Reversis is an old trick-taking game for four players. In most trick-taking games, the goal is to capture as many cards as you can. In Reversis, however, you want to avoid taking the face cards and the aces! None of the other cards matter, although there is a special bonus for not winning a single trick. You can turn it on its head, however, and win every trick, which gets you even more!
Reversis is a very old game, appearing as early as 1601. By the 1870s, it was still being included in card game books, but was all but dead in terms of actively being played. Nevertheless, the game most likely served as the root of an entire family of trick-taking games where the goal was avoidance of certain cards. Today, the most well-known member of this family is Hearts, now considered a classic in its own right. In fact, most authors call the whole group of card-avoidance games the “Hearts family”, despite Reversis’s probable status as grandparent of most of these games.
Object of Reversis
The object of Reversis is to avoid capturing in tricks any aces or face cards. A secondary objective is to avoid taking any tricks, a feat called the espagnolette. Failing that, a player may aim to take all the tricks, which is called the reversis.
Reversis uses an unusual 48-card pack formed by taking a standard 52-card deck (like Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards) and stripping out all of the 10s. Additionally, you will need chips to keep score with. A traditional Reversis set included chips equal to 468 base units, denominated in 1, 6, and 48 units. You can probably get away with the easier to deal with 1 (white), 5 (red), and 25 (green) of most standard chip sets. Divide the chips up evenly; each player should start with at least 100 credits.
On the first hand, all players ante five credits to the pot, except for the dealer, who antes ten credits. Shuffle and deal eleven cards to each player. Then, deal one extra to your own hand, and one card face down in front of each player (but not part of their hand). This will exhaust the entire deck.
Before play begins, the dealer discards any one card they wish from their hand. This brings them to the same eleven cards that the other players have.
The three other players have the right to discard one card from their hand, then draw the face-down card in front of them. They cannot look at this card before deciding whether to discard. If the player decides not to discard, they may look at the face-down card without putting it in their hand. All four unwanted cards (the dealer’s discard, the discards of any other player, and any cards not drawn by the players) are set aside to form the talon.
Play of the hand
Play proceeds much the same as it does in any other trick-taking game. The player to the dealer’s left goes first, leading any card they wish to the first trick. Each other player must play a card of the same suit if they can. Otherwise, they may play any card. The highest card of the suit led wins the trick.
Once a trick has been won, the player that won it places it face down in front of them in a separate won-tricks pile. The player that wins each trick then leads to the next one.
Special payments usually occur whenever an ace or the J♥, which is known as Quinola, is played. These payments occur immediately, irrespective of who eventually wins the hand.
When able, a player will usually discard their ace when another suit they have no cards in is led, to avoid taking the ace in a trick. When this happens, the player who wins the trick containing the off-suit ace pays the person who played the ace one credit. If the ace in question is the A♦, the payment is increased to two credits.
However, other times person holding an ace will be forced to play it when that ace’s suit is led. In that case, the player who was forced to play the ace pays the person who led to the trick one credit. As before, if the A♦ is forced, the payment doubles to two credits.
It is rare that a player leads an ace, although it sometimes happens (usually because they unexpectedly won the lead for the last trick, and the ace was their last card). In this event, however, no payment is made immediately. When the winner of the hand is decided, that player may collect the appropriate amount (two credits for the A♦, one for any other ace) from the person who played the ace. However, if the winner of the hand does not explicitly request payment before the next hand is dealt, they forfeit their right to collect.
When the Quinola (J♥) is played, much larger payments come into play. If the J♥ is played to a trick that was led by another suit, the player that wins the trick pays the person who played the J♥ five credits. The player that played the J♥ then also takes the entire pot! If there are multiple pots, as described below, the player takes only the most recently-formed pot. If there is only one pot and it is won, a new one must be formed. Each non-dealer must again ante five credits to form a new pot, with the dealer contributing ten credits.
When an opponent forces the player holding the J♥ to play it to a heart lead, the player holding the J♥ pays that opponent ten credits. Both of the other two opponents must pay the player who led to that trick five credits. Additionally, the person who played the J♥ must make a payment called a remise. The first remise is equal to amount of the first pot, and is added to that pot. The second remise is again the same size as the pot, but goes to form a second pot, which is kept separate from the first. The third remise forms the third pot, which is the same size as the second pot, and so on. When all of the pots have been won, and a new pot is formed by anteing, the remise procedure is restarted from the beginning.
