Hasenpfeffer is a trick-taking game, based on Euchre, for four players in partnerships. Hasenpfeffer adds a bidding system to determine who gets to choose the trump suit. It also adds a joker as the most powerful trump in the game. However, if you hold the joker, and nobody else bids, you have to, whether you want to or not!
Despite the German name, Hasenpfeffer isn’t from Germany, but instead most likely originates from the Pennsylvania Dutch, much like Euchre itself. While there is a rabbit stew called hasenpfeffer, the name more likely derives from the German idiom “Hase im Pfeffer“, which roughly translates to “in a pickle”. This is particularly appropriate, considering that the player dealt the joker may well find themselves in a pickle because of it!
Object of Hasenpfeffer
The object of Hasenpfeffer is to be the first partnership to score ten or more points. Points are scored by taking tricks and by fulfilling contracts made by bidding.
Hasenpfeffer uses a unique 25-card pack. Fortunately, such a deck is easy to construct from a pack of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. Just add one joker and take out all the 2s through the 8s. You’ll be left with a deck with aces through 9s only in each of the four suits, plus the joker, of course.
The players need to be divided into two partnerships, with partners sitting across from one another. The turn of play will alternate between partnerships when going clockwise. You can decide the partnerships by whatever method you agree on—random card draw or just mutual agreement both work.
Shuffle and deal six cards to each player. Place the odd, 25th card face down in the center of the table, forming the widow.
As in Euchre, the card ranking in the trump suit is a little different than usual. The trump suit contains two extra cards the other suits do not: the joker, and an extra jack from the suit of the same color as the trump suit. The rank of cards in the trump suit is as follows:
- The joker.
- Right bower. Jack of trumps.
- Left bower. The jack of the suit as the same color as trumps is considered a trump, and is ranked here. (For example, if clubs were trump, the J♣ would be the right bower, and the J♠ would be the left bower.)
- All of the remaining cards, in their usual order, with ace high. (A, K, Q, 10, 9.)
Cards rank in the usual order, ace high, in the non-trump suits (save for the jack serving as the left bower).
The bidding begins with the player to the dealer’s left. This player may either pass or bid any number of tricks, from one to six, that they think their partnership can take if they get the right to choose the trump suit. The next player to the left, if they wish to bid, must make a higher bid than the preceding player; they may also pass. This continues until all four players have had a chance to bid. The dealer gets the final bid; the bidding does not continue for a second round.
Should all four players pass, the player holding the joker reveals it to the other players. This player is obligated to make a bid of three tricks, which automatically becomes the high bid for the hand. If the joker is the widow card (meaning nobody holds it), the hand is void, and a new hand is dealt by the next dealer.
The side which won the bidding becomes the declarers, and their opponents become the defenders. The high bidder takes the widow card into their hand, declares the trump suit for the hand, then discards one card, face down. The high bid becomes the declarers’ contract for that hand.
Play of the hand
The high bidder leads to the first trick. Each player to the left, in turn, then plays a card. If a player is able to follow suit, they must. Otherwise, they are free to play any card they wish, including a trump. The highest card of the suit led wins the trick, unless a trump is present, in which case the highest trump wins the trick.
When a player wins a trick, they do not add it to the hand. Rather, captured tricks are kept in a shared discard pile in front of one of the partners. Since scoring depends on the number of tricks captured, each trick should be placed onto the pile at right angles, so that the tricks can be easily separated after the hand. Whichever player wins a trick leads to the next one.
After all six tricks have been played, the hand is scored. If the declarers managed to capture a number of tricks equal to or greater than stipulated by their contract, they score one point per trick collected. If they do not, they lose points equal to the contract. For example, a partnership has a contract of four. If they take five tricks, they score five points. If they take three, they score –4.
Regardless of whether the declarers make their contract or not, the defenders always score one point for each trick they take.
Game play continues until one partnership reaches a score of ten or better. That team is the winner. If both partnerships reach a score of ten on the same hand, the declarers for that hand win the game. This makes it impossible to win a game while defending, unless the declarers fail to make their contract.
