Schafkopf

Schafkopf is a trick-taking game for three players. Sometimes called the national game of Bavaria, it has been played throughout southern Germany for at least 200 years. Schafkopf is one of the ancestors of Skat, and the two share quite a lot in common.

There are two theories for why the game is named Schafkopf, which translates to “sheep’s head”. One is that originally the score was kept by making tally marks on a sheet of paper in such a way that, when the game was finished, the marks made the outline of a sheep’s head. Another is that the name is really a corruption of Schaffkopf, meaning the top of a barrel. A barrel often made a convenient card table in the early days of the game.

Because Schafkopf has been in play for such a long time, dozens of variations of it have been developed over time. Many of these rival Skat in complexity and capacity for skillful play. We’ve chosen one of the simpler variants to describe here.

Object of Schafkopf

The object of Schafkopf for the declarer is to collect at least 61 points in tricks. For the defenders, the object is to stop the declarer from doing so.

Setup

Schafkopf uses the 32-card deck common to German card games. To make an equivalent deck from the international standard 52-card deck, start with a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards and remove all of the 2s through 6s. What will remain is a deck with aces through 7s in each of the four suits. You’ll also need something to keep score with, like the venerable pencil and paper.

Shuffle and deal out the whole pack according to the following order: a set of three cards to each player, two face down to the center of the table, a set of four cards to each player, then a set of three cards to each player. Each player will have ten cards, with the two-face down cards forming a widow. (This is the same dealing procedure used in Skat, by the way.)

Card ranking

Schafkopf uses a highly unorthodox card ranking. First off, 10s are ranked above the king, just below the ace. Secondly, all queens and jacks are not considered to be part of their own suit, but are considered trumps! Queens and jacks rank in the following order: (high) clubs, spades, hearts, diamonds (low). Lastly, all of the diamonds are considered trumps, too, ranking in order just below the J♦.

Taken altogether, that means that the rank of cards in spades, hearts, and clubs is (high) A, 10, K, 9, 8, 7 (low). The full rank of the trump suit is (high) Q♣, Q♠, Q♥, Q♦, J♣, J♠, J♥, J♦, A♦, 10♦, K♦, 9♦, 8♦, 7♦ (low). Got all that?

Game play

Picking up the widow

The first order of business is determining who will take the widow. The player to the dealer’s left has the first opportunity to do so, or they may pass. If the first player passes, the next player to the left can choose to pick it up. If they, too, refuse, the dealer gets the last chance at picking up the widow. Should the dealer decline to take the widow, the hand is played “least“, as described in “Playing least” below.

If a player does decide to take the widow, they become the declarer, and their two opponents become the defenders. The declarer adds the two cards from the widow to their hand, then discards two cards, face down. This restores their hand to ten cards.

Play of the hand

The player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick. Each player in turn plays a card to the trick, until all three have played. Players follow suit if they are able; otherwise, they may play any card, including a trump. Whichever player played the highest trump, or the highest card of the suit led if no trump was played, wins the trick. They collect the cards from the trick, placing them in a won-tricks pile in front of them. They then lead to the next trick.

It is important to remember that the queens and jacks are trumps and not part of the suit printed on the card. For example, if a spade is led, playing the Q♠ is not following suit, it is trumping!

Scoring

After all ten tricks have been played, the declarer totals up the value of the cards they took in tricks, as follows:

  • Aces: eleven points each
  • 10s: ten points each
  • Kings: four points each
  • Queens: three points each
  • Jacks: two points each

None of the other cards have any value.

If the declarer successfully captured at least 61 points in tricks, they win the hand, and score two victory points. Should the declarer have collected 91 or more points, this is called a schneider, and they score four victory points. If they successfully captured all 120 points available, i.e. they captured every trick, it is called a schwarz, and they score six victory points.

Likewise, if the declarer collects 60 points or less, they lose two victory points. If they are schneidered (capture 30 points or less), they lose four victory points, and if they are schwarzed (capture 0 points), they lose six victory points.

Playing least

If all three players pass on taking the widow, the hand is played least. All three players play alone, with a goal of taking the fewest points possible. Whichever player takes the fewest points scores two victory points. If they captured 0 points, they score four victory points.

