Lórum

Lórum is a card game for four players. Lórum is a great example of a compendium game, rolling seven different styles of game play into one game. In Lórum’s case, the first four hands are played as a trick-taking game. Then, it’s followed up with a point-counting game. The two final hands are Stops games. Then, the cycle begins anew, with a new dealer.

Lórum originated in Hungary at the very beginning of the 20th century. It is the oldest member of a group of compendium games that all involve avoiding tricks. Other games likely descended from Lórum are the French game Barbu and the Russian game King.

Object of Lórum

The object of Lórum is to have the most chips after 28 hands. On some hands, players collect chips by avoiding taking certain cards, which vary from hand to hand. On others, the goal is to run out of cards first.

Setup

To play Lórum, you’ll need a 32-card deck of cards. You can easily make such a deck out of a sturdy deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards by removing all the 6s through 2s. You’ll be left with a deck that has only aces, face cards, and 10s through 7s in each of the four suits.

Lórum is typically played with hard scoring, so you’ll need a bunch of tokens or chips. An amount of real money may be attached to each chip, if desired. If so, each player purchases however many chips they’d like to start the game with. Otherwise, distribute the same number of chips to each player.

Determine the first dealer randomly. This dealer will deal the first seven hands, then pass to the next dealer, who will deal the next seven, and so on. Shuffle and deal eight cards to each player, exhausting the whole pack.

Game play

A game of Lórum cycles through seven different types of hands. Several of these are trick-taking games. The player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick. Each player, proceeding clockwise, plays one card to the trick. They must follow suit if able; otherwise, they can play any card they wish. Whoever played the highest card of the suit led wins the trick; they take the cards and place them in a face-down won-tricks pile in front of them. That player then leads to the next trick.

Cards rank in their usual order, with aces high.

The seven hands

1. No hearts

The first hand is played as a trick-taking game. Hearts cannot be led to the first trick.

After all eight tricks have been played, each player counts up the number of hearts in their won-tricks pile. What happens next depends on how many players captured hearts:

  • All players took at least one heart: For each heart captured, a player pays one chip to the pot.
  • Three players took hearts, and one didn’t: For each heart captured, a player pays one chip directly to the person who didn’t take any hearts. The player who didn’t take any hearts will collect eight chips from their opponents.
  • Two players took hearts, two didn’t: For each heart captured, a player pays one chip. The two players who didn’t take hearts each get four of these chips.
  • One player took all eight hearts: Each player who didn’t take hearts has to pay the one who took the hearts eight chips! They’ll end up receiving a total of 24 chips from their opponents.

2. Queens

In this trick-taking hand, players must pay when they capture queens. Capturing the Q♥ costs four points, the Q♦ three, the Q♠ two, and the Q♣ one.

  • All players took one queen: Players pay into the pot.
  • Three players took queens, and one didn’t: The players who took queens pay the person who didn’t directly. The player who didn’t take any queens will collect ten chips from their opponents.
  • Two players took hearts, two didn’t: The two players who captured queens pay, and the ten chips are split between the two players who didn’t take queens.
  • One player took all four queens: Each player who didn’t take queens has to pay the one who took the queens ten chips! The player who captured all four queens gets a total of 30 chips from their opponents.

3. No tricks

A trick-taking hand where the aim is to avoid taking any tricks at all. Be sure to keep the tricks separate in the won-tricks pile by placing them atop each other at right angles to one another. Payments are made the same as on the no-hearts hand.

4. Hairy Ape

Players do not look at their cards as they’re being dealt. Instead, they pick their cards up and hold them with their backs facing them. This means that they can only see their opponents’ hands and not their own. Players then play a faintly ridiculous trick-taking game. If at least one of the cards played follows suit to the lead, the trick is captured by the highest card of the suit led, as normal. Otherwise, each player captures their own card. Whoever captures the K♥ pays four chips into the pot.

For a more serious game, hold the cards facing toward you and just play a normal trick-taking game, avoiding capturing the K♥.

In any case, once the K♥ has been captured, there’s no point in playing the hand out. The deal can be abandoned at that point.

5. Train

For this hand, aces count eleven each, kings count four, queens are worth three, jacks two, and 10s one. The remaining ranks (9s, 8s, and 7s) have no value. The player to the dealer’s left plays any card they wish, and call out its value. The next player to the left plays a card, calling out the combined total of their card and the one before it, and so on.

The player who makes the running total greater than or equal to 25 must pay a chip into the pot. The player who brings the count to 50 pays two chips, to 75 three chips, and to 100 four chips.

6. Quart

The player to the dealer’s left plays any card they wish. The player who holds the next higher card of the same suit plays it, regardless of turn order. When an ace is played, it is followed by the 7 of that suit. This continues until either four cards have been played, or play cannot continue because the card continuing the sequence has already been played. When this happens, the cards are turned face down, and the last person to play may play whatever they like, starting a new sequence.

The hand continues until someone runs out of cards. Each of their opponents pays that player one chip for every card they hold.

