Rochi - Cheapass Games

Rochi - Cheapass Games
Open Beta Rules Version 1.0
February 9, 2017
Hello! Welcome to the open beta for Rochi, a new card game from James
Ernest and Sonia Lyris.
Rochi is a gambling game played with a 54-card deck called the Roche
deck. The game will play a role in the sequel to Sonia Lyris’ fantasy novel
The Seer. This document contains the rules and background for the game.
We are also working on two other games, Roche and Rugen, coming soon
to the same open beta page.
The Roche Deck: The deck is composed of six suits of different sizes, as follows:
Suit: Mages Realm World Valor
Rank: 2
Note that the “rank” of the cards is equal to half the size of the suit. You can build this deck with cards
from four poker decks, or two Pairs decks. You need four cards of rank 2, six cards of rank 3, and so on
up to fourteen cards of rank 7. You can also buy a copy of our Rochi deck for $10 from Drive Thru Cards:
Our beta deck is a pure abstract design, as illustrated above, with just different card names on each
card. But our goal is to produce a Tarot-style illustration for each card. Right now the game is being
considered for publication by Campaign Coins, who will make some lovely tokens for the suit markers!
Send us Your Feedback!
The point of this open beta test is to get fresh eyes and new feedback on the game, from the clarity of
the rules to the playability and fun value of the mechanics.
If you’ve got questions, comments, or improvements for us, please let us know. You can find us on
Twitter and Facebook, or shoot an email directly to James Ernest, who is [email protected]
If you’d like to learn more about the world of the game, check out The Seer, by Sonia Lyris, available at
fine booksellers everywhere. We are sponsoring a feedback contest, including prize copies of The Seer.
For details on the contest, visit the Rochi beta page at
Thanks for your help as we make Rochi as fun as it can be!
Rochi Open Beta Rules © 2017 James Ernest and Cheapass Games
Page 1
The Origins of Rochi and the Roche Deck
By Sonia Lyris
It is safe to say that the game of Rochi comes from Perripur, whose majestic mountains and lush green
valleys sink their toes into the warm waters of the Mundaran Sea. It may not, however, be quite so safe
to say where the Roche deck itself was born.
Prior to the Perripin Accord, the eleven states of Perripur were, variously, rival and allying sovereign
kingdoms; the subsequent centuries of unity and peace have not eroded their multifariousness or their
self-admiration, so disagreements understandably abound as to the deck’s exact origins.
In many ways, the Perripin people are a model of harmonious diversity. They consider themselves the
intellectual and cultural superiors of their neighbors to the north, where the Arunkel empire has for
centuries held vast stretches of rich lands from the cold north seas to the borderlands of Perripur itself.
Perhaps the greatest difference between these two countries is how they engage with mages. The
Perripin states welcome mages, often hiring them for their perspective and wisdom, as well as their
magic. In Arunkel, however, these black-robed powers and their abilities are outlawed. Say the Perripin,
one might as well outlaw the weather.
The game of Rochi is played with passion across both countries and beyond. While the full name is
Keuthen Rochi —meaning “hidden labor” or “hidden pleasure,” depending on which Perripin state one
believes is the origin —most simply call it “Rochi” and get on with the business of playing this fast,
colorful, and sometimes lucrative game.
In Perripur, Rochi is played with the entire fifty-four card deck. Not so in Arunkel, at least not in the
open. Traditionally, the Arunkel deck was made legal in a grove of red-branched amardide, by burning
the Mages suit to ash, along with some sage, to clear the air of magic and its attendant ills. Perripur,
quick on the uptake, began exporting north this fifty-card so-called “Red” deck, for which, of course,
they charged twice as much.
As popular as Rochi is, it is unsurprising that every Perripin state claims to be its mother. Perripin
scholars agree that Rochi was likely born in Southern Perripur —perhaps Atudaka, Venta, or even
Timurung. (The Timuros use dried fruit as suit markers, but woe to the player who eats one, who may
then be required to eat the coins in play as well. But the Timuros are like that.)
Who can truly claim credit for the Roche deck? Ask ten Perripin scholars and you’ll get twenty answers.
It seems likely that the stories, lessons, and histories that the deck’s cards offer us come from all across
Perripur, and possibly even northern lands as well, where the tribes once had a similar tradition of storycards.
The one thing Perripin scholars agree on is this: Arunkel had nothing to do with it. Which, given the
Arunkin’s generally gloomy disposition, is probably for the best.
Rochi Open Beta Rules © 2017 James Ernest and Cheapass Games
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Rules for Rochi
Summary: Rochi is a gambling game for 2-8 players. Players vie for control of the six suits, often buying
them from each other many times, and trying to steer their chosen suits to victory. Each hand takes
about five minutes to play.
