still trying to get points for themselves (in the form of small triangle 'pips' on the cards, making cards worth 0, 1, or 2 points each) by winning the trick with the most valuable card. So Red 5 beats Red 1, 2, and 4. But if trump is Blue over 5, and Red 5 is led, with Red 2, Black 5, and Blue 0 following, then Blue 0 (being chief trump) beats Black 5 (which was vice trump).
At the end of the round, the chief and his partner total their points to see if they made their target point value. This is another ineteresting part of the game because the target changes depending on how many cards the chief bid. The more cards he bid the higher his target goes. But he has even more flexibility. Not only does he choose his partner, and he chooses the chief trump, also, in choosing the chief trump he also is choosing what sort of bonus he qualifies for. If he picks a color as trump his bonus points will be minimum, then 1's & 7's, then any other number, with NO trump being the way he can get the most bonus points. So the scarcer his trump call, the more points he gets, and the more cards he bid, the higher his target, but ALSO the higher his bonus with that already tiered bonus scale. (If this seems way too confusing, fear not! The game comes with easy to use reference cards too.) The cheif can also lose points by missing his target, and there is a sliding scale: the more points he misses by the greater the penalty which, appropriately, is not levied on the innocent partner of the chief.
This game is tight and tense and tricky. And I like it a lot. There is so much going on in the bidding round AND the trump call round AND the actual gameplay that players will have to tread carefully. This is a trump game I can enjoy!
And that's not all! It comes with rules for 4 more games! The best of which are:
Safaru: A very light card game for 2-4 players. Players can claim cards in the center of the table in one of three ways. The bonuses and penalties seem a bit too high, but still fun.
Wimmuln: Another interesting trick taking game where players get to make 2 bids one what they think they can get and depending on how they arrange those bids (for they must be played out of a players hands secretly) then can score bonus points.
The other two are mediocre, but Mu is so good that if you enjoy trick taking games, you need no other reason to buy it. It's a bit confusing for light gamers, and would be WAY over the heads of children, but for trick-takers and card gamers around the world, this is a lot of fun to play. Perhaps the best game of its type.
Recently I reviewed Xactica, calling it a one-trick eight trick pony. Mu & Mehr is the antithesis of that game, in that it does not revel in its own cleverness to little effect. Xactica used unusual cards which belonged to all four suits and then built a mediocre game around them. Mu takes the basics of trick-taking and creates a game that feels both classic and new and original at the same time, with a plethora of interesting mechanics.
The deck consists of five suits, which changes tactics right there. Bidding involves actually showing cards from your hand, which makes for very interesting choices. The choice of partners is more interesting than in standard games like bridge, and the choice of trumps is equally novel.
This is an excellent game, no question, and stands up remarkably well in comparison to games like bridge. If this game received as much attention as bridge does I could easily see it spawning Mu clubs and tournaments. It really is that good.
This game may well be the only 5-player partnership trick-taking card game in existence. But what a game it is. It can be played with 3-6, but 5 is the perfect number for this grand game.
I used to play Bridge; and I've always played Spades, Rook, and Hearts; and from time to time I'll play Was Sticht?, but whenever I have a hankering to play a trick-taking card game, Mu is the only choice for me anymore.
The game is pretty much a straightforward trick-taking game with a subtle twist of the card rank distributions (cards in 5 suits, ranging from 0-9, with duplicates of 1s and 7s). That alone makes one think a bit differently when executing tricks. Add to that another twist about trump suits (see later) and the play of the game is decidedly different from more traditional card games.
But the real glory in this game is in the bidding. Whereas Bridge has very staid and orderly bidding conventions which must be followed sternly, this game has a structured but not constraining bidding method which keeps everyone in on the process of exhibiting information about their hand. Essentially, players display cards to bid (never more than the highest showing bid + 1 card) and can get back into the bidding action even after passing. When all bidders pass, the highest bidder (most cards displayed) is the head of the offensive partnership and the second-highest bidder (next most cards displayed, with ties broken by highest ranking card played) is the head of the defensive trio.
At that point, the second-high bidder chooses the undertrump, either a suit or a number, but the selected undertrump must be showing before him. Then, the leader of the offense selects the overtrump (same rules apply, with the additional option of selecting no overtrump). Then he selects a partner from the three players who were not the top two bidders. It should be noted at this point that cards displayed during the bidding are still, of course, part of your hand for playing the tricks, but they remain on the table during the play, just like the 'dummy' in bridge.
At that point the tricks commence with one unusual feature. All cards of the trumps (over and under) are no longer associated with their original suit. For instance, if the overtrump is 3 and the undertrump is black, then all 3's, regardless of their original color, and all black cards are now 'trump colored' cards. If someone leads a red 7 and all you have is the red 3, you do not have to play that 3, because it's no longer red! It is now a member of the trump suit and need be played only when trump is led (or if you wish to trump a trick in which you are otherwise void). This makes each hand very different from the previous one and will convince you that you're playing a very different sort of trump game.