7. Domino

The player to the dealer’s left begins by playing any card they want. The next player must then play a card of the same suit either one rank below or one rank above the starter, placing it to the left or the right of the starter respectively. They may also play another card of the same rank as the starter, placing it below the starter to begin a new row. Game play continues in this manner, with the players laying the deck onto the table in a grid-like layout. If a player has no valid card to play on their turn, they pass.

When a player runs out of cards, each of their opponents pays one chip into the pot for every card they hold. The winning player then takes the entire pot.

The eighth hand onward

After playing seven hands with the same dealer, the deal passes to the left. The new dealer will then deal the next seven hands, starting with a no-hearts hand, and running through the above cycle. Then they pass the deck off to the next dealer, and so on. The game continues until all four players have dealt seven hands. Whichever player has the most chips at that point wins the game.

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King

Four king playing cards

King is a trick-taking card game for four players. A game of King consists of ten hands. During the first six hands, players lose points if they capture certain tricks or tricks containing certain cards. These conditions change on each hand. During the last four hands, players score points by either capturing tricks or not capturing them, as determined by the dealer.

King is played throughout the world, especially in Europe, Russia, and South America. It’s unclear where it ultimately originated from, though; despite the English name “King”, it is not well known in any English-speaking countries.

Object of King

The object of King is to have the most points after ten hands. For the first six hands, players avoid capturing tricks to avoid negative scores. For the last four hands, players scored points by capturing tricks, or avoiding them, depending on the rules decided by the dealer.

Setup

To play King, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. To provide your players with the best game-night experience they’ve ever had, though, you’ll need a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You also need something to keep score with, like pencil and paper or a smartphone app.

Choose the first dealer randomly by shuffling the deck and dealing cards one at a time, face up, until a player receives the king of hearts. That player is the first dealer. Shuffle and deal thirteen cards (face down) to each player, dealing out the entire deck.

Game play

On each hand, game play follows much the same formula, though the goal and thus the players’ strategies are different on each hand. The player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick. Each player in turn plays a card to the trick of the same suit, if they have one; otherwise, they may play any card. After all four have played, whoever played the highest card of the trump suit, or the highest card of the suit led if no trumps were played, takes the trick. Cards rank in their usual order, with aces high.

Whoever takes the trick takes the four cards in it and places them in a face-down won-tricks pile in front of them. For some hands, it is necessary to know how many tricks each player has taken; on these hands the tricks should be placed at right angles to each other to keep them separated. The player that captured the last trick then leads to the next one.

After thirteen tricks, the hand is over. The score is then computed according to the rules of the hand.

The negative hands

The first six hands of the game are called the negative hands. The one thing all of these hands have in common is that there is no way to score positive points. Rather, on each hand, one or more players will lose points by taking tricks or tricks containing certain cards. The scoring for each hand, in order, is as follows:

  1. −20 for each trick captured
  2. −20 for each heart captured
  3. −50 for each queen captured
  4. −30 for each king or jack captured
  5. −160 for capturing the K♥
  6. −90 for capturing each of the last two tricks

There are no trumps during the negative hands. After the sixth hand, the four players’ scores should total −1,300.

The positive hands

After the six negative hands are the four positive hands. Players have the opportunity to score positive points on these hands. On some hands, players may score for capturing tricks, while on others, they may be rewarded for avoiding doing so.

The dealer decides whether they would like to designate one of the four suits as the trump suit, play with no trump, or auction the right to choose trumps to the other three players. If they choose to auction, the player to the dealer’s left starts the bidding with some number of tricks. Each player in turn then may either bid higher than the previous high bid, or pass. The dealer is skipped. Once there have been two consecutive passes, the high bidder gets the right to name the trump suit, or declare no trump.

After the trump suit has been determined, the dealer (not the winner of the bidding) chooses whether the game will be played playing up or playing down. If the game is played up, then capturing each trick scores a player 25 points. If the game is played down, each player starts with a hand score of 325 points, and 75 points are deducted for each trick captured. Note that a player can still have a negative hand score if they capture more than four tricks!

The hand is then played out. After the thirteen tricks have been played, each player counts the number of tricks they captured. If the dealer auctioned off the right to name trumps, then the high bid is deducted from the bidders’ trick count and added to that of the dealer. The scores are then calculated from these adjusted trick totals.

Ending the game

After the four positive hands, whoever has the most positive points wins the game.

The total hand score for the four positive hands is 325 points per hand, or 1,300 points altogether. This cancels out the −1,300 points scored across the six negative hands. Thus, the scores can be checked by adding all of the players’ scores together at the end of the game and ensuring that they balance (the sum is zero).

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Diloti

Diloti is a Greek fishing game for two players (or four players in partnerships). It plays similarly to another Greek fishing game, Kontsina. However, it also incorporates bonuses for capturing all the cards in one fell swoop, as in Xeri. This, along with the ability to form cards into sets that can only be captured together, makes Diloti one of the most strategic games in the fishing family.