Equipment: The Roche Deck (described on Page 1), six suit tokens (shown below), one leader button (for
designating who plays first), and money or chips for gambling. We suggest at least 100 coins per player,
in denominations of 1, 5, and 25.
Images for six suit tokens are below. You might want to print these and affix them to heavy cardboard.
There is a larger version of this graphic at the Rochi page at
Definition: Cutting. In Rochi (and many related games), cards are dealt from the deck until exactly half
of one suit is revealed. This is called “cutting” the suit. For example, if six cards of rank 6 are exposed
before half of any other suit (remember that there are twelve 6s), then the 6s have “cut.” In Rochi, this
means that the owner of the 6 suit token (Kin) wins the hand.
Setup: Arrange the suit tokens in a line in the center of the table, with space below each for a stack of
cards, and space above for stacks of coins, or pots. These pots will often have coins left over from
previous hands, but they start empty. A basic setup, including money in some of the pots, is shown
Give the leader button to a random player. This button will pass to the left after every hand. Players can
enter or leave the game after any hand, as described later.
To Begin: Shuffle the deck and deal a face-down hand of five cards to each player. Seed the stacks if
necessary, as follows:
Rochi Open Beta Rules © 2017 James Ernest and Cheapass Games
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Seeding the Stacks: If there are fewer than six players, you must “seed the stacks” to jump-start
the hand. Do this by dealing out two cards for every player below six.
For example, if there are two players, then four players are missing, so you will deal
eight cards into the middle. Sort these cards into the appropriate stacks.
Note that if a suit is cut by the seed cards, it does not win. Instead, the suit is locked. See
more about locked suits below.
Play begins with the leader button, and proceeds to the left (clockwise) around the table.
Each Turn: On each turn, a player may play a card, deal a card, do both (in either order) or fold. Folding
is automatic if you choose neither to play nor to deal.
Play: Play a card from your hand onto the table. This earns you the token of that suit. You may own
several suit tokens at once.
The card you play goes into the stack of the matching suit unless it would cut the suit.
If it would, then it goes instead to the player from whom you took the token.
If the token was still in the middle, then the extra card goes to you.
Cards in front of players are “Shields,” described below.
After you play a card, take ownership of the corresponding suit token, and pay a price for that
token equal to the number of cards now in that stack. For example, if there are now 4 cards in that
stack, the price is 4 coins.
The payment goes to the owner of the suit, as follows:
No Owner: Pay the price into the pot next to that suit.
Owned by a Player: Pay the price to the player who owns it.
Owned by You: Pay nothing.
Cards played from players’ hands can never cut a suit.
Examples of Playing:
Early in the game, Chance plays a 6 (Kin), while the 6 token is still unclaimed. There is
already one 6 in that suit’s stack, so Chance’s 6 makes a total of 2 cards. Chance pays 2 coins
into the pot beside the 6, and takes the 6 token.
Next, Benedict plays a 6. This puts the third 6 in the stack, so the price is now 3. He pays 3
coins to Chance and takes the 6 token.
Later, there are five cards in the 6 stack. Aubrey plays a 6 to steal the 6 token from Benedict.
Since this card would cut the suit, it goes instead to Benedict, where it becomes a Shield.
Aubrey pays Benedict 5 coins.
If the turn came back to Aubrey and she played another 6, she would keep the card in front
of herself, pay no one, and keep the 6 token.
Deal: Reveal the top card of the deck and put it into its proper stack.
• If this card cuts the suit, and a player owns that suit, then the game is over and the owner of the
suit wins.
• If the suit is cut but no one owns it, then that suit is locked (described below).
• Otherwise this card has no immediate effect.
Rochi Open Beta Rules © 2017 James Ernest and Cheapass Games
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Strategy: The card that cuts a suit must always come from the deck. So, when you choose to
deal, you are either trying to expose a card that cuts a suit that you own, or you are trying to add cards
to a stack to push it closer to cutting.
Locked Suits: If a dealt card cuts an unclaimed suit, the suit does not win. Instead, that suit is
locked, and can’t win the hand. Any further cards played or dealt in that suit are irrelevant. Sometimes a
suit is locked by seed cards, sometimes by a dealt card.
To show that the suit is locked, place the suit token directly on the stack.
In some circles, players are allowed to discard and replace cards from locked suits (you do this at
the start of your turn).
Fold: If you neither deal a card nor play a card on your turn, you fold. If you take any other action on
your turn, you may not fold.
Folded players surrender their suit tokens back to the center, and can neither win nor lose more
money on this hand. If a folded player has a Shield, that is also removed from play.
