Mighty

Players: 5
  52+J

Korean trick-taking game for 5 players, 2 against 3 with secret partnerships and some cards with special powers: the mighty, the joker and the ripper.

Class: Picture Group

Related games: Napoleon (Japanese)

Browse classification network

Region: Korea

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 beginning of the 20th century. Mighty is played mostly by 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.

Some of the Korean vocabulary of Mighty uses political terms and words borrowed from Napoleon. For example, the declarer is '주공' which can be translated as 'president' or 'party leader'. The declarer's team is '여당' (ruling party), defenders are '야당' (opposition party), a bid is called '공약' (pledge, promise) and the bidding phase is called '선거' (election). It is likely that this political theme refers to the military junta as the game was created during the Third Republic of Korea.

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 many variations of the rules, which will be described at the end.

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

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 can force the joker to be played and rob it of its power.

The Mighty and the Joker are together referred to as the Magic Cards because of their properties and strength.

The game is normally played clockwise.

Deal

The first dealer is chosen at random. Thereafter the declarer's partner (the holder of the called card) in each hand becomes the dealer for the next hand, or if the declarer plays alone the declarer deals the next hand.

The cards are shuffled by the dealer and cut by the player to dealer's right. Ten cards are then dealt to each player and three to a face-down blind or kitty. Normally they are dealt as follows: first one card to each player, starting with the player immediately to the dealer's left, then a batch of two cards each, then a batch of three cards each and finally a batch of four cards each. The last three cards are placed face-down in the center of the table to form the kitty.

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 minimum number of points that must be taken by the bidder's team for the contract to succeed and the proposed trump suit or "no-trump".. The lowest bid allowed is 13 and the highest is 20. 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.

Redeal

It is unusual for all five players to pass. If it happens the cards are thrown in and there is a redeal by the same dealer.

There are also certain hands on which a player can demand a redeal. For this purpose the cards in a player's hand are counted as follows:

The default Mighty (spadeA): 0
Joker: -1
Each A, K, Q, J except spadeA: +1
Each 10:
Other cards (2-9): 0

Any player whose ten cards have a total value of ½ point or less on this scale is allowed to show their hand at their first turn to bid and ask for a redeal. All the hands are thrown in and there is a new deal by the player who asked for the redeal. This player is also the first to bid in the new deal.

Exchanging cards and calling a partner

The declarer (the last and highest bidder) now picks up the three cards of the blind without showing them, adds them to his hand, and discards any three of his 13 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 at least two unless the bid was 19 in which case it is sufficient to increase it to 20. If changing from a suit to no-trump it must be increased by at least one unless the bid was already 20 in which case it can be changed to '20 with no-trump'. The bid may also be increased by one or more while keeping the trump suit the same.

The declarer must then choose a partner or friend, or choose to play alone. There are several possibilities.

  • The declarer may name a card, and whoever holds this card becomes the declarer's. 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 - for example when the called card is played. If the declarer calls a card that is in his own hand or which he discarded, he will be playing alone against the other four, though they will not initially realise this.
  • The declarer may specify that the winner of the first trick will be his partner. In this case if the declarer wins the first trick he will play alone.
  • The declarer may announce that he is playing alone by declaring "no friend". In this case the score for the game is increased.

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 unless holding nothing but trumps. If the declarer leads the Joker or the Joker Hunter to the first trick they lose their special powers (see below). 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 to destroy the Joker's power or the Joker is played in the first or last trick;
  • 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, J, Q, K, A) 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. When the declarer's partner is identified, by playing the called card or by winning the first trick if this method of choosing a partner was used, any point cards won in front of this player are 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 can be played to any trick even if you could have followed suit. It is the second highest ranking card unless either the Joker Hunter is led to destroy the Joker's power or the Joker is played to the first or last trick. In those cases the Joker is the lowest card and cannot win the trick. A player who leads the Joker to a trick other than the first or last can nominate the suit that the other players must play to that trick if they can. If the Joker is led to the first or last trick the second player can play any card and this card determines the suit that the remaining players must follow.

