Mü & Mehr
Publisher: Doris and Frank / Amigo
The pinnacle of trick-taking games
There's no doubt that Mü is one of the best games to come from the little game company of Doris & Frank. Its complexity gives it great depth, and possibly makes it the best five-player game around.
Mü is a trick-taking game, and it isn't a particularly strange one at that. The only especially sneaky part is that trumps aren't made up of one suit. Rather, it is made up of two orthogonal elements, major and minor trumps; each can be a colour, a number, or no trumps. This becomes important when the bidding process is taken into account.
Bidding goes around the table, with players placing cards from their hand face-up on the table; there is a mapping between the number of cards you have played and how many points you hope to take during the trick-taking phase. After several times around the table, bidding and raising, one player will have bid more cards than anyone else. This player is called the Chief, and gets to choose the major trump. The player who played the second-most cards becomes the Vice, who chooses the minor trump. The Chief then picks a partner from the other players (except the Vice) and it is up to the two of them to win. The Vice and other players, of course, try to stop this from happening.
The actual trick-taking part of the game is quite simple; players must follow suit if they can (so they must play a trump if a trump is led), and the winner takes the trick. Scoring is not done by tricks taken but by points on the cards in the tricks. Each card has from zero to two small triangles on it. It is these triangles that are counted to determine if the Chief and partner have won, or if the Vice and other players kept them from their bid. Rewards and penalties are handed out according to the result. Games are usually played to a set number of points, which usually lasts several hands.
Naturally, this is quite a bit more complex than most trick-taking games. Additionally, the cards with the most triangle points are not the highest in their suit, so playing to simply win tricks may not actually earn you many triangles. Also, each of the five suits contains not only every number from zero to nine, but an extra one and an extra seven. This makes card-counting just that little bit harder.
The game usually is quite close, because the Chief will often pick the player in last place to be the partner, which will raise the partner's score. Only if you make many unrealistic bids will you find yourself out of the running.
The cards in Mü & Mehr are absolutely stunning, with gorgeous abstract artwork by Doris Matthäus, and there are also four other games that can be played with the cards - the Mehr ('more') of the title. None of these other games is nearly as complex as Mü and they should be regarded as nice extras, not the reason for owning the game.
Personally, I am quite abysmal at Mü, and so I rarely volunteer to play it. But I can still recognize a masterpiece when I see it, and Mü is right at the top of its class.