Scotch Whist

Scotch Whist, also known as Catch the 10, is a fairly straightforward trick-taking game for two to seven players. Players simply try to take the most tricks possible, with an eye toward capturing tricks with high-ranking trumps in them. As the name implies, the game originates from Scotland.

Object of Scotch Whist

The object of Scotch Whist is to be the first player to reach a score of 41 points or more. Points are scored by capturing tricks, especially those with high-ranking trumps.

Setup

Scotch Whist is played with a 36-card pack. Starting from a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove all of the 5s through 2s, leaving a deck with 6 through ace in each of the four suits. If playing with five or seven players, also discard the 6♣, leaving just 35 cards, which divides neatly by both five and seven. You will also need something to keep score with, like pencil and paper, or a program on your smartphone.

Shuffle and deal out the entire deck. Turn the last card dealt, which belongs to the dealer, face up. The suit of this card fixes the trump suit for the ensuing hand.

For the sake of clarity, and because it will come up later, the number of cards each player receives is:

  • Two players: eighteen cards.
  • Three players: twelve cards.
  • Four players: nine cards.
  • Five players: seven cards.
  • Six players: six cards.
  • Seven players: five cards.

Card ranking

Card ranking is slightly different than the expected order in the trump suit. This is because the jack is elevated to the highest position in the deck. The full rank of cards in the trump suit is (high) J, A, K, Q, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 (low).

In the non-trump suits, the cards rank in their usual order, with aces high.

Game play

Play of the hand

The player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick. Each player in turn then plays to the trick. Players must follow suit if able; otherwise, they may play any card, including a trump.

After every player has played to the trick, the person who played the highest trump, or the highest card of the suit led if no trumps were played, wins it. The player winning the trick takes the cards and places them in a face-down won-tricks pile in front of them. The winner of the first trick then leads to the second one.

The hand continues until the players have exhausted their hands.

Scoring

At the conclusion of the hand, each player examines their won-tricks pile and tallies up their score for the hand. Points are scored in the following order:

  1. 10 of trump: ten points.
  2. Trick score: one point for each card collected in excess of the amount dealt to them. For example, if a player in a four-player game took five tricks, they would have captured 20 cards. They would score eleven points (20–9=11) as their trick score for that hand.
  3. Ace of trump: four points.
  4. King of trump: three points.
  5. Queen of trump: two points.
  6. Jack of trump: eleven points.

In most cases, these can simply be tallied and scored at once. However, if multiple players exceed a score of 41 on the same hand, the first player to exceed 41 wins the game, following the order of scoring laid out above.

If nobody reaches a score of 41 or more, the deal passes to the left, and new hands are dealt. Continue playing until one player reaches a score of 41.

 

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