Buck Euchre (also known as Dirty Clubs) is somewhat of a cross between Euchre and Rams. It’s a trick-taking game for four players. Unlike regular Euchre, however, it’s every player for themselves; there’s no partnerships!
Like Rams and other games in its family, Buck Euchre penalizes players for failing to collect at least one trick. If a player is not confident in their ability to take a trick, they can, in most cases, simply drop out of the hand.
Object of Buck Euchre
The object of Buck Euchre is to be the first player to reach a score of zero points or less. This is accomplished by either:
- Choosing the trump suit and winning at least three tricks, or
- Not choosing the trump suit, but staying in the hand and winning at least one trick, or
- Recognizing that your hand is total garbage and dropping out of the game to avoid a penalty.
Buck Euchre uses the same stripped deck that regular Euchre does. Starting from a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove all of the 8s through 2s. You’ll be left with a 32-card deck composed of ace to 9 in each of the four suits.
You’ll also need some way of keeping score. Pencil and paper works all right, but you can use any method that suits your fancy. Each player starts the game with 25 points.
Shuffle and deal five cards to each player. (You may deal this as a batch of three to each player, followed by a batch of two, if desired.) Turn the top card of the stub face up and place it on top of the stub. The suit of this card, the upcard, is the proposed trump suit.
Buck Euchre uses the same card ranking that regular Euchre does. In case you’re in need of a refresher, here it is:
Cards rank in a different order in the trump suit then they do in the other suits. The highest trump is the right bower, the jack of trump. The next highest trump is the left bower, the jack of the same color as trump. This is followed by the ace, king, queen, 10, and 9 of trump.
In the non-trump suits, cards rank (high) A, K, Q, J, 10, 9 (low). (In the suit that’s the same color as trump, the jack will, of course, be missing from the ranking, because it is considered a trump.)
If the upcard is a club, clubs automatically become trump. Otherwise, the trump suit is determined by the bidding round, as described below. Note that if clubs become trump automatically, since the bidding round is bypassed, every player is obliged to play the hand.
The player who fixes the trump suit is called the declarer. The declarer is obligated to take at least three of the five tricks in the following hand.
The player to the left of the dealer has the first opportunity to accept or reject the upcard’s suit as trump. If they accept, they do so by stating “I order it up.” If a player orders up, the dealer takes the upcard into their hand and discards any other card face down onto the stub. When a player declines to order up, the opportunity passes to the left. If the first three players pass, the dealer may accept the upcard’s suit as trump by drawing it and discarding, as before. Otherwise, they turn the upcard face down.
If the dealer rejects the upcard’s suit as trump, the player to the left of the dealer has the first opportunity to name another suit as trump. They may also pass, if they wish. If all four players decline to name a trump suit, then the hand is played with no trump.
If a trump suit has been decided, either by accepting the turned-up trump or by selecting one of the other three suits as trump, the other players then have the opportunity to drop out of the hand, going clockwise from the player to the declarer’s left. Any player who remains in the hand must take at least one trick. Failure to do so will subject the player to a penalty.
Play of the hand
The player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick. Proceeding clockwise from the lead player, every player contributes one card to the trick, until all four players have played. Players must follow suit, if able; otherwise, they may play any card. (Note that the left bower is considered part of the trump suit. Playing it to a trick led by a card of its “natural” suit is not considered following suit.) The player who played the highest trump, or the highest card of the suit led if no trumps were played, wins the trick.
When a player wins a trick, they take the cards from it and place them face-down in a won-tricks pile in front of them. To keep it clear how many tricks the player has taken, it’s a good idea to put each trick at right angles to the one before it. After a player wins a trick, they lead to the next one.
Game play continues in this manner until all five tricks have been played.
When the hand is over, players score as follows:
- If any player collects all five tricks, the game ends, with that player winning.
- Any player who dropped out of the hand scores nothing, positive or negative.
- The declarer scores a penalty of five points if they failed to collect three or more tricks. They are said to have been euchred or set back.
- Any non-declarer that stayed in the hand scores a penalty of five points if they failed to collect at least one trick.