The Joker Hunter (or Ripper) has no special power to win a trick, but a player who leads it to any trick other than the first has the option to require the Joker to be played to the trick. If the Joker is demanded its holder must play it to the trick unless that player also has the Mighty, in which case they may play the Mighty and keep the Joker. When the Joker is 'ripped' by the Joker Hunter it loses its power and 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. The Joker Hunter cannot be used to rip the Joker in the first trick, and of course a player who holds both the Joker and the Joker Hunter cannot rip their own Joker.

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. Then the score (S) for the game is calculated: this depends on the bid (B) and the number of points the declarer's team took (P) as explained below. If the declarer's team succeeded, taking at least as many points as were bid (P≥B) then each opponent pays the score (S), the declarer collects twice the score (S) and the partner collects the score (S). If the declarer's team fails (P<B) the payments are reversed: the declarer pays 2×S the partner pays S and each opponent collects S. If the declarer played alone then the declarer collects S from each opponent (total 4×S) if the contract succeeds or pays S to each if the contract fails.

The most usual method of calculating the score is the following. In the formulae below M is the lowest bid allowed: in the standard game described here M=13.

  • If the declarer succeeds, the score is 2 for each point by which the bid is higher than the minimum (13) plus 1 for each extra point the declarer's team takes in excess of the bid, that is S=2×(B-M)+(P-B). Some people prefer to express this as (B-M)+(P-M) which gives the same result.
  • If the declarer fails, the score is just the difference between the points taken by the declarer's team and the bid: S=B-P.

Note that if the bid is the minimum (13) and the declarer's team takes exactly 13 points the score is zero and there is no payment.

In certain circumstances the score S is doubled. If two or more of these conditions apply the score is doubled that many times, multiplying it by 4, 8, etc.

  • If the declarer's team takes all 20 scoring cards, this is known as a run, and the score is doubled. For example if the bid was 17 the score for 20 points is doubled from 11 (2×4 + 3) to 22: each opponent pays 22, the declarer wins 44 and the partner wins 22.
  • If the defenders' team takes at least 11 scoring cards, this is a back run, and the payments from the declarer and partner to the defenders are doubled.
  • The payments for a contract with no trumps are doubled, whether the contract is successful or unsuccessful.
  • If a declarer plays alone by announcing 'no friend', the payments for the contract are doubled whether it succeeds or fails. This double only applies when the declarer openly announces that they will play alone, not to a 'secret' solo contract in which the called card is in the declarer's hand or kitty, and not when the declarer wins the first trick having announced that the partner will be the winner of that trick.

Examples of scoring

  • Declarer bids 15 with diamonds and calls a partner. Declarer's team takes 16 points. The score is 5 (2×2 + 1). Declarer wins 10, partner wins 5, each opponent loses 5.
  • Declarer bids 15 with diamonds and calls a partner. Declarer's team takes 13 points. The score is 2. Declarer loses 4, partner loses 2, each opponent wins 2.
  • Declarer bids 16 with no-trump and calls a partner. Declarer's team takes 18 points. The score is 16 (3×2 + 2 doubled because of no-trump). Declarer wins 32, partner wins 16, each opponent loses 16.
  • Declarer bids 16 with no-trump and calls a partner. Declarer's team takes 13 points. The score is 6 (failed by 3 points, doubled for no-trump). Declarer loses 12, partner loses 6, each opponent wins 6.
  • Declarer bids 17 with hearts and calls a partner. Declarer's team takes 20 points. The score is 22 (4×2 + 3 doubled for taking all the points). Declarer +44, partner +22, each opponent -22.
  • Declarer bids 16 with no-trump and no friend and takes 17 points. The score is 28 (3×2 + 1 doubled twice, for no-trump and no friend). Declarer wins 112 and each opponent loses 28.
  • Declarer bids 16 with no-trump and no friend and takes 15 points. The score is 4 (1 point doubled twice). Declarer loses 16 and each opponent wins 4.

Note that this payment system is very favourable to the declarer's team, especially when the bidding reaches a high level. This encourages aggressive bidding, though when making sacrifice bids players must be careful not to risk a back run.