Object of Diloti

The object of Diloti is to capture as many cards as possible. Cards are captured with a card matching them in rank, or by using one card from the hand to capture a combination of cards that add up to its rank. Particular attention is given to capturing all the cards on the table on one turn, which scores higher.

Setup

If you want to play Diloti, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. If you want to give your players the best Diloti game ever—and who doesn’t?—you’ll need a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You also need something to keep score with, like pencil and paper or a smartphone app. You can also use a Cribbage board.

If you’re playing with four players, determine partnerships by some convenient method like high-card draw, or simply mutual agreement. Partners should be seated across from each other, so that as the turn progresses around the table players from alternating partnerships get a turn.

Shuffle and deal six cards to each player. Then, deal four cards face up to the center of the table. If three or more of these cards are the same rank, shuffle all four of them back into the deck and deal four new cards. Place the stub next to these four cards, forming the stock.

Game play

The player to the dealer’s left plays first. On each turn, a player plays a single card from their hand. If it doesn’t match with anything else on the table, they simply play it face-up to the table. This is called laying the card. If possible, however, a player will try to capture cards from the table, since this is how points are scored.

Capturing cards

A player may form one or more cards on the table into a bundle that must be captured as a single unit. This bundle is known as a declaration. For example, with a 2 and a 3 on the table, a player may play a 5 and form all three cards into a declaration with a value of 10. This declaration would only be able to captured on a later turn with a 10. Note that because face cards have no defined value, they cannot be included in a declaration. To avoid ambiguity, it is customary to state the value of the declaration when forming it. The declaration should be formed into a pile on the table, with all indices visible, to denote it can only be captured as a unit, as well as allowing players to see its value.

A player can also capture multiple cards by playing a card whose rank is equal to the total of the values of the cards being captured. For example, with a 5 and a 3 on the table, playing an 8 will capture both cards. Cards’ values are equal to their pip value; face cards have no value. If multiple combinations of cards add up to the card played, all of them can be captured at once. For example, if there are an 8, 6, 5, 3, and 2 on the table, an 8 could capture all five cards (8 alone, 5+3, and 6+2).

When a player captures cards, they place them, as well as the card used to capture them, face down in a pile in front of them. (In the four-player game, each player shares a captured-cards pile with their partner.) No player can inspect these cards for any reason until the end of the hand.

Regular declarations

A player may form cards on the table into a bundle that must be captured as a single unit. This bundle is known as a declaration. For example, with a 2 and a 3 on the table, a player may play a 5, then group all three cards into a declaration with a value of 10. This declaration would only be able to captured on a later turn with a 10. Note that because face cards have no defined value, they cannot be included in a declaration. To avoid ambiguity, it is customary to state the value of the declaration when forming it.

After a declaration has been formed, any player can capture it if they have a card of a proper value. An opponent may also raise the declaration by adding an additional card to it, thus increasing the value of the card needed to capture it. A player cannot raise their own declaration or one formed by their partner. Of course, a player cannot raise the value of a declaration above 10, because no single card in the deck has a value greater than 10.

To form a declaration, a player must have a card in their hand that can capture it. Likewise, to raise a declaration, the raising player must hold a card with the new value of the declaration. The player that formed or raised the declaration cannot use the card for any other purpose but capturing the declaration (unless it is captured or raised by another player). After forming a new declaration, a player cannot lay cards, nor form new declarations until the existing declaration is captured (either by themselves or someone else) or raised by an opponent. This restriction passes to an opponent who raises a declaration already on the table.

Group declarations

A more complex type of declaration is the group declaration. A group declaration is a set of multiple single cards or bundles of cards, where the value of each set is equal. For example, with a 2, 6, and two 4s on the table, a player could make a group declaration with a value of 8 (the first set being 2+6 and the second being 4+4). Later, all four cards could be captured by playing an 8. When forming a group declaration, a player should state that they are doing so by stating “group of 8s”. This avoids ambiguity regarding the type of declaration being made.

The real power of a group declaration is that it can incorporate existing regular declarations as one of the sets. For example, Alpha creates a declaration of 7 by playing a 3 onto a 4. The next player, Bravo, raises the declaration to 9 by adding a 2 to it. Then they combine it with another 9 on the table to make a group declaration. Bravo (or any other player) could then capture all four cards with another 9.

A player is permitted to incorporate an existing regular declaration that they are obliged to capture into a new group declaration. This is the only way a player can form a new declaration while they already have a uncaptured declaration on the table. A player may also incorporate their partner’s declaration into a group declaration. All of the same restrictions that apply to a player with a pending regular declaration apply to a player that has formed a group declaration as well.

Capturing xeri

Beginning on the second turn of the hand, when a player plays a single card that captures every face-up card on the table, they are said to have captured those cards xeri (an Greek word meaning “plain” or “dry”). A xeri capture scores more points than cards captured otherwise. Because of this, a good deal of the strategy in Diloti involves blocking your opponents from getting xeris, while seizing any opportunities your opponent may leave open to get one.

To record a xeri, the player places one card from the batch captured face up and at right angles to the rest of the their won-cards pile.