- Any player that doesn’t meet one of the conditions above loses one point for each trick they took.
The deal passes to the left, and another hand is played. Further hands are played until a player’s score reaches zero or less. That player is the winner. If two players reach zero or less on the same hand, the player that is further in the negative wins the game. If the players have the same score, they tie.
Pepper is a trick-taking game similar to Euchre, played in Ohio and Iowa. Though it’s quite a bit simpler and easier to learn than Euchre, it still provides ample opportunity for the use of cunning strategy. Pepper is best as a four-player partnership game, though variants for two and three players exist.
Object of Pepper
The object of Pepper is to accurately predict the number of tricks that you will capture in a hand if allowed to select the trump suit, or to stop your opponents from capturing the number of tricks they need.
Pepper is played with a stripped 24-card deck. Starting from a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove all the 2s through 8s, leaving you with 9s through aces (six cards) in each of the four suits. You will also need something to keep score with. Pencil and paper works well.
Shuffle and deal six cards to each player.
Rank of cards
Pepper uses an unusual ranking of cards, although it will be familiar to those who have played Euchre or Five Hundred. In non-trump suits, cards rank in the conventional order, i.e., from highest to lowest: A, K, Q, J, 10, 9.
In the trump suit, however, the cards rank differently. The jack of the trump suit is called the right bower, and the jack of the same color of the trump suit is called the left bower. (For example, if the trump suit were diamonds, the J♦ would be the right bower and the J♥ would be the left bower.) Both are considered part of the trump suit, ranking above all other cards in that suit. The complete rank of cards in the trump suit, then, is right bower (J), left bower, K, Q, 10, 9.
Each hand begins with the bid, where the players compete for the right to choose the trump suit. The available bids are the numbers one through five, signifying an intent for their partnership to collect one to five tricks respectively, and bids of little pepper and big pepper, which are both bids to collect all six tricks. A bid of big pepper, which is higher than little pepper, essentially doubles the potential risk or reward to the partnership.
Bidding starts with the player to the left of the dealer, who may make any of the bids described above, or pass. Each bid must be higher than the bids preceding it. Bidding continues until there are three consecutive passes. The high bid becomes the contract for that player’s partnership. The high bidder’s partnership becomes the declarers, and the opposing side the defenders. The high bidder may name any of the four suits as trump, or declare there will be no trump for that hand.
Play of the hand
The high bidder leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit if able; if not, they may play any card, including a trump. The trick is won by the highest card of the suit led, unless a trump was played to that trick, in which case the highest trump takes the trick.
Captured tricks are not added to the hand. Instead, all of the tricks a partnership takes are kept in a combined pile in front of one of the partners. To speed scoring at the end of the hand, it’s a good idea to keep the tricks separate somehow, like by turning each trick at right angles to the previous one before putting it on the pile.
After all six tricks have been played, the hand is scored. If the declarers made their contract (i.e. they captured the number of tricks bid or more), they score one point for each trick taken by the partnership. If they failed to make the contract, they lose six points, regardless of the amount of the contract. If the high bid was big pepper, the partnership scores twelve points for taking all six tricks and loses twelve if they did not. The defenders score one point for each trick taken.
Game play continues until one partnership scores 30 points or more. Whichever partnership has the higher score at that point is the winner. If the score is tied, the game ends as a draw.
Variants for two and three players
Pepper can also be played with two or three players without partnerships. In both cases, three eight-card hands are dealt; in the two-handed variant, one of these is discarded unused. Bids in this version go up to seven, with the pepper bids representing an intent to take all eight tricks.
Failure to make a contract results in the loss of eight points. A successful big pepper bid scores sixteen points, while an unsuccessful one sets the player back sixteen points.
Bacon is a simple trick-taking game for four players, in partnerships, that functions a lot like a simplified version of Euchre. Bacon originated in the United States in the early twentieth century. It makes an excellent introduction to the mechanics of trick-taking games, and especially those with trumps, for those who are unfamiliar with them.
Object of Bacon
The object of Bacon is to be the first partnership to reach ten points by collecting more tricks than the opponents.