If two players tie, whichever one less recently took a trick wins and gets the two points. In a three-way tie, the dealer wins. In the event that one player takes all 120 points (meaning the other two tie at 0), that player loses four victory points and the other players do not score.

Ending the game

The game ends when a pre-specified number of deals take place. (For the sake of fairness, every player should have dealt an equal number of times.) Whoever has the highest score at this point is the winner.

See also

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East–West

East-West card game layoutEast–West is a poker game for two players. Much like Pai Gow Poker or Chinese Poker, the challenge in the game is placing cards you receive into one of three hands. East–West has two major differences with those games, though. First, there is one community card that you share with your opponent. Second, there is no gambling in this game at all!

East–West was created by German author Reiner Knizia. It was first published in German, in his 1995 Wild West-themed compendium of family-oriented poker games, Kartenspiele im Wilden Westen. The book was translated to English and published in 2007 as Blazing Aces! A Fistful of Family Card Games.

Object of East–West

The object of East–West is to strategically place cards drawn from the stock into one of three poker hands. The ultimate goal is to win two out of the three hands.

Setup

East–West was created to be played with a German deck of cards. To make an equivalent pack from an English-style 52-card deck like Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, just remove the 6s through 2s. You’ll be left with a deck containing aces through 7s in each of the four suits, for 32 cards in all.

Both players should sit on the same side of the table. One player will play the left or “West” side of the board, while the other will play the right or “East” side.

Shuffle and deal three cards, face up, in a vertical line. These three cards are the board cards. Place the deck stub above the uppermost board card, forming the stock.

Game play

The nondealer goes first. They draw a card from the stock and place it next to any one of the three board cards, on their designated side. The dealer goes next, doing the same thing, placing their card on the opposite side. Players continue alternating in this way, drawing cards and placing them.

Each player thus builds three poker hands. Each hand consists of one of the board cards and the other cards on that row on their side. A player may only place cards on their side, not on their opponent’s. Once a player has placed four cards on a row, the hand is complete (making a five-card hand, including the board card) and no more cards may be added to it.

After both players have completed all three hands, players compare each hand with their opponent’s on the same row. Whichever player wins two out of the three hands wins the game.

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Twenty-Four

Twenty-Four is a card game for either two or four players. While there are lots of card games that involve adding card values, Twenty-Four is fairly unique in that it allows players to subtract, multiply, and divide, too! Figuring out how to use the four mathematical operators to reach the target value of 24, and doing it quickly, is what the game is all about.

Twenty-Four likely originated in Shanghai, China, during the 1960s. Since then, it has spread to other Chinese cities, and it can be found in several other pockets of the world.

Object of Twenty-Four

The object of Twenty-Four is to be the first player to run out of cards. This is accomplished by using the values of four cards and the four mathematical operators to reach a solution of 24.

Setup

Twenty-Four is played with a 40-card deck consisting of only number cards. To form such a deck, just take a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards and remove all the face cards. You’ll be left with aces through 10s in each of the four suits.

Shuffle and deal the entire deck out. Each player will receive 20 cards in the two-player game and 10 cards in the four-player game. Players may not look at their cards. Instead, each player squares up their cards into one face-down pile in front of them.

Game play

For two players

Each player turns up the top two cards from their stack and places them face up in the center of the table. Each player then tries to mentally reach a solution of 24 by adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing the pip values of the four cards. The solution must equal exactly 24, and use all four cards, in any order. Parentheses may be used to make the operations come out in the order the player wishes.

For example, with a board of 5, 7, 8, 9, a player might come up with the solution of 8 × 5 – (7 + 9) = 24.

When a player believes they have a solution, they slap the table. They then state their solution. If the other player agrees it is a correct solution, the player calling out the solution wins that set of cards. If the result of the equation is not actually 24, the other player wins the set. Whichever player loses takes the four cards and places them at the bottom of their stack.

If neither player can find a solution using the four cards on the table, they may each choose one of the cards they played to take back, placing it on the bottom of their stack, then play one new card from the top of their stack. They now attempt to solve this new set of four cards. Note that mathematically, 80% of sets are solvable, although some might be harder than others!

Game play continues until one player runs out of cards. That player is the winner.