Replenishing the hands

After six turns, the players will have run out of cards. The dealer then deals every player a new hand of six cards from the stock. Play continues as before.

When the last batch of cards has been dealt from the stock, the game continues until all the cards have been played. This ends the hand. The last player to capture cards takes any cards remaining on the table and adds them to their won cards. (This does not count as a xeri.)

Scoring

After the hand ends, each player or partnership looks through the cards in their won-tricks pile and totals up their score for the hand, as follows:

  • Ten points for each xeri
  • Four points for capturing the most cards. If both players or teams tie at 26 cards, neither side scores these four points.
  • Two points for capturing the 10♦
  • One point for each ace captured
  • One point for capturing the 2♣

The scores are recorded on the scoresheet, the deal passes to the left, and another hand is played. Game play continues until a player or partnership reaches a score of 61 or higher. Whichever side has the higher score at that point wins the game.

See also

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Dingo

Dingo is a strategic card game for four players. In this game, being the last player to play a black card of a given rank gets you points, but being the second-to-last gives your opponent points. So what’s a player to do? A good Dingo player has to keep track of the location of as many cards as possible! That, plus a healthy amount of plain intuition, lets a player determine when they should play and when they might be better off passing.

Dingo doesn’t appear to be very closely related to any other card game we’ve seen. That means someone probably just invented it from scratch. Who that might be, though, we don’t know. We do know that it’s played most frequently in Cleveland, Ohio, so that’s most likely where it started out.

Object of Dingo

The object of Dingo is to score the most points possible. This is primarily done by being the last player to play a black card of a particular rank.

Setup

A game of Dingo requires a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. You can easily give your game a real upgrade by playing with a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.

Remove all of the diamonds from the deck, except for the A♦. Arrange the diamonds in ascending rank order and place them in a pile, face up, in the middle of the table, with the 2♦ showing. These diamonds are called rabbits. Shuffle the remaining 40 cards and deal them out evenly. Each player will have ten cards.

Game play

Discards and exchanges

Starting with the dealer, each player discards one card other than an ace from their hand, face up, to a discard pile visible to each of the players. Aces may never be discarded. Players should take care to keep the discard pile squared up, so that only the most recent card played to it is visible.

After everyone has discarded, the dealer chooses one card from their hand and passes it to their left. That player looks at the card passed to them, and likewise passes a card from their hand to the left. This continues until all four players have passed. Each player, again starting with the dealer, then discards a card, as before.

The dealer then leads the next round of passing, this time passing a card to the player directly across from them. The player to the dealer’s left does likewise. Then the turn continues to the left, with the player across from the dealer passing a card back to the dealer. Finally, the player to the dealer’s right passes a card back across to the player on the dealer’s left. Each player in turn, again starting with the dealer, discards a third card.

The final round of passing begins with the dealer, as you might expect, passing a card to their right. The turn still follows the usual clockwise order, though, meaning that the only player who gets to see the card they’ve gotten before choosing to pass a card of their own will be the player to the dealer’s right. Once this is done, there is a fourth and final round of discards. Each player will have discarded four of their initial ten cards, leaving them with their final six-card hands.

Hunting the rabbits

With the players having established their hands, the hunts now begin. The dealer calls out the rank of the card showing on the rabbit pile (for the first hunt of the game, this will be the 2). Whichever player holds the heart of that rank, called the dingo, must immediately play it. If nobody holds the dingo, meaning it was discarded, the hunt ends with nobody scoring, and the rabbit is discarded.

If someone does play the dingo, each player after them in turn may play one of the black cards of that rank, known as the wolves. Unlike the dingo, a player holding a wolf is not compelled to play it; they may simply pass. Wolves can only be played by players other than the dingo player.

When the dingo and only one wolf is played, the wolf catches the rabbit—the person playing the wolf places it and the rabbit in a score pile in front of them. The dingo player also places the dingo in their score pile. If both wolves are played, the second wolf played catches the rabbit. The dingo player places both the dingo and the first wolf in their score pile.

If all three players pass, with no wolves being played, the rabbit is discarded. The dingo then counts against the player who played it. They place the dingo in a penalty pile placed at right angles to their own score pile.

After each hunt is completed, the hunt for the next-higher rank begins. This continues for each rank from 2 all the way up to king.

Hunting the A♦

After the players complete the king hunt, they hunt the ace. Because all of the aces, including the A♦ (the rabbit), are in the players’ hands, this hunt goes a little differently. First, the dingo is played, as usual. Each player in turn then may play one or both wolves (playing wolves is still optional). If both wolves have been played by the time whoever holds the rabbit takes their turn, they may play it then. (If a player holds wolves and the rabbit, they must play the wolves first. They can then immediately play the rabbit afterward.) After the other three players have taken their turn, the dingo player gets a turn to play wolves or the rabbit, if they have them. The hunt then ends.

If the dingo was the only card played and everyone else passed, the dingo is added to that player’s penalty pile, as usual. If any wolves were played, those that played them add them to their own score pile. The dingo player scores for the dingo. The player holding the rabbit adds it to their score pile if they were able to play it; otherwise, they reveal it to the other players and put it in their penalty pile.