There are many variants that use other methods of scoring: some of the more common ones are listed in the variants section below.

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 (or in some groups 12) and the scoring is adjusted accordingly The declarer is receives or pays S units from/to each opponent.
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 normally 14 (since 2 against 2 is easier for the declarer's team, than 2 against 3). Declarer calls a partner as in the five-player game. The score is based on the minimum bid (M=14). When 2 play against 2 the winning players receive the score and the losing players pay the same amount: winnings or losses are divided equally between the declarer and partner. Alternatively, by prior agreement, some play that when the contract fails the declarer pays both opponents and the called partner pays nothing. A declarer playing alone receives from or pays to all 3 opponents.
In the four-player game some do not allow the declarer to call the Joker as a partner.
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 players: first version
In each deal there will be five active players and one sitting out. Initially 8 cards are dealt to each player and 5 cards are placed face down on the table. The bidding then takes place as usual, but with a minimum bid of 14. The winner of the bidding then names a card that he does not have (any card - even a magic card - may be named at this point) and whoever holds that card must drop out. If no one has the named card the declarer names another. The 8 cards of the player who dropped out are shuffled together with the 5 undealt cards. From these 13 cards, two cards are dealt to each of the other four active players and the declarer takes the remaining 5 cards. So at this point the declarer has 13 cards and discards 3 of them. The game continues exactly like the normal 5-player game: the dealer selects a partner or announces 'no friend' and may raise the bid as usual. Because the minimum bid is 14 (M=14) the basic score for a successful contract is twice the difference of the bid from 14 plus the number of points taken in excess of the bid. The player who dropped out neither wins nor loses.
Six players: second version
A simpler method is for the players to sit out in rotation. The dealer deals cards to the other five players and takes no further part in the hand. Another method is to decide who will sit out according to the result of the previous hand. If the declarer's side wins the declarer's partner deals next and sits out: if the declarer's side loses the declarer deals and sits out.
Seven players
Two players sit out, using a similar process to the first six-player version described above. 7 cards are dealt to each player leaving 4 undealt cards. After the bidding the declarer names two cards and the holders of those two cards must sit out. If the two cards are held by the same player or one or both are undealt, further cards must be named until two sitting out players have been determined. Now the 7-card hands of the two players who will sit out are shuffled with the 4 undealt cards. From these 18 cards, three cards are dealt to each of the other four players, so that they have 10 cards each, and the declarer gets the remaining 6 cards. The dealer discards 3 of his 13 cards and play continues as in the 5-player game.
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 as active players. 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

Mighty is a relatively new game which is steadily developing, so it is not surprising that a large number of variants have appeared.

Bidding

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 Chicago game).

Some play that if all players other than last to speak pass in the first round of bidding the last player must bid at least the minimum.

Some play that if all five players pass in the first round of bidding there is a second round in which players have another chance to bid. If everyone passes again the cards are redealt by the same dealer.

Some play with a higher or lower minimum opening bid: 14 or 12 instead of the usual 13.

Redeal

Many people use different criteria for a hand that qualifies to demand a redeal.

  • Some play that if all 10 cards of a player's hand are point cards they can demand a redeal.
  • Some play that a player who has one Jack and no other point cards can demand a redeal.
  • Some play that a redeal can only be demanded by a player who has no scoring cards at all.
  • For the purpose of demanding a redeal some count the Mighty as -1 instead of +0

Some play that if there is a bid of 20, no one can demand a redeal. Also that if a player demands a redeal another player can prevent the redeal by bidding 20.

Some play that a redeal can only be demanded before the bidding begins.

When a redeal is demanded, some play that the new deal is not by the player who demanded it, but the turn to deal passes to the next player in rotation, or back to the previous player, or the same player deals again.

Exchanging and Calling

Some play that the declarer exposes the three cards of the kitty to the other players before picking them up, but this is unusual.

Some players allow the declarer to change the trump suit before picking up the kitty. In this case, the minimum increase is reduced by 1 (e.g. 16 Spades to 16 No trump, 14 Hearts to 15 Spades).

