Mighty

Mighty is a trick-taking game for five players. While not strictly a partnership game, the player that wins the bidding round has the option of selecting a partner. Unusually, though, which player is the partner remains unknown to everyone but the person selected—even the player that selected them!

Mighty originates from South Korea, having been invented there by college students in the 1970s. It is still mostly played there, especially by students, but it has spread to other countries as well.

Object of Mighty

The object of Mighty is to score points by capturing tricks containing 10s and higher.

Setup

Mighty uses a standard 52-card deck to which one joker has been added. We highly recommend using Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. This is partly because we sell them, but mostly because they have a cool dragon on one of the jokers. You’ll also need something to keep score with. You can use pencil and paper or chips (which may or may not represent real money) for that.

Shuffle and deal ten cards to each player, then a three-card widow. Traditionally, this is done by dealing one card to each player, then a batch of two cards to each player, then a batch of three, then a batch of four. The three remaining cards become the widow.

Game play

In Mighty, the cards mostly rank in their usual order, with aces high. The only cards worth any points are the aces, kings, queens, jacks, and 10s. This means there are 20 points available in any given hand.

Additionally, three cards have special powers:

  • The mighty—The A♠, unless spades are trump, in which case the A♦ is the mighty. The mighty always takes the trick.
  • The joker—The second-highest card. It can only be beaten by the mighty, unless the ripper is played.
  • The ripper—The 3♣, unless clubs are trump, in which case the 3♠ is the ripper. If the ripper is led, if any other player holds the joker, they must play it to that trick. The joker then has no value and cannot win the trick.

Bidding

Bidding starts with the dealer on the first hand. A bid consists of a target number of points and either a suit or “no trump”. A no trump bid is considered higher than a trump bid, but the suits have no relative value to one another. A player may also pass, but is out of the bidding for this hand.

After the dealer has bid, the next player to their left bids higher or passes. This continues for as many rounds as it takes until all the players but one have passed. That player becomes the declarer, and their bid becomes their contract.

The exchange

By winning the bid, the declarer has the right to exchange cards with the widow. They take the three widow cards into their hand, then discard three cards from their hand face down. Any point cards discarded to the widow will count for the declarer at the end of the hand.

After exchanging cards, the declarer announces the trump suit. By default, this will be the suit stated in their bid. If they wish to change the trump suit from this (usually due to an unexpected find in the widow), they may do so, but this will increase their contract by two points. If a player changes from a no trump to a suited contract, this will also increase the contract by two points. Going from a suited contract to a no trump contract only increases the contract by one point.

A player may not increase their contract without changing suits.

Calling a partner

Before actual play begins, the declarer may announce any of the 53 cards in the deck. The player holding this card becomes the declarer’s partner. This player will share in one third of the declarer’s win or loss for the hand. The partner does not reveal themselves at this time.

If the declarer wishes to play without a partner, they may simply declare “No partner”. More deviously, they may name a card in their own hand, or even more sneakily, in the discards.

If a player bid 20 no trump, the maximum possible bid, they may also state a suit that it would be helpful for their partner to lead.

Play of the hand

The declarer leads to the first trick. Neither the mighty nor the joker can be led to the first trick, but they can be led to subsequent tricks. Each player in turn must play a card to the trick, following suit if able; if they cannot, they may play any card. The trick is won by the player who played the highest-ranked card, in the following order: the mighty, followed by the joker, then the highest trump played, and finally the highest card played of the suit led.

The cards in the trick are not added to the player’s hand. Instead, any point cards won by the defenders are placed face up in front of the player that won them. All other cards (non-scoring cards, point cards won by the declarer) are placed face down in a discard pile in front of the declarer.

The mighty can always be played (except as a lead to the first trick), whether or not it would be considered following suit. When led to a trick, other players still have to play whichever suit the mighty belongs to. If the mighty is the only card you have in its suit and that suit is led, you have to play it in order to follow suit.

The joker cannot be led to either the first or last tricks. On the second through ninth tricks, it can be led, and the person playing it declares which suit everyone else has to play in order to follow suit.

The identity of the declarer’s partner remains secret until one of two things happens. When they play the card that was called, this obviously reveals who the partner is. Also, when the partner wins a trick that contains a scoring card, they may reveal themselves as the partner (but are not compelled to). When the partner’s identity becomes known, any cards in front of them are added to the declarer’s discard pile.

Scoring

The hand ends when all ten tricks have been played (and every player is therefore out of cards). The point cards won by the defender are counted. This total is then subtracted from 20 to determine the number of points won by the declarer and their partner. If this number is greater than or equal to the contract, the declarer has successfully made their contract.

In Mighty, whenever a score is recorded for the declarer, an equal but opposite amount is scored to the defenders to balance it. The total of all scores recorded on a hand must equal zero, as described below.

If the contract was fulfilled, the defenders each lose one point for each point bid beyond twelve. The declarer scores two points, and the partner scores one point, for each point bid beyond twelve. For example, with a made contract of seventeen points, there are five points bid beyond twelve. The declarer scores 5 × 2 = 10 points. The declarer’s partner scores 5 points. Each defender scores −5. The three defenders scored −15 between the three of them, and the declarer and their partner scored 15 between the two of them, so the scores balance.

If the contract was not fulfilled, it is scored the same way, except the declarers lose points and the defenders gain them. For a broken contract of fourteen points, the defenders would each score two points. The declarer would lose four points and their partner two. The scores balance (2 + 2 + 2 = 4 + 2).

If the declarer played without a partner, the declarer scores double, scoring or losing four points for each point bid above twelve. This works out, of course, because with no partner there are four defenders instead of three, so the scores still balance.

A special scoring rule applies if either side collects a large number of points. If the declarer captures all 20 point-scoring cards, it is called a run. If the defenders capture eleven or more point cards, this is a back run. Should either of these happen, all point scores for the hand are doubled.

After the hand is scored, the deal passes to the declarer’s partner. On every hand other than the first, the declarer of the previous hand gets the first bid. Game play continues until any predetermined stopping point (such as a certain time or number of hands played).

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