An example of the remise process: the pot (Pot #1) contains 25 credits. A player must pay a 25-credit remise to it, increasing it to 50 credits. The dealer antes five credits to Pot #1 at the start of the next hand. On the next hand, if the pot is not taken, the remise is 55 credits, but this goes to form a new pot, Pot #2. The dealer of the next hand then antes to Pot #2, bringing it to 60 credits. If the pot is not taken on the third hand, the remise will be 60 credits, payable to Pot #3. Remember, when a player successfully dumps the J♥ on an non-heart trick, they always take the most recently formed pot (in this case, Pot #3).
If a player leads with the J♥, the eventual winner of the hand may collect ten credits from that player and five credits from the other two opponents. As with payments when aces are led, the winner must speak up before the next hand is dealt to collect their winnings! (Note that a player leading the J♥ may well be pulling off a reversis, as described below.)
Ending the hand
The hand ends when all eleven tricks have been played. Each player totals the value of the cards they captured. Aces are worth four points, kings are worth three, queens two, and jacks one. All other cards bear no value. The player with the fewest points is said to have won the party. The player with the least is said to have lost the party.
If there is a tie in points, the player with the fewest tricks takes precedence. If there’s still a tie, the dealer takes precedence, followed by the player to their left, and so on around the table. (Note that this procedure applies to both winning and losing the party.)
Once the winner and loser have been determined, the loser pays the winner. The amount of the payment is four chips, plus the point value of all of the cards in the talon. If the winner and loser are sitting across from each other, the required payment doubles.
The deal passes to the next player to the left. The dealer antes five credits to the most recently formed pot. None of the other players ante. Game play continues until some predetermined time or number of hands. Whoever has the most in chips at that point wins the game.
There are two special bids that can occur whenever a player has a particularly good or bad hand. These are the reversis, in which a player tries to take all the tricks, and the espagnolette, when they try to lose all the tricks.
When a player takes the first nine tricks, they are considered to be undertaking the reversis. This happens whether they want it to or not! At this point, any ace and Quinola payments that have already taken place are refunded. (This includes a player taking the pot.) For the rest of the hand, these payments are not made.
If the reversis player successfully takes all eleven tricks, they collect 32 credits from the player across from them, and 16 credits from the other two opponents. They also take the most recent pot if they played the J♥ during the first nine tricks.
Should one of the reversis player’s opponents take the tenth or eleventh trick, the reversis is said to be broken. The reversis player pays 64 credits to that opponent (if both the tenth and eleventh tricks were taken by opponents, only the winner of the tenth trick is paid off). If the reversis player played the J♥ during the first nine tricks, they must pay a remise. If the reversis was broken by the J♥ winning a trick, the reversis player pays only 54 credits.
Before a player can even attempt the espagnolette, they must hold all four aces. Holding three aces and the J♥ also qualifies. To undertake the espagnolette, a player simply fails to follow suit when able at least once during the first nine tricks. (If a player takes no tricks but follows suit for the whole hand, it is not considered an espagnolette.) The espagnolette player must follow suit, if able, on the tenth and eleventh tricks.
Other than the ability to disregard the suit led, there is no real reward for successfully completing the espagnolette. The player will simply automatically win the party (even if other players took no tricks) and the typical five credits for successfully discarding their aces. If they held the J♥ and three aces, they will win the party, plus the payments for discarding the three aces, plus the payments and pot for discarding the J♥.
If a player going for the espagnolette takes a trick, they are considered to have automatically lost the party. Additionally, they must pay back double the amount each player paid them for aces and the J♥. If they won a pot, they must return it and pay a misere.
Additionally, a player is considered to have lost the espagnolette if another player makes the reversis. In this case, the espagnolette player must pay the full 64-credit sum due to the player making the reversis. No other player is required to pay a thing. Should the player abandon the espagnolette in order to break the reversis, there is no penalty for the failed espagnolette, as the broken reversis preempts all other payments.