Rules of Tarot-himi

Tarot-himi is a variation of Tahimi that adds a collectible card game twist to the basic Tahimi rules. Tarot-himi uses a Tarot deck rather than a Poker deck, and extends the standard rules by adding cards with special powers.

Most of the rules are the same as regular Tahimi, so you should read the Tahimi rule sheet if you don't already know the basic game.

The deck

Tarot-himi is played with a Tarot deck rather than a Poker deck. The specific Tarot deck we use is known as the Rider-Waite deck, which is readily available at book stores and game shops. You can use any other Tarot deck instead, although you might have to make some adjustments if your deck doesn't have exactly the same complement of cards as a Rider-Waite deck.

A Tarot deck is comprised of cards similar to the regular Poker deck's numbered cards and face cards, plus a group of cards known as the Major Arcana or "trumps".

The ordinary Poker-like cards (called the Minor Arcana) are numbered Ace through 10, just like in Poker decks, plus the face cards: Page, Knight, Queen, and King. The Page corresponds to the Jack in Poker decks, and the Knight is an extra rank that doesn't have any Poker equivalent. These cards come in four suits, just like in Poker, but they're different suits - in the Rider-Waite deck, the suits are Cups, Swords, Wands, and Pentacles. (Rider-Waite is intentionally occultish. In more traditional Tarot decks, Wands are usually called Batons, Sticks, or Clubs, and Pentacles are Coins.)

The Major Arcana are the cards most people think of when they think Tarot, because they're the ones you always see in Tarot readings in movies: The Fool, The Magician, The High Priestess, The Hanged Man, etc. In the Rider-Waite deck, there are 22 of these special named cards. These cards have no suits. Each one has a number, from The Fool (number 0) to The World (number XXI), but the numbers don't fit into the ranking system of the suited cards.

Since the Minor Arcana cards are basically the same as a Poker deck, they can be used to play regular Tahimi without any changes in the rules. Tarot-himi's twist is that it uses the Major Arcana as "special power" cards that override the basic rules when in play.

Deal

Separate your deck into Major Arcana and Minor Arcana. Shuffle the Major Arcana, then randomly pick four cards from this sub-deck. If five or more players are in the round, pick one card per player instead. Add these cards to the Minor Arcana sub-deck - this combined deck is the game deck. Set the remaining Major Arcana cards aside; they're not used in the current round.

The dealer musn't look at any of the Major Arcana cards being chosen (or not chosen) during this process. The choice of cards is secret - no one should know in advance which special powers will be in play during a given round.

Shuffle, cut, and deal out all the cards from the game deck, just as in regular Tahimi.

Note that there's one Major Arcana card per player, but that doesn't mean each player will receive one, since they're shuffled into the whole deck. Some players might get several, some might not get any.

Repeat this whole process at the start of every new round. Each round should have a new set of Major Arcana cards selected, so that no one knows which powers will be in play in any new round.

Play

The basic rules are exactly the same as for regular Tahimi. The Minor Arcana cards behave like the equivalent Poker cards do in regular Tahimi: the cards are ranked from II low to Ace High (II III IV V VI VII VIII IX X Page Knight Queen King Ace). Suits are ignored. The first player can lead any single card or any set, as long as all cards in the set are of the same rank. The next player must play the same number of cards, also as a matched set, and of a higher rank (no ties). A player must pass if she can't play a higher-ranking set. A player may pass even if she can play, at her option. When no one tops a play, the cards are cleared from the table, and the lead goes to the player who played the untopped cards. (If the player who played the untopped cards went out with those cards, the highest-ranking player still in the round takes the lead.) The goal is to run out of cards as quickly as possible; the sooner you run out, the higher your rank for the next round. Play continues until there's only one player still holding cards, at which point the round ends and we start over with a new round.

As in Tahimi, players exchange cards at the start of the round: the lowest-ranking player gives the highest-ranking player his two best cards, the second lowest ranking player gives the second highest ranking player his one best card, and the top and second-ranking players return a like number of unwanted cards to their counterparts.

Special powers

Each Major Arcana card has a special power that overrides the standard rules. Each power is unique. When you receive a Major Arcana card in the deal, you must consult the chart of special powers (below) to determine how to use the card and how it might affect the way you play other cards in your hand.

Special power types

Each special power is unique, and the only universal rule is that you have to read the individual card description to see exactly how a card's power works.

However, the special powers fall into two broad categories. First, there are cards that do something special when you play them. Second, there are cards that modify the normal rules for as long as you're holding the card in your hand.

