There is an episode of the sitcom How I Met Your Mother in which one of the main characters is revealed to have a former gambling problem. Not to blackjack, or even slots, but to some strange game involving a wheel of fortune, dice, and jellybeans. When he backslides and ends up playing the game in Atlantic City, everyone stands around the table bewildered, as the rules are seemingly incomprehensible. When I first opened the Mü application by Steve Blanding, I was like one of those people standing around the table. I half-expected a jellybean clause to pop up at one point, but I think I finally got the hang of it.
Mü is a trick taking game that can be played with four to six players. The game is played out in a series of rounds, ending when someone reaches a predetermined number of points (the default being 500). The game is played with sixty cards that are divided into five colored suits. Each suit has 12 cards that are ranked from 0-9, and each suit has two 1s and two 7s. The number of points that each card is worth is reflected on the card with small symbols (pips); most cards have one pip, but some have none and some have two.
To begin each round, players have what is referred to as an auction. In the auction, players bid cards to try to become the chief of that round. Basically, whoever bids the most cards will become chief. If two players bid the same amount, whoever has the cards worth the most points (as determined by the pips) will win. The person with the second best hand becomes the vice. The chief can select a trump; either a number or color that will beat all other cards. The vice can also select a trump. The chief’s trump is considered to be the more superior in that it will outrank the vice’s trump choice if the two are in the same hand. The two trumps can also combine to form a double trump. For example, if the chief selects the color blue as his or her trump, and the vice selects the number 7, then a blue 7 card would considered a double trump and beat all other cards.
Ok, are you still with me? Once the auction is over and trumps are selected, the chief chooses a partner. The chief can select anyone but the vice, and the team that is formed is known as the chief team. Depending on the number of cards that were bid by the chief, a goal number of points is set that the chief team must achieve during the round. If they succeed, they are rewarded with bonus points.
The round begins by the chief playing any one of his or her cards. Players are allowed to play both from the cards they bid in the auction, and the cards that remain in their hand. Once the first card is played, the other players must follow suit if possible. Whoever has the highest card, or a trump card, wins the hand. The player will gain the number of points that all of the cards for that hand were worth. If the player has no cards of the proper suit, they can play anything else in their hand.
Once all cards are played, the points are given out for that round, and if the chief team reaches their goal, they receive a bonus determined by how difficult their goal was to achieve. The next round begins with another auction.
I may have missed a few points (read: I am a newbie at this game, so I am sure that I did), but luckily for us both the application has a pretty comprehensive how-to guide available. Other features include:
- A “shake-a-hint” feature allowing you to get suggestions for what cards to play by shaking your phone
- The ability to easily start a new game by tapping on a trash can icon
- A settings menu for altering game speed, skill level, and game length
- A score card that can be accessed any time by rotating your iPhone clockwise 90 degrees
This game, like most card games, takes a few hands to get the hang of, but I found that it was fun once I did. The graphics are good and the creators put in a lot of effort to make sure the game is thoroughly explained in the how-to section. I hesitate to give it a perfect rating, simply because I haven’t played the game with other human players and therefore don’t know how well the computer simulates how an actual game would play out. Still, for card game enthusiasts, this app is worth checking out.
Mü is compatible with iPhone and iPod Touch and requires iPhone OS 3.0 or later.