Mighty

This page is based on contributions from Jun Chulmin, Miller Kim and John Pannell and Dan Roth.

Introduction

The card game Mighty is said to have been invented by Korean college students in the mid 1970's, but it is closely related to the group of Japanese picture capturing games, especially Napoleon, which date back to the beinning of the 20th century. Mighty is played mostly current or former students in Korea, and it is known there by the English sounding name "Mighty". It is also played by some groups in North America.

Mighty is a point-trick game with bidding. In each hand the high bidder chooses a partner by calling a card, and these two players try to take enough of the scoring cards (A, K, Q, J, 10) to fulfill the bid. The basic version for five players will be described first, followed by versions for other numbers of players from three to eight. There are several variations of the rules, which will be described at the end.

Players and cards

The basic game is played by five players, using a standard 52 card deck with one joker - 53 cards in all. The cards in each suit rank from high to low A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2. The ace, king, queen, jack and ten of each suit are worth one point each, so that the pack contains 20 points in all. The other cards have no value.

There are three cards with special powers:

  • the mighty is the spadeA unless spades are trumps in which case it is the diamondA. It is the most powerful card in the pack, beating all others;
  • the joker is the second most powerful card, but loses its power if the ripper is led;
  • the ripper or joker hunter is the club3 unless clubs are trumps, in which case it is the spade3. If led, the ripper forces the joker to be played and robs it of its power.
The Mighty and the Joker are together referred to as the Magic Cards because of their properties and strength.

Deal

The first dealer is chosen at random. Thereafter the holder of the called card becomes the dealer for the next hand.

The cards are shuffled by the dealer and cut by the player to dealer's left. Ten cards are then dealt to each player, one at a time, starting with the player immediately to the dealer's left. The last three cards are placed face-down in the center of the table to form the blind.

Bidding

In the first hand the dealer starts the bidding. In subsequent hands the bidding is begun by whoever was the declarer in the previous hand. The bidding continues clockwise around the table for as many circuits as necessary until the highest bidder and contract are established. At your turn you can pass or bid. A bid specifies the number of points to be taken (minimum 13, maximum 20) and the proposed trump suit or "no-trump". One would say, for example, 13 with hearts, 14 with no-trump, 16 with spades, full score(20) with clubs, etc.

Each bid must be higher than the one preceding it. A bid for a greater number of points is higher than a bid for a lesser number, and a no-trump bid is higher than a bid of an equal number of points with a trump suit. There is no priority order between the suits, so if the previous bid was 14 with diamonds your options are to bid 14 with no-trump, or 15 or more with any suit or no-trump, or to pass.

If you bid and another player bids higher, you can bid again when the turn comes back to you, provided that your new bid is the highest so far. A player who has passed cannot bid again during the auction. If a bid is made then the auction continues until all the players except one have passed. That one player who has not passed is the declarer and the final bid is the contract.

It is unusual for all five players to pass. If it happens, there is a second round of bidding in which players have another chance to bid. If everyone passes again the cards are thrown in and there is a redeal by the same dealer.

Exchanging cards and calling a partner

The declarer (the last and highest bidder) now exposes the three cards of the blind and then adds them to his hand and discards any three of his cards face down, bringing his hand back to 10 cards. If the cards discarded by the declarer include any scoring cards, these points count for the declarer's team.

At this point the declarer can change the trump suit or change from trumps to no-trump or vice versa, but in order to do so must increase the level of the bid. If changing from one suit to another or from no-trumps to a suit the bid level must be increased by two. If changing from a suit to no-trump it must be increased by one. The declarer cannot change the bid level by any other amount, nor can the level be raised without changing trumps.

The declarer may then name a card, and whoever holds this card becomes the declarer's partner or friend. Any card can be called, including the mighty or the joker. The holder of the called card must not reveal who they are at this stage. The identity of the partner will only become clear during the play of the hand - when the called card is played or when the partner wins a trick containing scoring cards. It is also possible for the declarer to play alone by declaring "no friend" or by calling a card that is in the declarer's hand or has been discarded.