For four players

The four player game is the same as the two-player game, with the following exceptions. First, each player contributes only one card to the table per set, rather than two. (This means if all agree that there is no solution, each player swaps the one card that they played, resulting in a totally different board.)

Secondly, the first player to slap the table does not immediately announce their solution. Instead, each player slaps the table as they arrive at a solution. When three players have come to a solution, the last player left chooses one of their opponents to state their solution. If they are unable to, or it is incorrect, the odd player out wins the set. Otherwise, they lose and must add the cards to their stack.

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Carioca (Loba)

Carioca is a rummy-type game for two to five players. It is a good example of a member of the Contract Rummy sub-group of the Rummy family. In Contract Rummy games, each player’s first meld must meet certain requirements called a “contract”, which change from hand to hand.

Carioca is mostly played by that name in Argentina, but it has been known to appear in Chile as well. In Central America, a version of the game with some variations is played under the name Loba. (There’s a game called Loba played in Argentina, but it’s not the same as Carioca.)

Object of Carioca

The object of Carioca is to score the lowest number of points by being the first to deplete your hand. Cards are disposed of by forming melds. In order to do so, the player must first make a certain combination of melds that meet the contract for the hand.

Setup

Carioca requires the use of two standard 52-card decks of playing cards, including jokers, shuffled together to make a 108-card pack. While you could use any old cards you have lying around, we know you’ll get the best results if you use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. Trust us on this one. You’ll also want something to keep score with, like pencil and paper.

Shuffle and deal eleven cards to each player, or twelve cards on the seventh and final hand of the game. Place the remainder of the deck face-down in the center of the table, forming the stock. The first card of the stock is turned face up; this card, the upcard, is the first card of the discard pile.

Game play

The player to the right of the dealer goes first. This player may draw either the current upcard or the top card of the stock. If they are able to meld any cards, they do so after melding. Finally, they discard one card, ending their turn. The next player to the right goes after that.

Melding

There are two types of melds in Carioca. One is the trio, which is three cards of the same rank. The other is the escalera, which is four cards of the same suit in sequence. Cards rank in their usual order, with aces either high or low (but not both at the same time).

Melding is subject to one big restriction: on each hand, on the first turn in which a player melds (their initial meld), they must, all at once, make the contract for the hand. The contracts for each hand are as follows:

  1. Two trios.
  2. One trio and one escalera.
  3. Two escaleras.
  4. Three trios.
  5. Two trios and one escalera.
  6. One trio and two escaleras.
  7. Three escaleras.

Note that on the sixth and seventh hands, meeting the contract will exhaust the player’s entire hand. On the first five hands, players will have cards left over when they make their first meld. On later turns, a player who has met the contract may extend any meld on the table with cards from their hand. That is, a player may expand a trio with more cards of the same rank, or they may add extra cards on the end or the beginning of an escalera. Any meld on the table can be expanded, whether you melded it or not.

Using jokers

Jokers are considered wild cards, and can substitute for any other card that you wish in a meld. However, when a player makes their initial meld, only one joker is allowed per meld. After making their initial meld, players may freely add as many jokers as they wish to a meld.

If there is a joker in an escalera, and you hold the natural card that it represents, you can play that card to the escalera in place of the joker. The joker then moves to either end of the meld. You can then extend the meld further from the joker, if possible.

Ending the hand

The hand ends whenever one player runs out of cards. That player wins the hand and scores zero. All other players count up the value of their deadwood (unmatched cards in hand) as follows:

  • Jokers: 50 points each.
  • Aces: 20 points each.
  • Face cards: 10 points each.
  • All other cards: Face value.

Each player’s deadwood value is their score for the hand. The deal then passes to the right for the next hand.

Whichever player has the lowest score at the end of seven hands is the winner.

See also

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Kabu

Kabu is a Japanese banking game for two to six players. Kabu is quite similar to the game of Baccarat, where players do their best to reach a score of nine, and scores above nine have their first digit dropped.

Traditional Kabu is played with a deck of Japanese hanafuda, or “flower cards”. This adaptation of the game for the Western deck was created by the American game collector, inventor, and author Sid Sackson, who published it in his 1981 book Card Games Around the World.

Object of Kabu

The object of Kabu is, through selective drawing of cards, to obtain a score of nine or as close as possible to it.