Cards with special powers when played

Some cards have an effect when you play them, and don't do anything special until you do.

When to play: Special power cards are always played when it's your turn. You can't play special power cards out of turn.

Some cards state that they're played in lieu of your regular turn. This means you can't also make a regular play (i.e., play an ordinary card on the pile, or pass) on the same turn. After you invoke the special power, your turn is over, exactly as though you had Passed for that turn.

If a card states that it's played at the start of your turn, it means that you can invoke the card's special power, and also take a regular turn (play cards on the pile, or pass) after that. Note that the process can be repeated: the "start of your regular turn" is delayed rather than consumed by playing one of these cards, so you can play several "at the start" cards in a row, then take your regular turn.

How to play: Some of these cards are similar to Jokers, in that they can take on the guise of some ordinary card or cards when played, with the particular mimicry determined at the moment they're played. Playing one of these is just like making a regular play, except for the chameleon-like quality of the cards played: the card goes on the pile, and control passes to the next player, who can try to top your play or pass.

Other special power cards are played by discarding. This means that you remove the card from your hand and place it directly in the discards - not on the active pile. These cards don't affect the pile, so the next play is on the cards that were already on the table.

Cards with special powers when held

Some cards have effects that operate the whole time they're in your hand. You don't have to play them for their special power to apply - in fact, playing them is usually the only way to get rid of their special power (which in some cases might be a relief, as some of the powers are unwelcome constraints).

In most cases, the only way to discard one of these cards is to lead it. When led, these cards usually count as the lowest possible rank, just below II - this means that the next player can play a single II on top of one of these cards.

When you discard a card of this type, the card's effect lasts essentially until the end of your turn, so you can't even perform the discard if the card itself prohibits it. (This is rare, though. It's really only an issue for a few cards that prohibit you from discarding them on the first lead of a new round. In fact, the cards that would render themselves inherently un-discardable through their stated effects all make a special allowance just to let you get rid of them.)

Optional vs. mandatory powers

Some of the cards with "when held" powers say you can or may do something outside of the ordinary rules. This type of power is at your disposal to use when you wish: it allows you to break the basic rules in the manner described, but it doesn't require you to do so. For example, one card allows you to play singles on pairs, but this doesn't prevent you from playing pairs on pairs as well. You can choose to exercise the power or not on each individual play; you don't have to decide anything in advance.

Other cards say you must or must not, or cannot or can only do something, for as long as you hold the card. These powers are mandatory: they constrain what you can do on your turn, and you have no option to disobey.

Special power interactions

Some special powers conflict with one another. If you're dealt two or more cards whose effects last as long as you're holding them, all of their powers must be taken into account.

Prohibitions outrank permissions. For example, if you have one card that lets you play a larger set on a smaller set, and another card that says that you can only play singles, not sets, the latter prevails because it's a restriction.

Two powers can also complement one another, and it's perfectly valid to invoke more than one power to make a single play. For example, one power lets you play a larger set on a smaller set (such as a three-of-a-kind on a pair), as long you beat the rank of the smaller set. Another power lets you play ties (e.g., you could play a single VI on another single VI). If you have both of these cards, you could combine them, such as to play a pair of VIs on a single VI.

Announcing special powers

Whenever you invoke a special power, you must reveal the card. Invoking a power means that you're using the power to override the normal rules, to make a play that you wouldn't have been able to make without the power.

The general principle is that whenever you do something that breaks the ordinary rules, you have to prove to the other players that you're entitled to do so, by showing them the card that allows it.

You have to reveal a card you're invoking even if it stays in your hand after the play. You don't have to leave the card permanently exposed - after you've shown the card to everyone, you can put it back in your hand and hope they forget about it until the next time you use it. Of course, if you do use it again later, you have to display it again each time.

You don't have to reveal a special power card unless - and until - you actually invoke its power. If you can make a particular play under the regular rules, you don't have to reveal any special powers that happen to be in your hand at the same time.

You also don't have to reveal a card that prevents you from making a particular play, or one that requires you to make a legal play you wouldn't otherwise make. For example, if you have a card that prohibits you from playing singles as long as you're holding it, you don't have to reveal that it's the reason you're passing on a III. You're always entitled to pass under the regular rules, so you don't have to explain yourself when you do. Similarly, if you have a card that requires you to play your highest ranking card on each play, you don't have to mention that it's the reason you're playing an Ace on that III; you can just let people assume your hand is overburdened with Aces.