Scoring

After the ace hunt is complete, the players expose their remaining cards. Players should not have any red cards remaining in their hand; playing these cards at some point in the hand is compulsory. Any players who are found to hold any red cards forfeit the game.

Each player tallies up the value of their score piles. The A♦ is worth ten points, all other aces three points each, face cards and 10s two points each, and 9s and lower one point each. The players then compute the value of their penalty piles the same way, although the A♦ is worth only three points in the penalty pile. Finally, by subtracting the value of the penalty pile from that of the score pile, the players arrive at their scores for the game.

Whichever player has the highest score wins the game. In the event of a tie, the player holding the highest rabbit in their score pile (not their penalty pile) wins.

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Khanhoo

Khanhoo is a rummy game for two to four players. It was originally from China, though it experienced a period of popularity in England at the end of the nineteenth century. Khanhoo may be one of the earliest rummy games ever to be played. It seems likely that it at least influenced Conquian, considered to be the ancestor of most rummy games.

Object of Khanhoo

The object of Khanhoo is to be the first player to form their entire hand into combinations called melds.

Setup

A special 61-card deck is needed to play Khanhoo. To make one, take two decks of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards and remove all of the 10s. Then, take out the face cards in hearts, spades, and diamonds, and all of the remaining number cards from the clubs. Shuffle these two decks together, and add one joker, and you’ll have your Khanhoo deck. It will contain the joker, two each of the J-Q-K♣, and two each of aces through 9s in the other three suits. You’ll also need something to keep score with.

Shuffle and deal fifteen cards to each player. Then deal a sixteenth card to the player to the dealer’s left. Place the stub in the center of the table, forming the stock. (In a four-player game, the entire deck will be dealt out, so there will be no stock.)

Game play

Game play begins with the player to the dealer’s left choosing one card to discard. This starts a discard pile, usually placed to one side of the stock. The turn then passes to the left. This player draws one card, either from the stock or the discard pile, and then discards one card. Turns continue in this manner, with a draw and a discard by each player in turn.

If the stock runs out, its top card is set aside, the discards are flipped over, and then shuffled to form a new stock. The old top card then forms the new discard pile.

As the entire deck is used in the four-player game, there is no stock. Instead, each player simply draws the card that was discarded by the player to their left.

Melding

The players’ goal is to form their hands into melds. The valid melds, and their point values, are as follows:

  • Sequence (1 point): Three or more cards of the same suit in consecutive order, e.g. 6-7-8♥. Note that sequences will never include face cards or clubs, as the only “sequence” that can be formed using them is actually the more valuable royal assembly (see below). Aces are considered low in sequences (just below the 2). Note that the point value does not increase if more cards are added.
  • Aces (1 point): Three aces of any suit (duplicates are allowed).
  • Triplet (2 points): Three number cards of the same rank and of three different suits (no duplicates allowed).
  • Royal assembly (3 points): J-Q-K♣.
  • Court melds (4 points each): K♣-9♥-9♥, Q♣-8♠-8♠, or J♣-7♦-7♦.
  • Khanhoo (5 points): A♥-2♠-3♦.
  • Double aces (10 points): Six aces of any suit.
  • Double triplet (10 points): Two triplet melds of the same rank. That is, six number cards of the same rank, with each suit appearing exactly twice.
  • Double royal (10 points): J-J-Q-Q-K-K♣.
  • Double khanhoo (15 points): A-A♥-2-2♠-3-3♦.

As players form melds, they keep them in their hand (that is, they do not lay them out on the table). Thus, the players can rearrange and expand or split melds at will. The joker is wild, substituting for any other card in a meld without restriction.

Bumping

In a three- or four-player game, after a player discards, another player may intervene by claiming the discard before the next player can draw it. They may only do this, however, if they can immediately use the card in a meld other than a sequence. Taking the discard out of turn in this way is called bumping. When a player bumps, they must place the meld that the discard is part of face-up in front of them. They may then no longer alter the meld in any way (e.g. by making it from a khanhoo to a double khanhoo). They then discard as normal and play passes to the left, with the intervening players skipped.

If the player who would have normally had the right to the bumped discard (i.e. the player to the left of the player who discarded it) also wants the card, they may challenge the bump. Both players must then declare the type of meld they wish to use the discard for. If the player that wishes to bump can form a higher meld, they get the right to the discard. If the other player can make a meld of equal or higher value to the bumping player, then no bump happens, and play proceeds as normal.

Ending the hand

When a player has formed their entire hand into melds, they make one final discard and announce that they are out. Each player then reveals their hand, placing it on the table with each meld broken out. Each player then scores the value of their melds, with the player that went out also getting a five-point bonus.

The deal passes to the left, and a new hand is dealt. Game play begins until one or more players reaches a score of 50 points or more. Whichever player has the highest score at that point is the winner.

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Solo

Solo is a trick-taking game for four players.  Rather than higher bids simply increasing the number of tricks to be taken, as is common in trick-taking games, in Solo, the bids also affect whether or not a player will have a partner for that hand.