Setup

Japanese Kabu is normally played with hanafuda, a traditional Japanese deck featuring four cards each of twelve “suits”, one for each month, January to December. In Kabu, the November and December cards are set aside. Each card uses the numerical value of the month it represents (1 for January, 2 for February, etc.) in adding up the player’s score.

To play Kabu with the typical English-style deck, simply remove all of the face cards from a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You’ll be left with a 40-card deck: ace through 10 in each of the four suits. You’ll also need some chips for betting. Distribute the chips evenly to each player. (Sackson recommends a starting stack of ten credits, plus fifteen for each player in the game. This would yield 40 credits for the two-player game, 55 for the three player game, etc.)

Shuffle and deal two cards, face down, to each player. The rest of the deck becomes the stock.

Game play

The player to the dealer’s left goes first. They look at their cards and add up their total value. Aces are worth one point, and all others their face value. If the score exceeds nine (the best possible score), the first (tens) digit is dropped to arrive at a score under nine. If the player is satisfied with their score, they may pass. Otherwise, they may request a card from the stock. Then, the next player has the opportunity to draw, and so on around the table. Players may draw a maximum of two cards (making a four-card hand altogether). Drawing continues until all players have either passed or drawn twice.

After the drawing portion of the hand is complete, each player reveals their hand and announces the total. Each player then pays each opponent with a higher score the difference between their hands’ values. For example, if Jim holds a seven-point hand and George holds a four-point hand, George would pay Jim three credits.

The cards are collected and shuffled, then the next hand is dealt. Game play continues until one player does not have enough chips to pay the amount owed to their opponents. That player does not actually pay any of their opponents. Instead, each player counts up the number of chips they hold. Whoever has the most chips wins the game.

 

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Écarté

Écarté (pronounced \e.kaʁ.te\ or roughly ay-car-tay) is a French trick-taking game for two players. A novel feature of the game is that rather than the traditional bidding round prior to trick-play, the players shape their hands into their final form by discarding and drawing cards. The winner might well be decided before the first card is played!

Écarté was at its height in the 19th century. It was mentioned in several works of fiction of the day, such as The Count of Monte Cristo (where it was noted as being preferred over Whist by the French) and the Sherlock Holmes story The Hound of the Baskervilles. The game gradually lost its popularity, however, and is now relatively obscure.

Object of Écarté

The object of Écarté is to form a hand capable of taking the majority of the five tricks, and then doing so.

Setup

Écarté uses the same deck as Piquet. If you don’t happen to keep a Piquet deck laying around, just grab your trusty deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards and take out all of the 6s through 2s. You’ll be left with a deck having aces through 7s in each of the four suits, for 32 cards in all. You’ll also need something to keep score with. Pencil and paper works, as well as the Card Caddy Connector, or chips or other tokens (you’ll only need nine of them).

Shuffle and deal five cards to each player. Place the stub in the center of the table, forming the stock. Turn the top card of the stock face up and set it aside. The suit of this card, the upcard, determines the trump suit. If the upcard is a king, the dealer scores one point.

Card ranking

The cards rank a little out of their usual order in Écarté. The ace ranks between the face cards and the number cards. This makes the full rank of cards (high) K, Q, J, A, 10, 9, 8, 7 (low).

Game play

The exchange

The non-dealer decides whether or not they wish to play with their hand, as dealt. They can either play with what they’ve got by saying “I play”, or propose an exchange by saying “I propose.” If the non-dealer proposes, the dealer has veto power—if they decline, then the play proceeds without an exchange.

If the exchange is accepted, the non-dealer discards any number of cards they wish, then draws back up to five cards. The dealer then has the opportunity to do the same thing. The non-dealer may then propose again or start the actual play of the hand, and the dealer may refuse the proposal, as before.

Should there be less than ten cards left in the stock and exchanging still going on, the non-dealer always has the first priority in taking the number of cards they want, even if that doesn’t leave enough for the dealer to make their desired exchange. When the stock is depleted, there’s no further exchanging—the hand immediately begins. (Neither player can ever draw the upcard, no matter how bad they might want to.)

After the exchange, if either player ended up with the king of trumps, they can show it to their opponent. Doing so scores one point.