If the final bid was '20 with no-trump', when calling a partner, the declarer is also permitted to say which suit he would like his partner to lead after winning a trick, so as to pass control back to the declarer. The declarer would say, for example, "full-20 with no-trump and I need hearts from my friend".

The Play

The declarer leads to the first trick, and is not allowed to lead a trump, nor the joker, nor the joker hunter (ripper). The other players, in clockwise order, each play one card from their hands. The winner of each trick leads to the next trick. In the second and subsequent tricks any card may be led.

Players must follow suit when possible, except when playing the mighty or joker as described below. A player unable to follow suit is free to play any card. A trick is won by

  • the mighty, if it was played;
  • the joker, unless the mighty was played or the ripper was led;
  • the highest trump played, if not beaten by the mighty or joker;
  • the highest card of the suit led, if not beaten by a trump, the mighty or the joker.
All point cards (10 and higher) won in tricks by a player not known to be in the declarer's team are displayed face up in front of that player. All other cards - the tricks won by declarer's team and the non-scoring cards played to other tricks - are kept in a single face-down pile in front of the declarer, along with the discard.

If you hold the called card and win a trick containing point cards, you are allowed (but not forced) at this point to announce that you are the partner and add your tricks to declarer's pile. If you choose not to reveal yourself, the fact that you are the partner will only become officially known when you play the called card. When the declarer's partner is identified, any point cards in front of this player are also added to declarer's pile.

The Mighty always wins the trick it is played to, and it can be played to any trick, even if you could have followed suit. However, it still functions as a card of its suit in the following cases:

  1. if the suit of the mighty is led, and the mighty is the only card you have in that suit, you have to play it;
  2. if the mighty is led, the other players have to play the suit of the mighty if they can.

The Joker is the second highest ranking card unless the Joker Hunter is led. The Joker can be played to any trick except the first or the last, even if you could have followed suit. If you lead the Joker to a trick, you can nominate the suit that the other players must play to that trick if they can.

The Joker Hunter (or Ripper) has no special power to win a trick, but if it is led, the player who holds the Joker is compelled to play it, unless he also has a Mighty which he may choose to play instead. When the Joker is 'ripped' by the Joker Hunter, it cannot win the trick. Unless someone plays the mighty, the trick is therefore won by the highest trump, or if none are played, by the highest card of the Joker Hunter's suit.

Scoring

The scores are kept in such a way that they add up to zero, representing the amount won or lost by each player. The score can be recorded on paper or you can settle up in money or chips after each hand.

At the end of the play, the scoring cards won by the declarer's opponents are counted, and the total is subtracted from 20 to find out how many scoring cards the declarer's team won. If this is equal to or more than the bid, then the declarer's team has succeeded. Each defender loses one unit for each point bid above 12. Two units per point above 12 are collected by the declarer and one by the partner. For example for a bid of 15, each defender loses 3 points (15 - 12), the declarer wins 6 and the partner wins 3.

If the declarer's team was unsuccessful these payments are reversed. Each defender wins one unit for each point bid above 12, the declarer has to pay two thirds of these units and the partner one third.

If the declarer played alone, all four defenders pay the declarer one unit per point bid above 12 if the contract succeeds, and the declarer pays them each the same amount if it fails.

Other numbers of players

Mighty has been adapted to be played by any number from three to eight. There are a number of ways of doing this. They involve adjusting the number of cards in the pack, (sometimes) the number of cards dealt, the partnership arrangements, and the scoring. Here are the details.