And the goal? Well, each card has a number of small triangles on it (0, 1, or 2). These are what you must accumulate to 'make your bid.' The highest cards in each suit (9s) have no triangles on them. 7's have 2 triangles. Other cards have varying levels of triangles, but in no real correlation to the card's trick-taking value. So, you may take a trick with that 9, but it may be a worthless trick with absolutely no triangles. In that case, you've gained no ground on making your bid (or setting your opponent's bid).
And the last great innovation for this game is the fact that you can progress even when you don't make your bid. In most trick card games, if you miss the bid ('go set'), you'll incur some sort of negative point total for the mistake. But in Mu, you do receive a negative credit (10 points per level by which you missed the bid--thus if you bid 5 cards and took only enough to merit a 3-card bid, you lose 20 points). However, you add to that all points you did successfully pull in during the hand. Therefore, if you bid 8 cards and the partnership misses the bid by only taking enough tricks to merit a 7-card bid, you lose 10. But add to that the 34 points you took (by yourself, not including your partner's points), and your net of 24 may vault you into the lead. This doesn't happen in other trump games.
So, it's a collaborative and an individual game, all at once, with partnerships shifting on every hand. Some may see that as chaotic, but it's a much more social way to approach partnership games than the traditional form of Bridge. I say if you have 5 devout card players, it's a winner in all regards.
I've always loved card games. Whether it was playing Rook with my parents, Pinochle with grandpa, or Hearts with the computer, I've particularly enjoyed trick-taking card games that mix a good dose of strategy with the luck of the draw. Mu fits that criteria perfectly.
For the last few weeks our gaming group has been on something of a Mu-fest. Our group generally plays intense, cut-throat, [page scan/se=0428/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]18xx games so when I introduced them to Mu, I feared they were thinking, 'We're not gonna play a children's game about cows, are we?' After a few hands, the strategic element began to engross them and we haven't had our fill of Mu yet.
We are discovering new strategies daily. Even when you may have a seemingly lousy hand you can still have fun 'advertising' (laying out cards to support the chief's trump suit) in hopes of being picked as the chief's partner. Or even better, win the chief's favor (and hopefully his partnership) by cancelling out the vice with matching cards.
Buy this game and learn how powerful a hand full of 7's can be.
This game is for everyone who likes Hearts, Spades, and other simpler trick-taking games but has been daunted by Bridge and hated the bidding conventions that make it impossible for novices to play.
Basically, Mu is a lot like Bridge in that player bid to name trumps, with the high bidder becoming the 'boss', choosing a partner, and naming a major trump, and the second bidder becoming the 'vice' and naming a minor trump. The boss and the partner then try to make the bid while the remaining players try to set them. The clever bits include lots of options for trumps (numbers and colors), a scoring system based on points (indicated on the cards) rather than tricks, free selection of partners each round, and a bidding system which has players revealing cards from their hand to bid (which has a profound effect on choosing the partner and the subsequent play).
All in all, this is my favorite card game. A very solid, intelligent game which you can play and enjoy discovering new tricks about how to bid and play the game each time, without dedicating a large amount of time to learning conventions.
There's no doubt that M is one of the best games to come from the little game company of Doris & Frank. Its complexity gives it great depth, and possibly makes it the best five-player game around.
M is a trick-taking game, and it isn't a particularly strange one at that. The only especially sneaky part is that trumps aren't made up of one suit. Rather, it is made up of two orthogonal elements, major and minor trumps; each can be a colour, a number, or no trumps. This becomes important when the bidding process is taken into account.
Bidding goes around the table, with players placing cards from their hand face-up on the table; there is a mapping between the number of cards you have played and how many points you hope to take during the trick-taking phase. After several times around the table, bidding and raising, one player will have bid more cards than anyone else. This player is called the Chief, and gets to choose the major trump. The player who played the second-most cards becomes the Vice, who chooses the minor trump. The Chief then picks a partner from the other players (except the Vice) and it is up to the two of them to win. The Vice and other players, of course, try to stop this from happening.
The actual trick-taking part of the game is quite simple; players must follow suit if they can (so they must play a trump if a trump is led), and the winner takes the trick. Scoring is not done by tricks taken but by points on the cards in the tricks. Each card has from zero to two small triangles on it. It is these triangles that are counted to determine if the Chief and partner have won, or if the Vice and other players kept them from their bid. Rewards and penalties are handed out according to the result. Games are usually played to a set number of points, which usually lasts several hands.
Naturally, this is quite a bit more complex than most trick-taking games. Additionally, the cards with the most triangle points are not the highest in their suit, so playing to simply win tricks may not actually earn you many triangles. Also, each of the five suits contains not only every number from zero to nine, but an extra one and an extra seven. This makes card-counting just that little bit harder.
The game usually is quite close, because the Chief will often pick the player in last place to be the partner, which will raise the partner's score. Only if you make many unrealistic bids will you find yourself out of the running.
The cards in M & Mehr are absolutely stunning, with gorgeous abstract artwork by Doris Matthus, and there are also four other games that can be played with the cards - the Mehr ('more') of the title. None of these other games is nearly as complex as M and they should be regarded as nice extras, not the reason for owning the game.
Personally, I am quite abysmal at M, and so I rarely volunteer to play it. But I can still recognize a masterpiece when I see it, and M is right at the top of its class.