Vulnerability

If either player prevents an exchange at all, whichever one turned it down (the non-dealer if they call “I play”, or the non-dealer if they reject the proposal) is said to be vulnerable. A vulnerable player’s opponent can score extra points if they win the hand, so it’s important not to be too overconfident with your hand.

Note that it is possible to avoid vulnerability by starting an exchange and then discarding no cards. This allows your opponent a chance to improve their hand, however.

After the first exchange has taken place, neither player becomes vulnerable by turning down the opportunity for an exchange.

Play of the hand

The non-dealer leads to the first trick. The dealer then plays a card in response, following suit and heading the trick if possible. That means that if they have a card of the suit led, they must play it, playing a higher card if possible. Otherwise, they must trump, if they can. Only if they cannot do either of those are they free to play any other card.

Whoever played the higher trump, or the higher card of the suit led if neither player played a trump, wins the trick. They take the cards and put them in a won-tricks pile on the table in front of them. (It may be helpful to put each pair of cards crosswise, so the number of tricks taken is easily counted.) That player then leads to the next trick.

Scoring

After all five tricks have been played, the hand is scored. Whichever player takes the majority of the tricks (i.e. three or more) scores one point. If they took all five tricks, they score an additional point. One more point is scored if the opponent was vulnerable on that hand.

Further hands are played until someone reaches a score of five points. That player is the winner. (If the winning point is scored prior to the actual play of the hand due to the king of trumps, the hand is not played out.)

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Fünfzehnern (Fifteens)

Fünfzehnern, also known in English as Fifteens, is a trick-taking game for three or four players. Unlike most other trick-taking games, Fünfzehnern doesn’t allow you to lead just any old card. Instead, you have to keep leading cards of the suit you first won the lead with, as long as you have them!

Fünfzehnern is an old German game. Descriptions of it date back to at least the late 1800s.

Object of Fünfzehnern

The object of Fünfzehnern is to take in tricks as many cards ranked 10 and above as possible. The ultimate goal of this is to achieve a hand score of fifteen points or better.

Setup

Fünfzehnern is played with the same pack used to play Piquet. To make such a pack from a set of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove all the 6s through 2s. You’ll be left with a deck of cards with aces through 7s in each of the four suits, for 32 cards in all. If playing with three players, remove one of the four suits entirely, giving you a 24-card deck. You also need something to keep score with. Pencil and paper works fine, but Fünfzehnern is traditionally managed with a “hard-score” method (chips or counters are paid into and taken from a central pool).

Shuffle and deal eight cards to each player, using the entire deck.

Game play

The player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick. All other players must play a card of the same suit, if possible. Otherwise, they may play any card. Once everyone’s played, the person who played the highest card of the suit led wins the trick. That person takes the cards that made up the trick and stacks them into a face-down won-tricks pile. That player then leads to the second trick.

When a player takes the right to lead from another player, they must continue to lead with cards of the suit they won the lead in. Only when they run out of cards of that suit can they change to a different suit. The only exception is if they have a card of a different suit which they know is unbeatable (i.e. because it is an ace, or because all the cards of that suit that would outrank it have been played).

For example, Riley leads hearts, and Marty wins the trick. Marty may now only play hearts as long as he has them. He holds the A♠, though, so he can also lead this, as he knows it is unbeatable. As soon as he runs out of hearts, he can lead to whatever suit he pleases. At this point, if Riley manages to beat Marty on a trick that he led diamonds to, Riley must continue to lead diamonds until he runs out of them.

Forcing (zwang)

Holding both a king and queen of the same suit is called a force, or zwang. If the ace of that suit has yet to be played, the player may lead the queen and declare “zwang“. The player holding the ace of that suit is then compelled to play it on that trick. This, of course, wins the trick, but the forcing player now knows the king they hold is the highest unplayed card of that suit.

Scoring

When all eight tricks have been played, each player totals up the values of the cards in their won-tricks pile:

  • Aces: five points each.
  • Kings: four points each.
  • Queens: three points each.
  • Jacks: two points each.
  • Tens: one point each.

9s, 8s, and 7s have no point value.