Some allow the declarer choose a partner directly by naming the player rather than by calling a card.

Some do not allow the declarer to play secretly without a friend by calling a card that is in their own hand or in the kitty. The declarer can only play alone by announcing "no friend". Others do not allow the declarer ever to play alone.

Play

There are several variant rules on when and how the Joker can be led or played to a trick.

  • Some players do not allow the Joker to be led to the first trick. In this version it is illegal for the declarer to discard to the kitty in a way that leaves them with only trumps and the Joker, as they would then have no card that could legally be led to the first trick. A declarer who has only trumps and the Joker after picking up the kitty has to discard the Joker.
  • When a player leads the Joker to a trick other than the first or last, some give the leader the option not to name a suit but allow 'any card' to be played. No card other than the Joker of the Mighty can win this trick in any case, but 'any card' gives the players the choice of which card to donate to the winner.
  • When the Joker is led to the last trick (or to the first trick if allowed), there are two rule options:
    1. The player cannot select the suit to be played, but the second player may play any card. This card determines the suit to be followed and the highest card of this suit will win the trick if no trumps are played.
    2. The player may select the suit to be played as in other tricks, and if nobody plays that suit the Joker wins the trick.

Some play that the Mighty does not acquire its special power as a trump until the second trick. In the first trick it is just the highest spade.

A few people play that if the partner holding the called card wins a trick containing point cards, they are allowed (but not forced) at this point to announce that they are the partner and add their tricks to declarer's pile.

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.

Scoring

The scoring system given in the main description above is probably the most widespread but there are several other simpler methods in common use.

  • One is that the score for a successful contract is simply 1 unit for each taken scored by declarer's team in excess of 10, irrespective of the bid (P-10).
  • Another is that a successful contract scores (P-M), that is 1 unit for each point taken in excess of the minimum bid.
  • A third system is that a successful contract scores (P-M+1), which with a minimum bid of 13 is 1 unit for each point taken in excess of 12.

The basic score for a failed contract is normally just the number of points by which declarer's team is short of the target: (B-P). Some players do not apply doubles to this for a failed no-trump or no friend contract, making the declarer's advantage in these cases even greater. On the other hand a few players double the score for all failed contracts to reduce the imbalance between potential gains and losses for the declarer's team.

In some scoring methods the score for bidding the minimum and taking the exact number of points that are needed according to the formula is zero. Some groups award a score of 1 in favour of the declarer's team instead of 0 in this special case.

In all cases the conversion of the score to payments is the same - each defender pays of receives the score and the declarer wins or loses twice as much as the partner.

Some but not all players apply doubles to the score in the some or all of the following cases:

  • the declarer plays with no trump suit;
  • the declarer buries the Mighty in the blind;
  • the declarer buries the Joker in the blind;
  • the declarer plays without a partner by declaring 'no friend';
  • the declarer's team takes all 20 points;
  • declarer bids a 'grand-slam' (all 20 points);
  • a back run: declarer's team takes 9 points or less.

The doubles are cumulative, so if all are in effect astronomical amounts can be won.

Some but not all play that these doubles apply to declarer losses as well as wins where relevant.

In the previous version of this page, the score was based on the difference between the bid and the minimum plus 1 (B-M+1) with no score for extra points taken by the declarer's team, unless they managed to double the score by taking all 20. In this system the payment for a failed contract was equal to the amount the declarer's team would have won, independent of the number of points by which declarer's team failed except when the loss was doubled for a back run. This balances the rewards and risks of bidding more evenly, but it seems that this scoring system is nowadays rarely used.

Some players have different criteria for a back run:

  • that the defenders need only 10 or more points for a back run, or
  • that a back run is only scored when the bid fails by a margin of at least 10 points.

Tactics, and other sources of information

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 other spades or the Joker by the Joker hunter.

Dan Roth's eBook on Mighty, including extensive advice on strategy and example hands, is available from Amazon or Apple Books.

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.

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

Some Korean websites:

This page is maintained by John McLeod (john@pagat.com).   © John McLeod, 1999, 2001, 2015. Last updated: 1st June 2024

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