Mexican StandoffMexican standoff as a card game for 2 - 4 players.
- Trick Avoidance
- Updated on
- 29 Dec 2021
- Trick Walls (v6, v3)
2 - 4 players. (See the end for a 2-player version.)
A normal deck of 52 playing cards.
In the traditional mexican standoff three gunmen are holding guns at each other. They cannot escape the situation and the tension builds up until it's finally triggered and the deadly chaos follows.
BASIC IDEA / ANATOMY OF THE GAME
The game consists of three phases:
- START-UP: Each player is dealt 6 open cards and 6 hand cards (in free order).
- These initial cards represent bullets that you want to play at your opponents - you can think of them as two guns (one exposed and one hidden).
- With 4 players, the whole deck is dealt and so each player gets 1 extra card: the dealer decides whether it's face up or face down (for all players).
- BUILD-UP: Played as 12 tricks, where each player plays one (open or hand) card and the winner collects the trick.
- However, the purpose is to avoid winning as each won trick contains bullets (played by the other players) aimed at you.
- SHOOT-OUT: Finally the tension breaks, and the collected tricks start triggering.
- The shoot-out ends when only one player (or none) is alive, or the tricks run out. Anyone alive is a winner.
- START-UP: Each player is dealt 6 open cards and 6 hand cards (in free order).
The first trick is started by the player on the dealer's left - after that the winner of the last trick starts the next.
The first card of the trick determines the trick colour:
- The highest card of the trick colour wins the trick - in case of a draw, the latter played card wins. (See also the Number Classes special rule below.)
The remaining players then play one card each in clockwise order:
- Each player must play the trick colour if able to.
- Open cards are played face up, but hand cards can be played face down. After all have responded, the face down cards are turned face up.
AFTER THE TRICK
After the trick is played, any cards of the other colour are discarded from it, and the winner then collects the trick as a penalty:
- The winning card is put face up on top and the won cards (of the same colour) face down below it - the other colour cards are discarded. The trick is placed into the winner's trick stack: sideways next to the open cards.
- Exceptionally, if no one played the same colour (= no bullets to collect), the starting card is discarded as well, and the starting turn moves to the next player clockwise.
special rule: NUMBER CLASSES
The numbers are divided into two classes: the lower class (2 - 10) and the higher class (J, Q, K, A).
- Normally the high cards (J, Q, K, A) are higher (= 11, 12, 13, 14) than the lower class cards (2 - 10).
- But if a trick is started with a high card, the higher class is degraded below the lower class for that trick. (So essentially: J = -2, Q = -1, K = 0, A = 1.)
- For example, the first player plays a king (K), and the two others respond by a 3 and a queen (Q). The number 3 wins the trick (while Q is the lowest card).
UNFOLDING THE SHOOT-OUT
In the shoot-out the tricks are triggered by the number of the face up card. (Often the tricks are sorted accordingly before the shoot-out starts.)
- The higher class tricks (J, Q, K, A) are the initial shots, and they are all triggered simultaneously - there is no time to react.
- The lower class tricks are the after shots and they are triggered number by number in increasing order (2 -> 10).
Triggering a trick means turning it upside down (next to the trick stack) and rotating the face down card 90 degrees (to indicate it's been turned).
- Each bullet in the turned tricks (now face up) cost life points. After every shooting (= initial shots + each low number) it's rechecked if anyone died.
- The shoot-out continues until there's only 1 (or no) mexican alive, or the tricks run out. (Most often the last shots are fired around 7 or 8.)
- Each bullet hurts followingly:
- Limb shot (2 - 10) costs 1 p.
- Body shot (J, Q, K) costs 2 p.
- Head shot (A) costs 3 p.
- Each player has 7 life points: when all are gone, he's dead. (Anyone alive after the shoot-out is a winner.)
- Note. With 4 players, there are less aims per player (13/4 = 3.25 vs. 12/3 = 4). However, there are more bullets per aim (4 vs. 3) - so be very careful.
- The traditional game is played for just one round. But of course you can play for multiple rounds, say, the first to survive 3 standoffs wins.
When playing with 4 players, the only change is that the whole deck is dealt, and so each player gets 1 extra card (= 13 in total).
- The dealer decides whether to deal the extra cards face up or face down (7 open + 6 hand vs. 6 open + 7 hand).