Winning and Penalties: When a suit cuts, the owner of that suit takes the pot associated with that suit.
In addition, every player who is still in the hand pays a penalty to the winner, equal to the rank of the
winning suit. For example if a player wins with the 6 suit, then all remaining players pay him 6 coins.
Folded players do not pay the penalty.
Any players who have not yet taken a turn are also considered out of the hand, and do not pay.
Shields: Any player with a Shield in the winning suit does not pay the penalty.
All other pots remain on the table for the next hand.
After the hand, pass the leader button one seat to the left, and play the next hand.
Entering and Leaving the Game: When a new player enters a game in progress, the group may elect to
charge her to join, as follows:
Add up the total number of coins in all pots, and divide it by the number of current players (not
including the new player), rounding up. The new player must add that number of coins as she chooses,
into any combination of pots, as her price to join the game.
Players may leave the game whenever they like, and they receive no consolation for doing so.
However, if a player wishes to sit out and return, the group may grant him a “marker” computed as an
equal share of the exiting pots, rounded down, as credit against rejoining the game. This process can get
muddy if others come and leave, so most groups simply offer no consolation to the departing player.
Usually these rules are not enforced if a player simply leaves the table for a hand or two, unless
that player is clearly doing so to gain some kind of advantage.
Last Hand: If the table can agree that the next hand will be the “Last Hand,” then the game will break
when that hand is over. The following extra rules apply to this final hand:
After the winner has been paid, all remaining pots are combined into a single pot and divided as
evenly as possible among all the players (including those who folded).
Any coins that cannot be divided evenly will go to the winner of the final hand.
If any player refuses to agree to “Last Hand,” then the game does not end. The other players
may continue playing, or may leave without consolation. However, this type of holdout is
unsportsmanlike and extremely rare. Such a player would find it difficult to find another game.
Strategy: To make money in this game, you want to own the winning suit. You can make some marginal
gains buying and selling suit tokens, but your real goal is to own the token when the suit cuts.
Rochi Open Beta Rules © 2017 James Ernest and Cheapass Games
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Normally when you own a suit that is ready to cut (i.e., one card away), you want to deal cards
from the deck in order to cut the suit before it is taken away from you. But don’t get greedy on the first
round, because there may still be players who have not had a turn, and who therefore will not owe you
any money if you win!
Depending on your starting hand, you might want to deal before you play, or play before you
deal. Dealing first gives you information, but it can also make your chosen suits more expensive to buy.
Also, you may want to only play, or only deal. You will see examples of each situation as you play.
Most new players do not fold often enough. Folding is often the best option, especially when
you can’t see a clear path to winning. Again, experience will show you plenty of examples.
Rochi Terms
Some slang related to the game of Rochi:
Rochi as a whole is referred to a “game” but a single iteration is more likely to be called a “hand” or a
“round.” A “round” can also be used to refer to a series of hands that includes one for each player,
though of course this is not a perfect term when players enter and leave the game between hands.
Rochi is often referred to as “Playing the Stacks” or simply “Stacks.” The stacks are sometimes
called “stories,” because of the narrative elements on the cards.
“Ripe” is a term meaning “ready to cut.” This means that there are N-1 cards in the discard pile,
where N is the number of cards required to cut the suit. Related terms, which are less specific, include
“fresh” or “green” (a suit that is new or barely exposed); “rotten” (a suit is overexposed, meaning that
many cards have been distributed as Shields); and “dead” which means that a suit is so exposed that it
can no longer cut. “Dead” is not always used with precision; it is usually synonymous with “extremely
overexposed,” even in situations where not every card is yet accounted for.
“Mark:” Shields are commonly referred to as “marks” in the various suits. Mage’s Mark,
Commons’ Mark, etc. This term implies that the player is absolved from paying the winner because of an
association or endorsement, rather than the protection of a shield.
Poke: A common term for the pots accumulating on each suit.
Count: A common term for the forfeit that losing players pay to the winner. This is also a term
referring to the number of cards in any given stack (they are the same value when a penalty is paid).
“What’s the count?” is a reference to the number of cards currently in a suit’s discard pile, and “paying
the count” means spending a number of cards equal to the size of the pile.
“Buy”: When you acquire a suit token, you are “buying” the suit.
Cut: Along with the defined term above, “the cut” is also a term referring to half of something.
Most in-world Roche decks do not have numerals at all, since players learn the size of all the suits at an
early age. So you might say “The cut of Mages is 2” or “The Commons cut at 7.”
Rochi Open Beta Rules © 2017 James Ernest and Cheapass Games
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