After each player arrives at a point value, they subtract fifteen from it. The resulting number is their score for the hand. (If using the hard-score method, take one chip from the pot for each point taken above fifteen, and pay into the pot one chip for each point taken below fifteen.)

Game play continues until a predetermined time or number of hands.

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Burraco

Burraco is a Rummy game much like Canasta. It is best played by four players in partnerships. Burraco adds several interesting features to Canasta, such as an extra hand each team must play before going out and the ability to meld runs rather than just sets of the same rank.

The Canasta branch of the Rummy family originates in South America. Burraco is most likely an evolution of one of several similarly-named games played there. At some point, it migrated across the Atlantic to Italy, where it really hit its stride. Burraco is incredibly popular there, played in tournaments with an official governing body!

Object of Burraco

The object of Burraco is to score 2,000 points before your opponent by forming melds of three or more cards of the same rank, and burracos, which are melds of seven or more cards of the same rank.

Setup

To play, you’ll need to shuffle together two decks (preferably of the same back design and color) of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, including the jokers. This will give you a 108-card deck. You’ll also need something to keep score with, such as pencil and paper. If you’re really confident in your math skills, go ahead and use a pen. You might impress someone.

Determine partnerships by whatever method works for your group. Dealing out four cards and the two highs versus the two lows is a good way of doing it if you want a random method. Of course, if you can just agree on partnerships, so much the better. You could go further at this point and come up with team uniforms, mascots, and chants too, but that would be sort of silly. In any case, each player should sit opposite of their partner, so that as the turn goes around the table it alternates between partnerships.

Shuffle. The player to the dealer’s right cuts the deck. The dealer takes the bottom part of the deck and deals eleven cards to each player. Meanwhile, the player who cut retains the top part of the deck and, dealing from the bottom of the stack, makes two piles of eleven cards each. These two piles are called the pozzetti. Stack the pozzetti, putting them at right angles to one another to keep them separate. Place the bottom part of the deck atop the top part, completing the cut and forming the stock. Turn the top card of the stock face up, forming the discard pile.

Game play

The player to the dealer’s left goes first. They may draw either the top card of the stock or take the entire discard pile into their hand. Once that is done, they may lay down any melds they have. Then, they end their turn by discarding.

It should be noted that when you draw from the discard, you take the entire pile, not just the top card. Also, unlike in Canasta, there is no requirement that you have to be able to immediately use the top card of the discard—you can take the discard pile whenever you want! There is one restriction: if there is only one card in the discard pile and you take it, you cannot discard this card on the same turn. This is to prevent a player from presenting the same card their opponent on their right discarded to their opponent on their left. (Note that if you have the other card of the same rank and suit as the card you just drew, discarding the other card is totally fine!)

Melding

There are two types of meld in Burraco. The first is the set, which is three or more cards of the same rank. The second is the run or sequence, which is three or more consecutive cards of the same suit (cards rank in their usual order). As players form melds, they may lay them down face up on the table. Each player shares melds with their partner, and can add on to melds laid down by either player on any previous turn. A player may meld as many cards as they want on any single turn.

Aces may be played either high or low in sequences, but a meld cannot have more than one ace in it (i.e. you cannot have an ace at each end of the sequence). You can have more than one sequence of a given suit, but you cannot merge two melds that happen to grow to the same endpoints into one big meld. You also cannot divide one run into smaller melds.

Each partnership can only have one set for each rank. You cannot have a set of jokers or 2s.

Wild cards

Jokers and 2s are considered wild cards. Each meld can only contain one wild card (one joker or one 2, not one of each). In a meld, a wild card can take the place of any natural card.

In runs, a 2 can also be used as its natural value (e.g. in a run of ). 2s are not counted as wild cards when they are used in such a way. For example, 2-3-4♥-★ contains just one wild card—the joker. If there is no other wild card in a meld, a 2 used as its natural value can be pressed into service as a wild card. With a meld of 2-3-4♥, a player could add the 6♥ by changing the 2 into a wild (i.e. form 3-4-2-6♥, with the 2 standing in for the 5♥).