Major Arcana are tax-exempt

Major Arcana cannot be exchanged during the tax round, in either direction. Low-ranking players simply don't count them when picking their highest cards to hand over. High-ranking players might like to take the opportunity to rid themselves of the more onerous special powers, but they're prohibited from doing so - you simply can't pass back Major Arcana cards at tax time.

Pairing Major Arcana

Major Arcana cards can't be combined into pairs, threes of a kind, etc - with one another or with Minor Arcana cards - except where specifically allowed by their unique powers. Each Major Arcana card is unique, so there's nothing to pair it with under the basic Tahimi rules.

The Tarot-himi Guide to the Major Arcana

Each card in the Major Arcana has a unique special power, as described below.

The Fool

Wildcard: This Tarot card is the prototype for the Jokers in the modern Poker deck, so it's fitting that this should be a general-purpose wildcard. You can play this card as though it were any ordinary (Minor Arcana) card, by itself or in combination with other ordinary cards to make sets. (However, The Fool can't be used as though it were another Major Arcana card, either in an attempt to invoke that other card's power or to make a pair of Major Arcana cards.)

The Magician

Any Single: Played on any single card, this counts as the next higher rank, up to Ace. For example, if the last play was a single VII, playing this card would count as a single VIII, so the next player would have to top an VIII to play.

This card can't be played in combination with any other cards. When led, it counts as the lowest rank (just below II).

The High Priestess

Any Pair: Played on any pair, this counts as a pair of the next higher rank, up to Ace. For example, if the last play was a pair of IXs, playing this would count as a pair of Xs, so the next player would have to top a pair of Xs to play.

This card can't be played in combination with any other cards. When led, it counts as the lowest rank (just below II).

The Empress

Any Triplet: Played on any three-of-a-kind, this counts as a triplet of the next higher rank, up to Ace. For example, if the last play was three VIIs, playing this would count as three VIIIs, so the next player would have to top three VIIIs to play.

This card can't be played in combination with any other cards. When led, it counts as the lowest rank (just below II).

The Emperor

Any Quartet: Played on any four-of-a-kind, this counts as a quartet of the next higher rank, up to Ace. For example, if the last play was four Knights, playing this would count as four Queens, so the next player would have to top the four Queens to play.

This card can't be played in combination with any other cards. When led, it counts as the lowest rank (just below II).

The Heirophant

First Lead: The player holding this card at the start of the round takes the first lead, overriding the Tahimi. (This is not optional; the player must reveal the card and take the lead at the start of the round.)

In addition, a player holding this card overrides the Rank Privilege rule. This rule applies when a player takes the trick and runs out of cards at the same time: Rank Privilege gives the next lead to the highest ranking player in the round. A player holding this card overrides Rank Privilege and takes the lead.

This card can't be played in combination with any other cards. When led, it counts as the lowest rank (just below II).

The Lovers

No Singles: As long as you're holding this card, you're not allowed to play singles, either on other cards or as leads. This includes playing Major Arcana cards singly - including the cards that behave like sets when played. Exception: you may lead this card.

This card can't be played in combination with any other cards. When led, it counts as the lowest rank (just below II).

The Chariot

Tribute: In lieu of your regular turn, you may discard this card to force another player of your choice to give you her highest ranking card in exchange for a card of your choice. You may exchange any card in your hand, including a Major Arcana card.

For the purposes of determining her highest card, the other player counts Major Arcana as the lowest rank (below II). If he's holding only Major Arcana cards, he returns the highest numbered of these.

Alternatively, you may lead this card without invoking its special power, in which case it counts as a single of the lowest rank (below II).

Strength

Play Ties: For as long as you're holding this card, you may play ties, including playing Aces on other Aces.

This card can't be played in combination with any other cards. When led, it counts as the lowest rank (just below II).

The Hermit

No Sets: For as long as you're holding this card, you're not allowed to play sets (pairs, threes-of-a-kind, etc), either on other cards or as leads. You may only play singles. (Note that you may play the special power cards that count as sets, since these are played individually - it's the physical number of cards you're playing that matters rather than their effect.)

This card can't be played in combination with any other cards. When led, it counts as the lowest rank (just below II).

Wheel of Fortune

Redraw: In lieu of your regular turn, you may exchange this card plus any number of other cards in your hand for a like number drawn randomly from the past discards (not counting the current in-play pile). First, add the cards you're exchanging to the discards; next, shuffle; finally, draw back a like number of cards. Note that you must draw back the same number you exchanged, counting the Wheel of Fortune card itself. This card cannot be played on the pile.

