Romanian Tile Rummy

Introduction: Equipment, Players and Objective

This page is based on the instructions in Romanian and Hungarian supplied with a tile rummy set bought near BistriĊ£a in Romania, and on information from Hilary Howarth, who learned the game from her Romanian husband and his family, and from Vlad Diaconu. I would be very pleased to hear from anyone who can give me more information about tile rummy games played in Romania and other south-east European countries.

The set consists of 106 wooden tiles. 104 of them have coloured numbers. There are four colours: red, yellow, blue and black, and in each colour there are two of each number from 1 to 13. The remaining two tiles have no numbers, but usually a picture of a smiling face. There are also four wooden racks on which the players store their tiles during the game, so that each player can see only his or her own tiles.

Rummy tiles

The game can be played by two, three or four players. At each turn you draw one tile and discard one. The object of the game is to get rid of all your tiles by laying them down in sets of the same number and runs of consecutive numbered tiles of the same colour.

The whole game is played anticlockwise.

Preparation and Distribution of Tiles

The tiles are mixed thoroughly face down on the table, and then built into a wall of 15 face-down stacks of seven tiles (there will be one tile left over). The wall is straightened by squeezing it between two of the racks, held parallel and on either side of the wall.

The dealer of the first game is chosen at random. For subsequent games the turn to deal passes to the right. The dealer turns the extra tile face up and counts out the number on the tile starting at one end of the wall. On the stack represented by the exposed tile, the dealer replaces the top tile with the exposed tile and moves this new spare tile to the top of the next stack, which will then have 8 tiles. For example if the original spare tile was an 8, the modified wall will look like this:

wall

The stack with the extra tile goes to the player to the dealer's right, and the dealer continues aroung the table counter-clockwise, giving one of the following stacks to each player in turn (working along the wall to the right if the wall as seen in the above diagram), continuing until each player has two stacks. If the end of the wall is reached the dealer continues from the beginning.

The players arrange the tiles on their racks - each player has 14 tiles except the player to dealer's right, who starts with 15. The remaining stacks stay face down in the centre of the table as a drawing stock. The first stack to be drawn from is the next stack in the order in which stacks were taken for the deal. It is customary to place this on top of the following stack, to indicate where the next tile is to be drawn from. As this drawing stack diminishes in size, periodically its tiles are added on top of the next following stack, to make the current drawing stack taller than the others.

If a low numbered tile is exposed initially, then the deal will leave the wall in two separate sections. In this case, during tiles are of course first drawn from the section after the dealt tiles, and then from the other sections, working towards the stack with the exposed tile.

The exposed tile itself is never drawn. When the other stacks are exhausted the exposed tile is removed from the top of its stack so that the six tiles that were under it can be drawn in turn.

Before the play begins, any player who has a pair of identical tiles (the same colour and number) can announce "doubla". Any two players who have doublas may agree to exchange them, each player passing the pair of tiles in question face-down to the other player. Players are not allowed to give exact information about the rank and colour of the tiles they want to exchange - they may only (if they wish) announce their doubla as "high" or "low".

If you are dealt the tile that is identical to the exposed tile, you may announce it before your first turn to play, and you will then score a bonus of 25 points at the end of the play.

The Play

The first player (who has 15 tiles) begins the game by throwing an unwanted tile face up on the table. This tile cannot be used at any time during the game. Thereafter, the turn to play passes counterclockwise around the table.

The object of the game is to collect tiles that form valid sets and runs, which can then be melded (placed face up on the table in front of you). Until you have succeeded in melding some tiles, you must begin each turn by taking the next available tile from the wall. Then if you have combinations of sufficient value, you may meld some tiles from your rack. To end your turn you must discard one tile from your hand face up. The discarded tiles are placed near the centre of the table in a row, in the order they were discarded. The tile thrown by the first player is placed at a right angle to the others to show that this is the start of the line.

discard row

There are two types of valid combination.

  • A run (suita) consists of at least three consecutive numbers of the same colour. A 1 may used to make a run of 1-2-3, or may be counted as following the 13 to make a run of 12-13-1. A 1 cannot be placed in the middle of a run: 13-1-2 is not valid.
  • A set (terta) consists of three or four tiles of the same number in different colours.

The two unnumbered tiles are known as Joly. A Joly can be used to substitute for any tile you need to make a set or run.

When using a Joly at the end of a run, you must make it clear which tile the Joly is intended to represent. For example the run [blue 9] - [blue 10] - [Joly] with the Joly representing the 11 can later be extended by adding a blue 12, but it's not possible to reassign the Joly to be a blue 8 so that a blue 7 can be added.

A combination must always contain at least twice as many real tiles as Jolys. Therefore you cannot use both Jolys in a single set, or in a run of fewer than 6 tiles. For example [yellow 3] - [Joly] - [yellow 5] - [Joly] - [yellow 7] is not allowed, but if you added the yellow 8 to it, it would be a legal run.

For your first meld, you must put down combinations from your rack with the following constraints:

  • the tiles you meld must include at least one run;
  • the total value of the melded tiles must be at least 50 points.

For this purpose the tiles have point values as follows:

2 to 95 points each
10 to 1310 points each
1 in a run of 1-2-3-...5 points
1 in a run of ...-12-13-110 points
1's in a set of three 1's25 points each
A Joly has the value of the tile it represents

In order to be allowed to meld any tiles at all, you must first meld from your hand sets and runs to a total value of at least 50 points. After you have done that, then in this and subsequent turns, after drawing and before discarding, you may meld further sets and runs, and add tiles to sets and runs that you or other players have previously melded. However, no tile may form part of two combinations (sets or runs) at the same time.

There is no obligation to meld tiles just because you can: you may keep them on your rack for later use if you prefer, though by doing so you risk a a bad score if another player ends the game meanwhile.