Solo is an offshoot of the French game Manille. It is sometimes referred to as Spanish Solo due to its former popularity in Spain and Latin America. This also helps distinguish it from the similarly-named Solo Whist and Six-Bid Solo, the latter of which is more similar to Skat. It is also sometimes referred to as Ombre.

Object of Solo

The object of Solo is to accurately judge the strength of your hand, and use this information to secure a contract which you can then fulfill.

Setup

Solo is played with a 32-card deck. To create such a thing, set aside all the 2s through 6s from a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You’ll be left with 7s through aces in each of the four suits. You’ll also want something to keep score with, such as pencil and paper.

Prior to the first hand, everyone should mutually agree on one suit that serves as the color. This suit is usually clubs, but it is essentially arbitrary, and it makes no real difference which suit is color. Bids made committing to make this suit trump will be ranked higher than an equivalent bid in one of the other suits.

Shuffle and deal out the entire pack. Each player will receive eight cards.

Card ranking

Solo uses a somewhat idiosyncratic card ranking for the trump suit. First, the two black queens are always trumps, regardless of what the actual trump suit is. The Q♣ is the highest trump, and the Q♠ the third-highest trump. Wedged between the two queens is the 7 of trumps. The rest of the cards rank in their usual order, with the ace just below the Q♠. Therefore, the full ranking of a red trump suit is (high) Q♣, 7, Q♠, A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8 (low). A black trump suit ranks exactly the same, although since its queen is elevated above its usual position, there is no queen that ranks between the king and jack.

Non-trump suits rank in their usual order, including the 7 in its typical position as the lowest-ranking card of the suit. For a red non-trump suit, the full ranking is (high) A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7 (low). In a black non-trump suit, the queen is missing (having been moved instead to the trump suit), and thus ranks as (high) A, K, J, 10, 9, 8, 7 (low).

Game play

Types of games

Before a hand can be played, the players must decide which type of game to play. This is done through a bidding process, with the winner becoming the declarer and selecting which type of game is to be played. The types of games that are available, ranked from lowest to highest, are:

  1. Simple game in suit (2 points): The declarer names one of the three suits that are not in color as the trump suit. They then name any one of the four aces. Whoever holds that ace becomes the declarer’s partner for that hand. (Note that the partner does not immediately reveal themselves; they do so by simply playing the ace at an appropriate time during the hand.) The partners commit to capturing at least five tricks between the two of them.
  2. Simple game in color (4 points): The same as a simple game in suit, except the trump suit is the suit that is in color.
  3. Solo in suit (4 points): The same as a simple game in suit, except there is no partner. The declarer must collect five or more tricks all by themselves.
  4. Solo in color (8 points): The same as a solo in suit, but with the suit in color as trump.
  5. Tout in suit (16 points): The declarer names as trump one of the three suits not in color. They must collect all eight tricks without the assistance of a partner.
  6. Tout in color (32 points): The same as a tout in suit, but the suit in color is trump.

Bidding

Solo uses a similar one-on-one bidding style to that of Skat. Bidding begins with the player to the dealer’s left. If they do not wish to bid, they may pass. If they have a bid they want to make, they say “I ask.” The player to their left can then “bid” against them by inquiring as to the first player’s bid. As the lowest bid is a simple game in suit, the player is assumed to have bid at least this high, so the second player asks “Is it in color?” If the first player responds that it is, the second may then ask “Is it a solo?” If the first player responds in the affirmative, they continue with “Is it a solo in color?” and so on.

When the first player does not want to keep bidding higher, or should it become evident that they are willing to bid higher than the second player is comfortable with going, either player may pass. If the second player passed, then the third player may continue the questioning where the second left off. If the first player passes, the second player is committed to making a bid of at least the same rank that the first player passed on, and they are questioned about it by the third player. Bidding concludes with the surviving player bidding against the dealer. Whichever player emerges from this bid victorious becomes the declarer. They may name any game and trump they like, so long as it ranked at least as high as their winning bid (i.e. they may name a higher game than they bid).

Additional rules on bidding

If all four players pass, the player holding the Q♣ must reveal it, and immediately becomes the declarer in a simple game. They must then choose a trump suit (with the suit they choose of course deciding whether the game is in color or not).

A player holding both black queens can never pass. Instead, they must always make a bid of at least solo in suit.

Play of the hand

The player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick. Each player, proceeding clockwise, contributes one card to the trick. Players must follow suit if able; if they cannot, they may play any card, including a trump. Whoever plays the highest trump, or the highest card of the suit led if no trump was played, wins the trick. That player then leads to the next trick.

It should be noted that the black queens are part of the trump suit and not part of the suit printed on the card. That means that if diamonds are trump, someone leads clubs, and you have the Q♣ in addition to some other clubs, you cannot play the queen! Instead, you have to play one of your other clubs. Playing the Q♣ would be playing a trump card, the same as playing a diamond. That can only be done if you hold no other cards of the suit led.

