They are available in countless versions: card games whose objective is to be the first to get rid of one's cards. There are generic ones, such as "Arschloch," "Bettler" or "Negern" as they are called in German. And we can find proprietary products, for instance KARRIEREPOKER, DER GROSSE DALMUTI, DAS GROSSE UND DAS KLEINE A and OCHS & ESEL. The best-known game of this kind, however, is probably TICHU, developed twenty years ago by Urs Hostettler and based on East Asian "Climbing Games," such as Zeng Fen. The "Climbing" term comes from the compulsion to bid higher and higher. TICHU achieved its triumph also because - like Doppelkopf - it is designed as a team game. This, too, applies to "Trichu," the variant for three players,
A recent game among the TICHU-style products is HAGGIS by Sean Ross, a Scotsman now living in Canada. The 54 cards clearly show the designer's provenance: Their design is unconventional, using pretty unusual coloring and symbols; but this way, the game gains an individuality that lets it stand out. The numerical values range from 2 to 10 in five suits. In addition, there are nine picture cards - three each of Jack, Queen, and King. Only the odd numbers and the picture cards have point values. The well-edited instructions don't leave any questions unanswered; on top of that, there are even three rule summary cards enclosed, as memory aids.
Regarding the number of players, HAGGIS rounds the Climbing Games down, so to speak, since it is for two and three players. In this respect, Ross breaks new ground, filling a gap in a convincing manner with an appealing game variation. The basic principle is known: Cards that have been played must be overbid by cards of the same number and type with higher values; that means: a three-of-a-kind has to be followed by another three-of-a-kind with higher card values. This way, each player tries to take tricks by playing the last card and then tries to get rid of his cards as soon as possible by leading the next trick. Ross also adopts the "Bombs" that come up in TICHU and that beat everything else for the time being. His bombs are comprised exclusively of point cards.
The smart thing about HAGGIS is that each player has a guarantee of at least one bomb besides his 14 hand cards, because Jack, Queen, and King are on display in front of each player, face up, and thus can be used as a bomb in a two-card or three-card combination. However, what's even more elegant is that these three cards also have the function of a wildcard and often are also used in other combinations. The highest picture bomb can only be beaten by a four-card combination of odd number cards of a single suit.
Of course, a player can also announce that he thinks he'll win the game; if this prediction is correct, he is rewarded with 15 or 30 points. At the end of the game, the point cards (50 points maximum) and the betting points (which, if you lost the bet, in most cases go to the opponent), are part of the scoring. Additionally, the winner gets the hand cards of the player in last position, plus the so-called Haggis, i.e., three or eight cards (depending on the number of players) that were not dealt out in the beginning, so that players can never count on all cards during the game. And the winner gets five points for each hand card that the player with most cards has left in his hand. A game is played for 250 or 350 points overall, which takes 30 to 45 minutes.
If you like TICHU, you'll love HAGGIS, especially since "Trichu" has always been just an auxiliary construction for the game with three players. The new alternative is more than just a substitute. This versatile solution with its face-up wildcards, keeping up the bomb threat, is ingenious! Great card game, nice materials - a definite must for lovers of trick-taking games!