After you have melded some tiles as above, you have additional options on subsequent turns.

  1. You may put down additional runs and sets, irrespective of their point value.
  2. You may add tiles to extend your own or other players' existing melds.
  3. You may begin your turn by picking up the previous player's discard instead of drawing a new tile from the centre: there is no obligation to include this tile in a meld immediately.
  4. If you have two tiles on your rack that can form a set or run with any one tile of the discard row you may take this tile, meld the combination, and you must then pick up all the tiles discarded after the tile that you melded and add them to your rack. (You may then meld additional tiles or add them to existing melds).
  5. If you have the exact tile represented by a Joly in your own or another player's run, you may take the Joly, replacing it with the tile it represented, provided that you immediately meld the Joly with two tiles from your rack to make a new set or run.
  6. If you or another player have melded a pair of equal numbered tiles with a Joly as a set of three, and you hold tiles of the same rank in both missing colours, you may take the Joly, replacing it with these two tiles (completing four of a kind), provided that you immediately meld the Joly with two tiles from your rack to make a new set or run.
  7. If there is a set of two equal numbered tiles and a Joly on the table, and you have just one of the missing colours, you can add this tile to the set to make four of a kind, but you cannot take the Joly. Later, a player who has the same numbered tile of the fourth colour can use it to replace the Joly, provided that this player immediately melds the Joly with two tiles from his or her rack to make a new set or run.

Note that you are not allowed to take a discard to help make your initial meld of at least 50 points. Nor are you allowed, in the same turn as your initial meld, to add tile to other players' melds or to substitute the real tile for another player's Joly. The actions only become available to you in the turn after your initial meld.

If you have only one or two tiles left in your hand, you are not allowed to pick up any tiles from the discard pile. You must begin each turn by taking the next tile from the wall.

To win the game you must meld all your remaining tiles but one, discarding your last tile. On this final turn only, you may take the initial exposed tile from the end of the wall to complete your hand, instead of drawing an unknown tile from the wall or taking a tile from the discard pile.

A player who has three or fewer tiles left must announce this to the other players. Note that a player who has only one or two tiles left can only get rid of these by adding them to existing melds - if you have two tiles and pick up a third that forms a set or run with them, you can't meld this new set or run, as it would leave you with no tile to discard.

A player may choose to not to meld any tiles during the game, but keep them all concealed on his or her rack, hoping to win by melding them all at once. The player gets an extra bonus for this if successful, but of course risks incurring a large loss if another player wins.

It sometimes happens that all the face down tiles from the centre are drawn before any player ends the game by melding all their tiles. In this case the tile of the discard line are turned face down, except for the first tile at right angles, which remains exposed in place. These face down tiles from the old discard line are thoroughly mixed and used to build a new wall from which tiles can be drawn, so that the game can continue. The turning and shuffling of the old discards and rebuilding of the wall happens when a player wishes to draw a tile from the centre (rather than take a tile or tiles from the discard line) and there are no further face down tiles to draw.

Scoring

The winner scores 100 points plus the value of the tiles he or she has melded. The other players score the value of tiles they have played minus the value of the tiles left in their racks. For this purpose the values of the tiles are the same as in the initial meld, except for the Joly, which counts +50 points for the player who first melds it, but 25 points against a player who has it on their rack at the end of the play.

Note that if a player claims a melded Joly in exchange for the tile or tiles that it represents, the person who originally melded it still scores the 50 points for it, while any players who subsequently took it score only the value of the tile(s) that they provided as a replacement for it. To keep track of this, tiles used to replace a Joly are placed in the meld upside down. At the end of the play, the Joly is passed back from its final position through all the places where it was previously melded, ending in the meld in which it was first used, while the upside down tiles that replaced it are returned in each case to the player who supplied them, so that they can be scored for that player.

Anyone who did not meld any tiles at all loses 200 points irrespective of the values of the tiles on their rack.

If you win by melding all your 14 tiles at once (without having previously melded any tiles), you score an additional 100 bonus - that is a total of 200 plus the value of the tiles you meld.

If anyone was dealt the tile identical to the initial exposed tile and declared it, tthat player scores an extra 25 points.

It can happen that a game ends with no winner, if all the spare tiles have been drawn from the centre and no one has managed to compete their hand. In this case everyone scores for the tiles they have put down less the tiles they have left, and no one gets the 100 point bonus for winning.

A series of games is played, the deal passing to the right after each game and the scores are totalled. The players can choose whether the game should end after a fixed number of games or when someone reached an agreed target score.

Hilary Howarth recommends the following methods to keep the scoring clear during play:

  1. If a player supplies the fourth tile of a set, that set is removed from the player's meld area and each player keeps in a stack the number of tiles they contributed to the set.
  2. If a player adds tile(s) to another player's run, that player takes tiles worth the equivalent number of points from the middle of the run, leaving the ends of the run clearly identified. E.g. Player "A" adds 9 and 10 (worth 15 points) to Player "B's" run of 6-7-8. Player "A" moves the 7, 8, and 9 tiles to her stack as she is entitled to 15 points. Remaining on the in "B's" melding area is 7-10, indicating the end numbers of the run for future add-ons.

Each player keeps by them a stack of these tiles representing points for melds that can no longer be added to, for easy score counting at the end of the game

Note that it is possible to a player who has melded a lot of tiles to score more points than the "winner" who ends the game.

Variations

According to some printed rules, a player who has melded no tiles loses 100 plus the value of the tiles on their rack, rather than a fixed 200 points.

Some players require only 45 points (not 50) for the first meld.

Some players allow the previous player's discard (one tile only) to be taken if it is immediately used as part of your initial meld.

Some play that if you win by discarding a Joly, having melded all your other tiles, your score for that hand is doubled.