Once all eight tricks are played, the hand is scored. If the declarer successfully won the required number of tricks required, they score the point value of the game. If they did not, the point value of the game is deducted from their score. In a simple game, the declarer’s partner scores the same amount that the declarer does.

Game play continues until a previously-agreed-to number of hands is played, or one or more players exceeds a certain point threshold. Whoever has the highest score at that point is the winner.

See also

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Tëtka

Tëtka (Russian for “auntie”) is a simple trick-taking game for four players. It falls in the same general category of “nullo games” that includes Hearts and Reversis. In all games of this group, the goal is to avoid taking certain cards. What makes Tëtka unique, though, is that those cards change from hand to hand. The last card dealt determines many of the cards that you want to dodge!

Object of Tëtka

The object of Tëtka is to avoid scoring points by avoiding taking certain cards in tricks.

Setup

Tëtka is played with one standard 52-card deck of playing cards, preferably Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. (If you haven’t got yours yet, what’s the holdup?) You’ll also need something to keep score with, like pencil and paper, or a smartphone app designed for the purpose.

Shuffle and deal out the whole deck, thirteen cards to each player. The last card to be dealt, which goes to the dealer, is revealed to all of the players. Make note of its rank and suit—this card, the bum card, will determine many of the cards that are to be avoided!

Game play

The player to the dealer’s left goes first, playing any card they wish to start the first trick. Each other player, in turn going clockwise, then contributes one card to the trick. Players must follow suit if possible; otherwise, they may play any card. Whoever played the highest card of the suit led wins the trick. (Cards rank in their usual order, with aces high.) They collect all of the cards played to the trick and place them face-down into a won-tricks pile. (Each successive trick won should be placed at right angles to the previous one, to allow the number of tricks to be easily counted.) They then lead to the next trick.

This continues until thirteen tricks have been played, at which point the hand is over.

Penalties

Upon winning a trick, a player may score points if any of the following applies:

  • It contains the bum card. Capturing the bum card scores the player one point.
  • It contains Tëtka, the queen of the same suit as the bum card. (For example, if the bum card were a club, Tëtka would be the Q♣.) Taking Tëtka in a trick scores the player two points.
  • It contains any other queen besides Tëtka. This scores the player one point for each queen captured.
  • It is the trick corresponding to the rank of the bum card. That is, if the bum card is an ace, the first trick, if it is a 2, the second trick, and so on. Jacks correspond to the eleventh trick, queens to the twelfth, and kings to the thirteenth and final trick. Whichever player wins this trick scores one point.
  • It is the thirteenth and final trick. Doing so scores that player one point. (Note that if the bum card is a king, the last trick is worth two points—once for being the last trick, and once for being the trick corresponding to the king.)
  • At the end of the hand, the player won the largest number of tricks. This, too, scores the player one point. If there is a tie, the point is scored by whoever captured the largest number of cards of the same suit as the bum card. If there is still a tie, whichever player captured the highest card of that suit gets the point.

Multiple points can be scored on the same trick by an unlucky player!

Ending the game

Whichever player has the lowest number of points at the end of four hands (each player having had a chance to deal) wins the game. If a longer game is desired, establish a number of orbits (times the deal rotates around the table) after which the game will conclude.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail


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.

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Nuts (a.k.a. Nerts, Pounce)

A Nuts (aka Nerts, Pounce, Racing Demon) layout


Nuts, also known as Nerts, Pounce, and Racing Demon, among other names, is a competitive solitaire game. It can be played by two to four players, although more may be accommodated by dividing into partnerships. Functionally, Nuts resembles multiple frenzied games of Canfield being played simultaneously.

Object of Nuts

The object of Nuts is to achieve the highest score by moving as many cards out of your reserve as possible and by moving cards to the foundations.

Setup

To play Nuts, you’ll need one deck of cards for each player. Each deck of cards in play must have a distinct back design. The frenzied pace of Nuts means cards can get bent up and damaged pretty easily. With a sturdy deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, you’re far less likely to have to stop the game and hunt for a replacement deck. Plus, they come in a two-deck set, which is perfect for a two-player game of Nuts.

You’ll also need something to keep score with, such as the venerable pencil and paper.

Players should seat themselves such that they are all facing a central area, where the foundations will be played. This central area should be accessible by all players, with plenty of room between players to allow for easy movement. If playing with an even number of players greater than four, players should pair up by any convenient means. Partners should sit next to one another. In a partnership game, the partners cooperate, however they see fit, to play more quickly. (We will describe the game as though it were being played by solo players below; any time a “player” is mentioned it should be understood that this applies to a partnership, where appropriate.)

Each player shuffles and deals thirteen cards from their own deck, face down, into a pile. They then square up the pile, and turn it face up, so only the top card can be seen. This forms the reserve. To the right of the reserve, deal a line of four cards, face up, forming the tableau. The remainder of the deck becomes the stock.

Game play

There are no turns in Nuts. Instead, everyone plays simultaneously. When conflicts arise, the first card to be played (usually the one that ended up below the other) takes precedence. Cards rank in their usual order, with aces low.

