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Tri - card game

"A meld of four cards"
Origin United States
Type Matching
Players 2-3
Skills required Memory, Communication
Cards 66
Deck Instinct
Play Clockwise
Playing time 15 min.
Related games

Tri is a two- or three-player matching card game in which players attempt to achieve at least 65 net points in one suit. The suit is not verbally declared; players select a suit by using plays, discards, and pick-ups as signals.

Game history

The game was developed in March 2001 by Will M. Baker and Pete Richert, in an attempt to create a card game that was entirely cooperative. The game went through many revisions and much playtesting, seeing crucial rules added and ineffective rules dropped. The game reached its final form sometime in April 2001.

Tri was created using the 5-suited "Instinct" deck produced by Wizards of the Coast. The suit names (Stars, Fire, Skulls, Drips, and Brocs) were derived directly from the images on the "Instinct" cards. ('Brocs' is, perhaps, the only obscure suit title; the true suit image is that of a tree, but it has an uncanny resemblance to broccoli.) The title comes simply from the game's process of "trying" to select a suit.

Tri was developed by Will M. Baker and Pete Richert in March 2001. A computerized version is in planning stages.


Played in a format similar to Gin, players each take turns drawing from either the discard pile or the deck, then discarding, all the while attempting to isolate a suit in which to collect as many high-ranking cards as possible.

The game ends when any player, after drawing a card, has four cards of the same suit in one's hand; that suit becomes the "Tri", i.e. the attempted suit (even if the player did not intend that suit!). The players' ending score is calculated by summing from their hands the face values of all cards in the Tried suit, and subtracting from that sub-total half the total face value of any cards in hand that are not in the Tried suit. Players win if their net total equals or exceeds 65.


Tri is played with a special deck containing five suits (Stars, Fire, Skulls, Drips, and Brocs), each with cards numbering 1 through 12, and one wild card. Each player is originally dealt 6 cards. On each turn, a player:

  1. Draw 1 card, from either the discard pile or the deck, and
  2. Discard 1 card to the discard pile.

The game ends when any player, after drawing a card, has in hand four cards of the same suit. This suit becomes the Tried suit, and the player declares "Tri."


If the purpose of the game is to collect as many cards as possible of one suit, then the danger of the game is discarding cards of that same suit. This is where the communication is essential, and since there is no talking in this game, information must be conveyed through the play of cards. The most important part of the game is the beginning in which players suggest and reject suits to Tri by drawing cards from the pile and discarding. Once a card is discarded and then rejected by the next player ('rejected' meaning the player draws from the deck, rather than from the discard pile), it is gone forever, and a high value in the suit will guarantee that this suit can never win. Since there are 11 cards removed from the deck and no one knows what they are, it is essential that players communicate what high cards of a suit they have. If two relatively high cards of one suit are in the hidden cards pile, that suit will not be able to win. While it is possible that suits not represented by any player at the start are simply in the deck waiting to be drawn, it is also possible that a few key cards are already discarded in the hidden cards deck. Hence there is some risk involved in chasing after suits that are not represented strongly by a few dominant high cards. However, suits that are well represented in the start may also be dangerous since a few middle value cards may be lost at the beginning through discard while players attempt to solidify a suit to capture.

Communication is done through discard and pickup. If you have a 12 of a suit as well as a few other backup cards you may place it down on the pile to show the other players. The next player then has a choice to pick it up (signalling that one is open to playing that suit) or picking from the deck which will cause the 12 to be out of play. If this is done, that suit becomes a lost cause. Many times very promising suits are lost at the beginning of the game because the two who hold the dominant high cards in that suit and separated by a player in between with no cards of that suit but high cards of a different suit. That player is likely to pass up the "shown" card from the previous player. One final danger is over-assuring, that is, picking up a card passed from the previous player when one has no real way to back up that suit. This is done often just to keep the high card in play and to be open to it in the future but it may communicate that one can support it with high cards (or a few middle cards) of one's own. It is generally good play to "show" one's highest backup card for the suit after picking it up. If the player doesn't show, it is likely one is just keeping the high card in play. Players may only draw from the pile once every other turn to keep players from simply passing each other their entire hands in a circle.

One danger throughout the whole game is Tri-ing too early. Any time a player has four of any suit in one's hand, one Tries. This often happens when a player is holding three cards of one suit and draws from the deck, picking up a fourth of that suit accidentally. To counter this, players usually pass a card through discarding it, when they have three of any one suit. Often however, the player behind them has picked from the pile the previous turn, and is unable to pick up a card if one passes it. In these circumstances, the player must bite the bullet and hold three cards, hoping the next draw won't Tri the hand. Another and even more sinister accidental Tri is through the wild card. The wild card acts as all suits simultaneously; thus, in effect, it behaves as the suit most present in one's hand. Often, the suit is not the one you are pursuing, but are cards that you are holding onto for their low value in the negative scoring at the end. If you have two of such cards in one suit, plus the wild card, you may Tri on your next draw from the deck by accident. This is a guaranteed loss since no players will have kept high cards of this suit. For this reason the wild card is considered very dangerous and is often passed to keep it out of hands with few suits. Some games it is even discarded altogether.

One final strategy is to keep 1s and 2s of suits that one is not pursuing, to have a small negative effect at the end of the game. Every player must have cards of opposing suits since at most every player can have four of one suit in hand at the end of the game (which happens when one player Tries and the others draw the Tried suit on their final turns).

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