A wild card must always be placed at the low end of a run if it is not being used for one of the inside cards. For example, 7♠-★-9♠ is a valid meld, but 7-8♠-★ is not (it should be corrected to ★-7-8♠). If a player wishes to later extend the sequence upward using the joker, move the joker to the high end position. For example, if a player holds the 10♠ with a meld on the table of ★-7-8♠, they can move the joker to the end to make 7-8♠-★-10♠. This rule is to prevent a player from conveying to their partner which direction they want the run extended in.

If a player obtains a natural card that is already represented in one of their runs as a wild card, the player can place that card into the meld. For example, with a meld of 7-8♠-★-10♠, a player could replace the joker if they pick up a 9♠. The resulting meld would be ★-7-8-9-10♠. The melded wild card then moves to its usual position at the low end of the sequence. Note that you cannot replace one wild card with another wild card (e.g. to force a wild 2 into becoming a natural card).

Burrachi

Any meld of seven or more cards is called a burraco. If a burraco has no wild cards, it is called a clean burraco. Otherwise, it is a dirty burraco. A clean burraco is worth more points at the end of the hand than a dirty one.

Traditionally, a burraco is indicated by turning the end card at right angles to the rest of the cards. Clean burrachi are denoted by turning a second card in addition to the first.

Taking a pozzetto

When a player runs completely out of cards, they are able to take one of the pozzetti from the center of the table. If they take the pozzetto in the middle of a turn (i.e. before they discard), they simply pick it up and continue on with their turn. When a player discards their last card instead, they take the pozzetto but keep it face down in front of them until their next turn. This is to keep them from passing any information about their holdings to their partner.

After one player has taken a pozzetto, the other one is reserved for their opponents. The first player of the opposing partnership to run out of cards takes that pozzetto. Once a partnership has taken care of their pozzetti, when either player runs out of cards, they must be able to close instead.

Ending the hand

A player can close, ending the hand, as long as the following conditions are met:

  • That partnership has already picked up their pozzetto. (It is not necessary for the player who took the pozzetto to be the one that goes out.)
  • That side has at least one burraco.
  • They end their final turn with a discard. That is, they cannot meld all of their cards without discarding.
  • The final discard cannot be a wild card.

The hand also ends automatically if the stock is drawn down to two cards. After the player who drew the third-from-last card completes their turn, game play stops.

One other way the hand can end is with a stalemate. This is when the discard pile only has one card in it, and each of the players takes a turn where they simply draw the preceding player’s discard. After four turns (a complete orbit) of this, the hand ends.

Scoring

After the hand ends for any reason, each partnership totals the values of the cards in their melds, then subtracts the values of the cards left in their hands. Card values are as follows:

  • Jokers: 30 points each.
  • 2s: 20 points each.
  • Aces: 15 points each.
  • Ks–8s: 10 points each.
  • 7s–3s: 5 points each.

Additionally, each partnership scores the following bonuses, if applicable:

  • Clean burrachi: 200 points each.
  • Dirty burrachi: 100 points each.
  • Closing: 100 points. If neither team actually closed (due to stock depletion or stalemate), neither gets this bonus.

If a partnership failed to pick up their pozzetto, they take a –100 point penalty. The only exception is if a player got their pozzetto but never got to look at it; in this case the pozzetto is treated like the player’s hand and scored appropriately.

Game play continues until one partnership exceeds a score of 2,000 points. Whichever team has the higher score at that point is the winner.

See also

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Conquian (Coon Can)

Conquian, also known as Coon Can, is a rummy game for two players. Conquian follows an open (face-up) melding style, and allows users to rearrange their melded cards. One unusual feature of the game is that players are not allowed to draw cards into the hand—any new cards the player gets must immediately be melded!

Conquian is one of the oldest rummy games in existence, and it is believed to be the common ancestor of the entire family of Western rummy games. It is believed to originate from Mexico, although it could share a common Phillipine heritage with Panguingue. The roots of the rummy family may trace even further back, to the Chinese game of Khanhoo.

Object of Conquian

The object of Conquian is to be the first player to lay down eleven cards in melds.

Setup

Conquian is played with the traditional 40-card Spanish deck. To get your hands on such a deck, just take a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards and remove all the 10s, 9s, and 8s. You’ll be left with the aces, face cards, and 7s through 2s in each of the four suits.

Shuffle and deal ten cards to each player. Place the stub face down in the center of the table, forming the stock.

