# Mura

## Introduction

An article on this game published in 1937 claims that its inventor and origins are unknown and that it was mostly played by rural land owner aristocrats and high members of the judicial system "in a patriarchal region of old Hungary".

*This page is based on information obtained by Róbert Kovács from a post by Iván Vendy on the Szerencsés Kártyajárást website.*

## Players, Cards, Values and Objective

The unusual game is for four players, each playing for themselves. The deal and play are counter-clockwise. There are no trumps.

A standard Hungarian 32-card pack is used. The suits are Hearts (*Piros*), Gourds (*Tök*), Leaves (*Zöld*) and Acorns (*Makk*) and the eight cards of each suit rank in descending order:

**X**, **IX**, **Ace **(*Ász*), **King** (*Király*), **Over** (*Felső*), **Under** (*Alsó*), **VIII**, **VII**.

Note that the Aces have diagonal suit marks and show the seasons of the year, the Kings ride horses, the Overs have their suit mark upright at the top left and the Unders have their suit mark halfway down the card. For example here is the suit of acorns:

The **Ace**, **Kings**, **Overs** and **Unders** are known as **figures** (*figurák*).

If an **Ace** wins a trick it counts as **3 figures** instead of just one. An Ace that is beaten by the X or IX of its suit or is discarded on a lead of a different suit counts as just one figure.

The numeral cards **X**, **IX**, **VIII** and **VII** have no value. Thus the total number of figures in each deal varies from 16 to 24 depending on whether the Aces win tricks.

Each player's objective is to win a total of at least 3 figures in tricks during the hand. Anyone whose tricks contain fewer than 3 figures is in **mura** and scores one penalty point for each trick that they took. A player can avoid mura by not taking any tricks at all, but in that case they also score a small penalty.

## Deal

The dealer shuffles, the player to dealer's right *[sic]* cuts, and the dealer deals out all the cards counter-clockwise in packets of 4 so that each players has a hand of 8 cards.

The first dealer can be chosen by any convenient method and the turn to deal passes to the right after each hand.

## Play

The player to dealer's right leads to the first trick. Any card may be led. The other three players in turn must follow suit, playing any card of the suit that was led if they are able to.

Players who have no card of the suit led may play any card.

The highest card of the suit that was led wins the trick. The winner stores the four cards of the trick face down and leads any card to the next trick.

## Scoring

At the end of the play, the tricks won by each player are examined. Any player whose tricks contain fewer than 3 figures in total is in **mura** and scores one penalty point for each trick that they won. The penalties scored by each player are recorded with signs as follows:

- Single mura (one trick):
- Double mura (two tricks):
- Triple mura (three tricks):
- Quadruple mura (four tricks):

A quintuple mura, which would be 5 tricks with fewer than 3 figures in total, is said to be "as rare as a white raven". In fact it is impossible. There are only 16 cards without value and a player who wins 5 tricks has 20 cards, so at least 4 of these cards must be figures.

For a player who wins no tricks at all, there is a smaller penalty, recorded as a zero: **0**. Nine of these zeros are equal to one single mura.

Players whose tricks contain at least three figures are out of mura - thay are safe and score no penalty.

A session lasts as long as the players wish, for example for an agreed number of deals, or until an agreed time. At the end each player must pay the others a stake for each mura they have suffered.

In practice this can be done by each pair of players settling up according to the difference in the number of penalty points they have, the player with more paying the one with fewer. Zeros that have not been converted to mura can be paid for at a rate of 1/9 of a single mura each.

## Note on Tactics

The Hungarian article points out that players who have won a trick but are not yet out of mura may be tempted to save themselves by immediately leading winners to catch the extra figures they need. But this is not a good tactic as it often allows other players to throw away their dangerous winning cards. It is better and more interesting to try to force other players into mura by giving them low value tricks, and to save oneself later.

In the early stages of the play, players try to put their opponents into mura by playing low cards (VII, VIII) to force them to win tricks without figures and by discarding zero-value cards when unable to follow suit. Later they will try to keep those players in mura by overtaking their cards to prevent them winning tricks containing figures.

## Relationship to Tressette

Although the objective in this game is different from any other form of Tresette that we have seen, some of its features make it virtually certain that it was inspired by a version of Tresette.

- It is a trick-taking game with no trumps.
- The ranking of the cards. The Ace is third highest with two numerals above it. In normal Tresette these would be the 3 and 2, but these cards do not exist in the Hungarian pack, so the 10 and 9 have been substituted as in some other 32-card Tresette variants such as the Canadian game Le Quatre Sept.
- The value of the Ace is (in some cases) three times that of a picture card (King, Over, Under).

A striking difference from other Tresette variants is that the top two cards have no value (in Tresette they count as additional 'figures'). This change is necessary for Mura to work: if the X and IX counted as figures it would be too easy to avoid mura.

Being in mura is analogous to losing by *stramazzo* in Tresette, and scoring a zero is analogous to losing *capotto*.