Play TuSac

Tu Sac Instruction


Tu Sac (Tứ Sắc - Four Colors) is a popular Vietnamese game played with chess cards. The objective of the game is to organize a hand of cards into a combination of valid Tu Sac sets of cards through a process of melding new cards into the hand and discarding out trash cards. It is known as Si Se Pai (which also means four colors) in Chinese.

Tu Sac is a simple game in principle, but it is a moderately difficult game to play proffessionally in practice as it has many restricted rules governing what players must play as well as what they are prohibited from playing. Vinagames helps making the game much easier to play by hidding as much as possible all these rules, allowing players to focus more on having fun playing the game. Tu Sac is a game of luck, one in which players with good cards can win more easily, yet it is also a skilled game, one in which a person must make educated guess of other players' cards so as to improve his chance of winning.

Tu Sac Cards

There are 28 unique cards in Tu Sac. Each card has a color of either red, yellow, green, or white, and has a rank of either king, guard, minister, rook, cannon, knight, or pawn. A pack of Tu Sac has 112 cards, consisting of 4 identical cards for each color and rank. The cards are labeled in the same way as in Chinese chess (xiangqi), see the labels here. Note that there are 2 different ways to label the kings, bishops, and pawns.

Tu Sac Card Sets

The following are valid card sets in Tu Sac:

  • A single king
  • A pairs of identical cards
  • A triple of identical cards
  • A quadruple of identical cards
  • A set of king/guard/minister cards of the same color
  • A set of rook/cannon/knight cards of the same color
  • A set of 3 or 4 pawns of different colors

A hand in Tu Sac consists of 20 cards and possibly one additional active card. The cards are further divided into a public block that everyone can see, and a private block that only the owner of the hand can see. The public block always consists of a number of valid sets, while the private blocks may contain one or more trash cards, cards that are not yet in any valid set. The number of trash cards a hand has is the minimum number of cards the removal of which leaves the private block a combination of valid sets.

A few sets of cards have special names. A quadruple set of cards originally in a hand is called a Quan. A Quan must be shown to all players at the beginning of the game. A triple set of cards in the private block of a hand is called a Khap. The number of Khap that a player has must be announced to all players. This number is denoted by one or more small dots on the game board. A quadruple set formed by melding a Khap with the active card is called a Khui. Quan, Khui, and Khap have special meaning when computing the winning amount after each game.

Playing Tu Sac

The game is for 2-4 people and it is best to play the game with 4 people. Each player initially has 20 cards except the first player who has 21 cards. The remaining deck of cards is left in the middle of the game table.

The game starts with the first player discarding one of his trash card. This card becomes the active card in the game. The next player can meld the active card, creating a valid set of cards consisting of up to 3 private cards he has on his private hand and the active card. If a player cannot meld the card, he can hit the remaining deck for a new card, and this card becomes the active card. He then has another chance to meld the active card. If he still cannot meld the card, he loses his turn and the game continues with the next player. If in one of the two opportunities, the active card is melt, the person who melds the card then discards one of his trash card out. The card becomes the active card, and the game continue with the next player.

There are a number of times when melding the active card is done by someone other than the current player. In these cases, the person who does the melding becomes the current player, and the game continues from that person. These special situations are covered later.

The objective of the game is to get rid of all trash cards by either melding them with the active card or by discarding them. The first player whose hand does not have any trash after melding the active card wins the game. In the case when no one wins and there are only 7 cards left in the remaining pile, the game is aborted. The game is drawn in this case.

Tu Sac Special Melding Rules

A number of special rules govern the melding and discarding of cards. Followings are the rules, in decreasing priority. When two or more rules can be used, higher priority rules take precedent.

  1. Winning priority: If the active card could be melt in any way to complete someone's hand, even when he is not the current player, the active card is melt to that hand so that the person wins the game.
  2. Khap priority: A Khap cannot be broken, i.e. a card in a Khap cannot be combined with any other private card to form a set. When the active card is the same as the card in a Khap, the player owning that Khap must immediately meld the active card to form a Khui and becomes the current player.
  3. Trash reduction priority: When a person discard a card, he must decrease the number of trash in his private hand, i.e. the card being discarded must be a trash. Whenever a person melds a card, he must not increase the number of trash in his private hand.
  4. Pair priority: If a person has a pair of card, and that card is an active card, and it is someone else's turn, he must meld the active card to form a triple and take over the turn from the current player.

There are two exceptions to the pair priority rule. Firstly, the rule cannot be used to meld a king card. Secondly, if a person has exactly 2 trash cards left, and the trash cards are either 2 pawns of different colors, a rook and a cannon, or a rook and a knight, or a cannon and a knight, then he cannot use the pair priority rule.

Penalty Rule

To ensure fairness, each player should make the best effort to win the game. In Tu Sac, it is a requirement that each player does so or risks receiving a penalty.

When discarding a card after melding the active card, a player should always discard the worst card he has on hand, taking into account what he may hit in his next round. If a player does not follow this rule, and the card he discards is melt to form a winning hand by someone else, the player is penalized, paying the winning amount for other losing players in the game.

Determining whether a card is the worst card or not is quite confusing unless you are an experienced player. Luckily, when playing at Vinagames, you will be told whether a trash card you are about to discard is worst or not, see later section on playing at Vinagames.

Calculating Winning Amounts

Once a person completes his hand and wins, all losing players pay the winner an amount based on the valid sets in his cards. A Quan, Khui, Khap are valued at 8, 6, and 3 points respectively. A set of 4 pawns is valued at 2 points, a pair does not have any value, and all other sets are valued at 1 point.

The amount each player pays to the winner is (3+handvalue) + 10. If the winner has a Quan or a Khui, the winning amount is then (3+handvalue)*2 + 10.

Players that do not win the game also receive a number of side points if they have Quan, Khui, or Khap. The winner must pay for Quan and Khui, and all other players must pay for Quan, Khui, and Khap.

Playing Tu Sac at Vinagames

Playing Tu Sac at Vinagames is easy, whether you are a beginner or an experienced player. All the melding required by Tu Sac rules are done automatically, and the program hides all the complexity of checking whether the card being discarded is worst or not.

When it is your turn to play, if you wish to meld the active card, you can select an appropriate set of your private cards and click on "Meld". If you wish to hit for a new active card, deselect all the cards and click on "Hit". If you cannot or do not wish to meld a card after hitting, you can click on "Pass". To discard a card after melding, you can select it and click on "Discard". The button for discard turns to "Discard!!!" if the card you select is not the worst trash you have.

There are 2 buttons that help you with the organization of your private cards. Clicking on "Find Trash" will cycle you through all your trash cards, all the trash cards that are safe for you to play (i.e. the worst cards), and to deselect all your cards. Click on "Quick Select" one or more times to quickly select the cards that you can use to meld the current card or a trash to discard.

If you are new to the game, you can blindly click on "Quick Select" then on the action button, regardless of it being "Meld", "Hit", "Pass", "Discard". You may not play well, but at least your play is valid.

Special Considerations

If you play safe, i.e. always discard the worst card required by the game rule, you will not be penalized if someone wins with the card you discard. You however run the risk of letting other people to guess your hand correctly or letting the player immediate after you have an easy time getting rid of his trash. To play well the game, you must learn when not to discard the worst card, even when you may pay a penalty for such discard.

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