Game play

The non-dealer plays first. They turn the first card of the stock face up. If they can form a valid meld with that card and two or more others from their hand, they can lay all the cards in the meld face-up in front of them as a group, then discard one card from the hand, placing it next to the stock to start the discard pile. Otherwise, they simply discard the card from the stock. The turn then passes to the dealer. They have the opportunity to use the discard to form a meld. If they can’t or don’t want to, they draw the next card from the stock and can meld it if possible, and so on.

Melding

There are two types of valid melds in Conquian. The first is the set or group, which is three or four cards of the same rank (e.g. 5-5-5). The second is the run or sequence, which is three or more consecutive cards of the same suit (e.g. 3-4-5♦ or 7-J-Q♠). Note that a nine- or ten-card sequence would make it impossible to go out, so a player will usually avoid sequences of longer than eight cards if they can help it. For the purposes of runs, aces are always considered low, and 7s are considered consecutive with jacks.

A player can only lay a new meld down when they have access to a card from the center of the table that can be added to it. That is, unlike in most rummy games, a player can never lay down a fully-formed meld from the hand. Nor can a player lay down cards on their opponent’s melds—all cards must be played only to a player’s own melds.

Players may rearrange their melds on the table in order to meld new cards from the stock or discard. A player may, for instance, move a card from a set of 4s to extend an A-2-3 sequence. They could then extend it further with a matching 5 from the discard pile. All cards on the table must be part of valid melds with three or more cards after rearranging.

Forcing

A player is not required to accept a card from the stock or discard pile that they are able to meld. However, if a player notices their opponent passing up a melding opportunity, they can compel the opponent to take the card and meld it anyway. This is a surprisingly powerful move, since it can occasionally force a player to make a meld that makes it impossible to go out.

Ending the hand

Game play continues until one player has melded eleven cards, i.e. the ten from their hand plus one more from the center of the table on the last turn. If the stock is depleted before a player goes out, the hand is considered a draw.

 

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Kowah

Kowah is a rummy-esque game for two to four players, from the Indonesian island of Java. In this game, players try to form their eight-card hands into triplets—but winning the game requires holding three cards of the same rank and suit!

Object of Kowah

The object of Kowah is to form a hand of a certain structure so that the player can make a declaration of checki. Then, the player must obtain a card of the same rank and suit as two others in their hand.

Setup

Kowah uses a highly unusual 120-card deck. To build such a deck, start with four decks of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. From each deck, remove the aces through 10s of clubs. From the other three suits, remove the 10s and face cards. You’ll be left with two 30-card decks consisting of A–9♠, A–9♦, A–9♥, and J-Q-K♣. Shuffle these four 30-card decks together to form the full 120-card deck.

Shuffle and deal eight cards to each player. Place the stub in the center of the table, forming the stock.

Game play

The player to the left of the dealer goes first. They draw from the stock, then discard one card from their hand, placing it face-up next to the stock to form the discard pile. Upon discarding, the turn passes to the left. Thereafter, players may draw either the top card of the stock or the top card of the discard pile at the beginning of their turns.

Declaring checki

Players are trying to form a hand that meets either of these criteria:

  • Two threes-of-a-kind (suits do not matter) and a pair of the same rank and suit. For example, 5♠-5♥-5♦-7♥-7♠-7♦-A♦-A♦.
  • Three of a kind and a five-of-a-kind consisting of two pairs of the same rank and suit and one card of the same rank but a different suit. For example, 5♠-5♥-5♦-7♠-7♠-7♦-7♦-7♥.

Upon forming one of these hands, they declare checki, and place the pair of identical cards face up on the table in front of them. (For a checki of the second type, they may place either pair face up.) These cards are still considered part of the player’s hand.

When a player has declared checki

After player has declared checki, each time an opponent draws from the stock, they must reveal the card they have drawn. If it is a third card matching the same rank and suit as two in a checki player’s hand, they may claim that card. Likewise, if a player discards a card that would be the third card of the rank of suit a checki player needs, they may claim that card out of turn. As play continues, additional players may declare checki and are then able to claim cards out of turn the same way.

Game play continues until a checki player gets the third card they need. This player wins the game. If the stock is depleted before a player gets the card they need, the hand ends without a winner.

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