Play of the hand

The tableau is built down by alternating colors (red cards are played on black cards and vice versa), in descending rank order. When a card is moved, all cards on top of it are moved as well. In other words, the tableau works pretty much exactly like that of Canfield or Klondike. A player may play to their own tableau only; their opponents’ are off-limits.

The top card of the reserve is available to be moved to any legal location at any time. Cards beneath the top card are not accessible and should not be known to the player.

Cards may be drawn, three at a time, from the stock and placed in a discard pile, from which they may be moved to any location. Only the third card is available for play, freeing up the second card when the third is played, etc. After the stock is fully depleted, the discard pile is flipped over to replenish it.

When an empty spot appears in the tableau, any accessible card (the top card of the reserve, a card from the discard pile, or cards from elsewhere in the tableau) may be moved to fill the vacancy.

When a player encounters an ace, it may be moved to the central area to form a new foundation pile. The foundation piles are built up by suit, in ascending rank order. Any player may add to a foundation pile, not just the player that started it. Players may create a new foundation whenever they have an ace, even if another incomplete foundation pile exists. No new cards may be added to a foundation whenever a king has been played to it. Once played to a foundation, a card cannot be removed from it.

Getting stuck

After the hand has gone on for a while, players will be unable to make any additional moves, due to a lack of necessary cards (trapped either in the reserve or in inaccessible parts of the stock). When all players reach this state, or otherwise agree to do so, they may flip their discard piles to reform their stock, then, move its top card to the bottom. This is usually enough to adjust the deck so new cards are now accessible.

Ending the hand

The hand ends whenever a player depletes their reserve. They call out “Nuts!” and game play immediately ceases. (Players in the process of moving cards may complete their moves, but no new cards may be picked up.)

It occasionally happens that none of the cards in a player’s stock are playable. If every player finds themselves in this situation, the hand ends.

Scoring

The foundation piles are collected, then separated based on their backs. This allows a count to be made of the number of cards each player contributed to the foundations. Each player scores one point for each card played to the foundations. Two points are then subtracted for each card left in their reserve.

Players collect their cards back into full decks, then shuffle and deal new hands. Game play continues until at least one player exceeds a score of 100 points. The player with the highest score at that point is the winner.

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Nine-Card Don

Nine-Card Don, often known as simply Don, is a game in the All Fours family. It is played with four players in partnerships.

The name Don most likely comes from Dom Pedro, an alternate name for Cinch. Dom Pedro was played in both the United States and Ireland, likely spreading from the latter country to Britain. Today, Nine-Card Don is played in Wales and northern England. A thirteen-card variant of Don is still played in Ireland.

Object of Nine-Card Don

The object of Nine-Card Don is to be the first partnership to reach a score of 121 points. Points are scored by collecting certain point-scoring cards in tricks.

Setup

Nine-Card Don is played with a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Always choose Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards to make sure your cards are durable enough to last for game after game.

You also need some method of keeping score. Many players choose to keep score on a Cribbage board (see our article on Cribbage for more information on how to score using the Cribbage board). Twice around the Cribbage board equals the goal score of 121 points. If no Cribbage board is handy, you can keep score with pencil and paper or any other convenient method.

Determine partnerships through mutual agreement or by a random method such as high-card draw. Partners should sit opposite one another, with their opponents sitting in between. The turn of play should alternate partnerships as it progresses around the table.

The player to the dealer’s left is called the pitcher and is responsible for leading to the first trick. As being the pitcher is a fairly powerful position, the first pitcher should be determined randomly. Shuffle and have one person from each partnership draw a card. Whoever draws the higher card (aces are high) chooses the first pitcher, which will normally be themselves or their partner.

Shuffle and deal nine cards to each player. Set aside the remaining sixteen cards, which take no part in game play. The pitcher’s partner may not look at their hand until a card is led to the first trick. This custom prevents the partner from cheating by signaling what card they’d like the partner to play.

Game play

The pitcher leads to the first trick. The suit of this card becomes the trump suit. 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 all four players have 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.

Scoring during the hand

As certain trumps are played to tricks, the partnership collecting them immediately scores for them. The point-scoring trumps are:

  • 5: ten points.
  • 9: nine points.
  • Ace: four points.
  • King: three points.
  • Queen: two points.
  • Jack: one point.

Additionally, any non-trump 5 captured scores five points for the partnership capturing it.

Scoring for game

When all nine tricks have been played, the hand is over. Now, the players need to determine who scores the points for game. Each team totals up the value of the cards in their won-tricks pile. Aces are worth four points apiece, kings are worth three, queens two, jacks one, and 10s are worth ten points each. No other cards have any value for game. The teams then compare their totals. Whichever team has the higher total scores eight points for game. If the two teams tie, neither team scores these points.

After the points for game have been scored, the deal passes to the left. The next dealer is the pitcher of the hand just concluded.

Ending the game

Play immediately ceases whenever one partnership reaches or exceeds a score of 121 or more points. That partnership wins the game.

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