Justice

Rescind One Card: At the start of your turn, you may discard this card to force the last player who put down cards to take back one of those cards. For example, if the last player put down a pair of IIIs, he must take back one III, leaving a single III on the pile. You can then play on the new pile, or pass.

If the last play consisted of ordinary cards and The Fool, the player must take back an ordinary card rather than The Fool. If the play was a single special power card that counted as a set (e.g., The High Priestess), the whole play is rescinded - one physical card must be removed from the pile. You can't reduce a notional set by pretending to remove an imaginary card; the game simply doesn't have the bookkeeping tools for such a thing (thank goodness).

You can't invoke this power if you have the lead, but you can lead this card, in which case it simply counts as a single of the lowest rank (below II).

The Hanged Man

One Chance to Play: As long as you're holding this card, you only get one chance to play on each trick. You must pass if play comes around to you again on the same trick. If you lead, that counts as your single chance to play for the trick, and the same goes if you pass.

This card can't be played in combination with any other cards. When led, it counts as the lowest rank (just below II). This card cannot be led on the first play of a new round.

Death

Mandatory Best Play: As long as you're holding this card, you must play the highest ranking cards you can play, in the greatest number, and you can't pass if you can play.

Exception: if you have the lead, you may lead this card, in which case it counts as the lowest rank (below II). However, you cannot lead this card as the first play of a new round.

For the purposes of determining the best play, count Major Arcana cards as the lowest rank (below II). Do take into account any special powers that would allow plays that you couldn't otherwise make in determining whether or not you can play.

Temperance

Play on Aces: As long as you're holding this card, you may play any single or set on an Ace or a set of Aces, exactly as though you had the lead. For example, you could play a single III on a pair of Aces. This power only applies to Aces: you can't invoke it to play arbitrary cards on Kings, for example.

This card can't be played in combination with any other cards. When led, it counts as the lowest rank (just below II).

The Devil

Mandatory Play: As long as you're holding this card, you must play if you can play - you can't pass. Of course, you must take into account any special powers that apply when determining whether or not you can play.

This card can't be played in combination with any other cards. When led, it counts as the lowest rank (just below II).

The Tower

Three Rank Margin: As long as you're holding this card, you can only play cards that beat the last play by three ranks, rather than the usual one-rank margin. For example, if the last play was a pair of VIs, you'd need a pair of IXs or higher in order to play.

If you have another card that allows you to play ties, the combination of the two effects reduces the margin to two ranks.

This card doesn't affect what you can play when you have the lead, since there's nothing to outrank when leading. It also doesn't affect the "Play On Aces" power, since that's equivalent to having the lead; nor the "Aces Trump Sets" power, since that creates a separate trump ability for Aces that's not based on rank margins at all.

This card can't be played in combination with any other cards. When led, it counts as the lowest rank (just below II).

The Star

Diminishing Sets: As long as you're holding this card, you may play a smaller set on a larger set, as long as the rank would otherwise make a valid play. For example, if the last play was a triplet of VIIs, you can play a pair of VIIIs on it, or even a single VIII.

This card can't be played in combination with any other cards. When led, it counts as the lowest rank (just below II).

The Moon

Tax Reversal: At tax time, the player holding this card inverts the normal tax rules for herself and her counterpart in the tax exchange. The high-ranking player must give up best card or cards, and the low-ranking player can return any card or cards of her choice. The number of cards exchanged is not affected, and no other players are affected - only the holder and her counterpart.

This card can't be played in combination with any other cards. When led, it counts as the lowest rank (just below II).

The Sun

Aces Trump Sets: As long as you're holding this card, you may play a single Ace on any set, including one or more Aces.

This card can't be played in combination with any other cards. When led, it counts as the lowest rank (just below II).

Judgement

Rescind Play: At the start of your turn, you may discard this card to rescind the play at the top of the pile. The player who played those cards must take them back, and the pile reverts to as it was before that play. You may then play on the new pile, or pass. You can play this on any cards, including Aces.

You can't invoke this power if you have the lead, but you can lead this card, in which case it simply counts as a single of the lowest rank (below II).

The World

Expanding Sets: As long as you're holding the card, you may play a larger set on a smaller set, as long as the rank makes a valid play. For example, you can play a pair of VIs on a single V, or four VIIIs on a pair of VIIs.

This card can't be played in combination with any other cards. When led, it counts as the lowest rank (just below II).

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