Hachi-Nin Meri (八人メリ, “eight people meri”) is a trick-taking game thought to have been an adaptation of other trick-taking games brought by the Portuguese to Japan, by using an expansion of Portuguese-designed decks called Unsun Karuta, to accomodate more players.
Mechanically the game is related to the European games Ombre and Triunfo.
The game survived, and is being played in Hitoyoshi city, in the island of Kyushu in Japan.
It is designed to be played by 8 players, as 2 teams of 4 players each.
A complete deck of Unsun Karuta is used.
This deck contains 5 suits, with 15 cards per suit, for a total of 75 cards.
Suits are categorized into 2 groups: Long Suits and Round Suits.
The groups correspond to Black Suits and Red Suits of Western Playing Cards respectively.
The sequence of numbers are described as follows:
Note that cards that have the number ‘1’ have 1 pip instead of a dragon like in Mekurifuda. Dragons play a different role in this deck.
In any suit, the courts are more valuable than the number cards.
The courts, in increasing value, are:
|Value||Japanese Name||English Name||Depiction|
|10||Robai||Dragon||A dragon (may be Portuguese or Chinese)|
|12||Uma||Horse||A knight or horseman riding a horse|
|14||Un||God||One of the Seven Lucky Gods|
|15||Sun||Chinese||A Chinese official wearing a futou|
A whole session of Unsun Karuta is played in best of 3 game sets.
Each set (ひときり, hitokiri) is composed of 8 games, and each game (ひとまき, hitomaki) consists of 9 rounds.
The team who won two sets wins the entire session.
The objective is for each team to get as many tricks as possible (each trick is 1 point), as well as perform a yaku for extra points.
The team with the most points wins the game.
Eight people split into two teams of four players each. The teams are called Genji and Heiji.
The names reference the Taira and Minamoto clans during the Genpei War. The same names are used to refer to teams during team battles in Hyakunin Isshu Karuta.
The two teams sit alternately; on a round table, each player must be facing a team-mate, and must be seated in between two players from the opposing team.
There is no recommended method of choosing the first dealer; decide as you wish.
After the game ends, the dealer for the next game will be the player to the dealer’s left. When a set of 8 games is finished, all players will have had the chance to become dealer.
The dealer then deals 9 cards to each player. The process is described as follows:
Optional: The dealer may deal 3 cards to the player to their left, and let that player examine their cards before proceeding to deal to the other players. That player may request for a redeal if they wish.
Optional: The player to the dealer’s left may cut the 2nd pile after the dealer adds the leftover cards to it. Afterward, the dealer may place the bottom card of the pile on top of it. The dealer then proceeds to continue the deal.
The leftover pile of 3 cards is then placed face-down on the table as the widow.
The top card of the widow is turned face-up. This card is called Open Trump (オキ絵, oki-e), and it’s suit is called the trump suit or trumps (絵, e). This trump suit will be used for one entire game.
Cards of the same suit as the Open Trump are called trump cards; Cards not of the same suit as the Open Trump are called non-trump cards.
After the Open Trump is revealed, each player then looks for a Dragon of Trumps in their hand.
The player who has a Dragon of Trumps may declare “I have the dragon!”, and
reveal it to the other players. That player then takes the lead.
They may also decide not to declare and reveal it. This is called “Hidden Dragon” (隠しロバイ, kakushi robai). In that case, some Yaku will increase in value (see Yaku below). This is mainly played by the losing team to turn the tables into their favor.
If nobody declares to have a Dragon of Trumps, or if the Open Trump is a Dragon, then the dealer takes the lead.
Step 4: The player who took the Large Trump becomes the Leader of the round, and for his/her first turn, he/she begins the Opening Lead.
The player who has the lead may take the Open Trump into their hand.
The player then plays the opening lead by putting it on the table face-down. The player then places the Open Trump (or any card from their hand if they took the Open Trump) face-down on top of the opening lead, and then the two remaining cards from the widow are placed face-down on top of it.
The leader finally flips this stack of four cards face-up to reveal only the card led.
When the trick is taken, all 4 cards of the stack are taken also.
Note that in any Hand other than the 1st one, the Opening Lead is done by the leader by playing any card from his/her hand.
Turns move in clockwise order, so the turn passes from the leader to the player to their left.
After the opening lead, each of the other players plays (指す, sasu) 1 card from the hand:
If a player has a Dragon of Clubs (天下, tenka), it is always considered a trump card regardless of the suit of the Open Trump. This card must be played face-down.
At this time, there is no obligation to follow the suit played by the previous player until the “Meri” and “Monchi” rounds which will be described below. A player may play any one of their cards.
Sometimes, players play trumps in succession. A player who has played a trump card is followed by the next player (an opponent) who plays another trump card. This is called “trampling” (踏ん, fun). However, the next player (teammate of the first player in this scenario) may also play another trump card to follow the opponent. This is called “chasing” (追う, ou), and is considered a Yaku if that player wins the round.
When all 8 players have played their card, it’s time for the showdown.
If two or more players played a trump card, those players reveal their cards. The player with the strongest “trump” card wins, and that player’s team takes the trick (the stack of all cards played during the trick phase). Each trick is worth 1 point.
If only one player played a trump card, then that player reveals their card and wins by default.
The strength of Trump Cards are listed below in descending order:
Note that the Dragon of Clubs ranks higher than other Dragons.
However, if the Trump suit is Clubs, then the Dragon of Clubs is of the same strength as the other Dragons.
If nobody played a trump card, then the player with the strongest card of the suit led wins, and that player’s team takes the trick.
The strength of Non-trump cards are listed below in descending order:
However, if the Trump suit is not Swords, then the Dragon of Swords is considered a number card “1.5” (一本半, ipponhan), which means it has a strength between a 2 of swords and 1 of swords.
A yaku is formed when one of the following conditions are met:
There are some restrictions:
If a Yaku is formed by the winner, that player’s team gets an additional 2 points.
However, it can be increased to 5 points when one of the following conditions are met:
Points received from forming yaku are tabulated.
The winner of the round leads the next round.
The player may lead any card from their hand.
When the card led is a non-trump card, then all players don’t have to follow suit just like in the first round.
However, when the card led is a trump card, the round is called “Meri”.
In this round, each of the following players must play a trump card face-up on their turn if they have one on their hand.
All cards played must be face-up during Meri.
If you don’t have a trump card in your hand, you can play any card, but you will lose the trick, of course.
Also, if at the beginning of the game, you only have one trump card in your hand and it’s a Chinese of Trumps, then you don’t have to play it during “Meri”. This rule is called ichi-mai-zun (一枚ズン, ‘one Chinese card’)
NOTE: If the leader plays a trump card during the first round, it doesn’t count as “Meri”. It only counts after the first round.
After the “Meri” round ends, all remaining rounds are called “Monchi” until the game ends.
During “Monchi”, each of the following players after the lead must either play a card of the same suit as the led card face-up, or play a trump card face-down.
However, when the card led is a trump card, the round becomes “Meri” again.
A game ends when all 9 rounds are played, and all 9 tricks have been taken.
Each team counts how many tricks they have taken, as well as points for forming yaku.
The team with the most points wins the game.
A set ends when all 8 games have been played.
Each team counts the total points they have accumulated throughout all 8 games.
The team with the most points wins the set.