Note that strategically the game is slightly different:
- As the whole deck is dealt, you know for certain, that some other player has a particular card if you don't have it (in the beginning).
- But more importantly, the average number of the last shots in the shoot-out is higher with 4 players: often 9 or 10 (with 3 players, it's around 7 or 8).
MEXICAN DUMMY (for 2 players)
The game can be played with 2 players by introducing a dummy player:
- The dummy is dealt 3 open cards (overlapping each other), and the remaining deck is put behind them. The dummy starts the game.
- The dummy has the following preferences for choosing which card to play:
- The dummy prefers playing open cards, and with many options prefers the bottommost one.
- When starting, always plays the bottommost open card. When responding, only plays an open card of the same colour that avoids winning the trick.
- After all have played, a new card is drawn from the deck and put face up on top (so the dummy has 3 face up cards again).
- If no open card fits, the dummy plays a random card from the deck face down.
- If it turns out to be the other colour, it's discarded as normally (= dummy is not a good shooter).
- There are two alternatives for the dummy's role in the game:
- 3RD MAN: The dummy is just like the two human players: he dies from 7 life points and wins the game if the only one left alive.
- DUEL: Alternatively, the dummy is considered to be mere deflections of bullets by the 2 gunmen, and the shoot-out ends only when one of them dies. (As the dummy is not alive, he cannot die nor win the game either.)
FLOW OF CARDS
Your initial open and hand cards have 3 potential end destinations:
- When winning a trick, they end up as the face up card of the collected trick determining when the collected bullets will fly at you.
- When losing a trick, they end up as a face down card of the collected trick representing a bullet aimed at an opponent.
- When unable to play the trick colour, they end up being discarded (representing missed shots) and are not collected at all.
- Preferably, you'd like all your cards to end up as bullets for others (2.). The next best is to get them discarded (3.). The worst is to win a trick (1.).
- Note that your own cards can never hurt you (directly): each mexican is talented enough to not shoot himself.
CARDS BY NUMBERS
HIGH CARDS (J, Q, K, A)
High cards are good but carry a high risk:
- When lost to others (as aimed bullets), they deliver more damage, which is very nice.
- However, all the tricks won by a high card means they will be triggered for certain - they are unavoidable.
- It's easy to avoid winning a trick when it's started with a high card, but when started with a low card, they are the worst. Accordingly, you often want to use your high cards to start tricks.
LOWEST CARDS (2 - 5)
The very lowest numbers are generally speaking good but carry a mild risk:
- Good for avoiding winning - especially when the trick is started with a low card (as most are), however sometimes even when started with a high card.
- Another plus is that all low cards (2 - 10) only do damage to the limbs, not body or head, so you can take more.
- Bad when you win a trick, because the trick gets triggered relatively early in the shoot-out (they are the first after shots).
MID CARDS (6 - 10)
The higher end of the low cards are a bit annoying, but only mildly bad:
- It's very hard to avoid winning tricks with them.
- However, when you win those tricks, they will be triggered very late in the shoot-out - at best, not triggered at all. Especially number 10 and number 9 are often used to collect very damaging (body and head) shots: hoping they will never be triggered.
- Like with all low cards, the damage is also very low - they are only limb shots.
High cards and colour:
- Avoid getting into situations where you have only high cards of one colour, because if the other players start with a low card of that number, you are very likely to get it and it will be triggered immediately when the shoot out begins.
- In other words, try to leave some (very) low number cards as an escape for these situations. In general terms, if you have high cards, it's good to use your starting turns to play them.
Getting rid of a colour:
- If you have more cards of one colour than the other, it might be good to try to play the other colour out - that is, playing that colour when starting a trick.
- If you end up in a situation where you have only cards of one colour, and the others don't have it, you'll be safe from further harm. On the other hand, you won't be harming others either (so all become safer), but it's still advantegous.
- However, more often the others will still have some cards of that colour, so make sure you don't end up with just mid cards (6 - 10) of that lonely colour - as you'd likely win most of the remaining tricks of that colour.
- Note that you can only discard a card when you have cards of just one colour. So take it into account, when evaluating if it could be possible. And sometimes the colour distribution is very equal among the players, so you might not be able to discard any card at all.
FOR IDEAS, HELP WITH DEVELOPMENT & PLAYING
Johannes Aho, Ville Viitala, Emmi Viitala, Rosanna Viitala.