Three players (Jun, Chulmin's version)
The 2 - 6 of each suit are removed, leaving 33 cards - 10 for each player and three in the blind. The Joker Hunter is the club7, or the spade7 if clubs are trumps. The holder of the joker in each hand deals the next.
The declarer does not call a partner but always plays alone against the other two. The minimum bid is 11 and the declarer receives from or pays to each opponent one unit per point bid above 10.
Four players (Jun, Chulmin's version)
All the twos and fours and the two red threes are removed from the pack, leaving 43 cards - 10 for each player and three in the blind. The minimum bid is 12. Declarer calls a partner as in the five-player game. The defenders pay or receive one unit for each point bid over 11. If the contract is successful the declarer and partner divide the winnings equally; if they lose they divide the loss - or (by prior agreement) some play that the declarer pays the whole loss and the called partner pays nothing.
Four players (Chicago version)
Remove the heart2 and club2 leaving 51 cards - 12 for each player and three in the blind. The gain or loss is divided between declarer and partner in a ratio of 2:1. This results in some fractional scores; to avoid these the following table may be used:
Contract1314151617181920
Declarer134578911
Partner11233455
Defenders12345678
Six, seven or eight players (Chicago version)
In Chicago, a two deck version of Mighty was developed to allow six or more people to play. Two jokers are included, for a total of 106 cards. A few cards may be removed from the pack to make the deal even as follows:
  • six players - use all the cards; deal 17 cards each;
  • seven players - remove both club2's and both heart2's; deal 14 cards each;
  • eight players - remove both club2's, both heart2's, one diamond2 and one spade2; deal 12 cards each.
There are always four cards in the blind. The minimum bid is 25 and the maximum is 40. If the declarer changes to a new trump suit after looking at the blind, the bid must be increased by three; if changing to no-trump it must be increased by two.
The declarer calls two partners by naming two distinct cards. The players (other than the declarer) who play the first copies of each of these cards join the declarer's team, which therefore normally consists of three players. Either partner can announce themselves when they win a trick containing point cards. If the other partner is not yet known, the player making such an announcement must say which of the two called cards it is based on. It can sometimes happen that the declarer only has one partner - for example if a single player has both copies of both called cards.
When two identical cards are played to the same trick, the first played beats the second.
The defenders win or lose one unit for each point bid in excess of 24. The gain or loss is divided among the declarer's team in such a way that the declarer wins or loses twice as much as the each of declarer's partners. Fractional scores can be avoided by using the scoring tables on John Pannell's Mighty page

Variations

Some play that the bidding is begun by the partner (holder of the called card) from the previous hand - or the first of the two partners in the double deck game.

Some play that when picking up the blind, the declarer does not show it to the other players.

Some play that when changing the trump suit, the bid level is only increased by one. If the bid is 20 the trump suit can simply be changed without increasing the bid.

Some play that the declarer is not allowed to call a card that is in his own hand or that he has discarded in order to play without a friend. If he wants to play alone he can only do so by announcing "no friend". Others do not allow the declarer ever to play alone.

Some play that the holder of the called card is not allowed to announce his identity when winning a trick containing points. The partnerships only become known formally when the called card is played.

Some play that in the following cases the score for the hand is doubled (everyone wins or loses twice as much):

  • declarer plays with no trump suit;
  • declarer buries the Mighty in the blind;
  • declarer buries the Joker in the blind;
  • declarer bids a 'grand-slam' (all 20 points).
If several of these things happen, the doubles are cumulative. For example if you bid no-trump and bury the Mighty and the Joker, the score is multiplied by 8.

In John Pannell's version, if the contract is 17 or higher (in a game with 4 or 5 player), the declarer can on one occasion during the hand instruct partner to win the trick. Partner does not have to obey. In the 6 to 8 player double deck game, if the contract is 34 or higher the declarer may issue two such instructions during a hand.

It is not quite clear, but it may be that some players score a successful contract according to the number of points actually taken by the declarer's team, rather than according to the number that was bid.

It seems that some people play that the joker may be played to the first last trick, but in that case it loses all its power and becomes the lowest card of the pack.

Tactics

As in any strategic trick-taking game it is important to keep track of which cards have been played, especially the trump suit cards and magic cards. It is also important to use the Mighty and Joker to maximum effect, and to avoid having the Mighty forced out by a spade lead when you have no spades or the Joker by the Joker hunter.

It is possible to employ some conventions in the bidding. Suggestions for bidding and play tactics can be found on John Pannell's Mighty: Bidding and Play page.

Other Mighty web pages

Another description of Mighty (from which some of the information on this page was taken) can be found on John Pannell's page Mighty: The Card Game