Bacon uses a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. You could use any deck of cards…but choosing Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards makes your game that much more special. You will also need something to keep score with, such as pencil and paper.
Players should determine who their partner is, either by mutual agreement or by some randomly-determined method. Players on the same partnership are seated across from one another, so that proceeding around the table in turn order, the partnerships alternate.
Shuffle and deal five cards face-down to each player, then one additional card, the upcard, face-up to the center of the table. The deck stub is set aside and, in most cases, takes no further part in game play.
Game play begins with the auction, which determines the trump suit, although it is not technically an auction in the strictest sense of the term. The player to the left of the dealer has the first chance at accepting the suit of the upcard as the trump suit. They may select this suit as trump by stating “pick it up”, or decline to do so by saying “pass”.
If the player passes, the next player to the left is offered the same options, and so on around to the dealer. Should the dealer pass, the upcard is discarded and a new upcard is drawn from the deck stub and the process repeats. If the fourth upcard is passed on by all four players, the hand is considered acquitted, the cards are thrown in, and a new hand is dealt by the same dealer.
When a player chooses to pick up a trump, they have the option to “go alone”. By doing so, the player is venturing that they will be able to win the majority of the tricks with their partner sitting out of the hand. If they are successful, their score for the hand will be doubled (see “Scoring” below). Of course, winning with only one partner will be more difficult, so this should be kept in mind before making the decision to go alone.
When a player picks up a trump or declares themselves a loner, their partner has veto power over each of these decisions. The veto is binding and results in the same effect as if the player passed, if they vetoed the pick-up, or if they never made the declaration to go alone. In practice, the veto is rarely exercised, but it can be an important option in situations where a player has reason to believe that their partner is greatly overestimating the strength of either of the partners’ hands.
The partnership that chose the trump suit is called the declarers, and their opponents the defenders. If there is only one declarer, because they decided to go alone, they are simply called the loner.
Play of the hand
Game play begins with the player to the left of the declarer who called “pick it up” taking the upcard into their hand and then discarding any card face-up. This player then leads to first trick. Turn order proceeds to the left, with each person playing a card of the same suit as the card led, if able; otherwise, they may play any card. When all four players have had a chance to play, the highest card of the suit led wins the trick, unless a card of the trump suit was played, in which case the highest trump wins the trick.
The cards in the trick are collected by the player who won them. Captured tricks are not added to the hand, but are kept face-down in a captured-tricks pile. Because the number of tricks captured is important to the outcome of the game, they should be kept separated somehow. Placing tricks at right angles to one another works well for this purpose.
This process repeats until five tricks are played and all players have depleted their hands.
Winning three or four tricks over the course of a hand is worth one point, and winning all five tricks is worth two points. These scores are doubled if they were achieved by a loner or the defenders (for a total of two points for three or four tricks and four points for a shutout). Game play continues until one partnership reaches ten points. That partnership is the winner.
Euchre, pronounced yoo-ker, is an game in the trick-taking family that was popular in the United States and Australia in the 1800s. It derives both its name and game play from a game called Juckerspiel, which was popular in Europe during the reign of Napoleon. Together with Bridge, Euchre was one of the forerunners of Five Hundred, and thus shares many similarities with that game. While versions of Euchre for as few as two and as many as seven players exist, the canonical version is for four players in partnerships. Thus, that is what we have included here.
Object of Euchre
For the side which names the trump suit, the object of Euchre is to score three out of the five tricks played in one hand. For the other side, the object is to prevent this from happening, thus euchring those who chose the trump suit.
The players divide into two partnerships, with partners sitting across from one another. The turn of play will alternate between partnerships when going clockwise.
Euchre requires the use of a special 32-card deck. Starting from a standard 52-card deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove all of the 6s through 2s. You’ll be left with only the 7s through aces in each of the four suits.
You will also need some way of keeping score. While pencil and paper works, some clever Euchre player at some point came up with a way to do so using some of the cards that were discarded. Each partnership retains a 3 and a 4 for scorekeeping purposes. To display a score of zero, both cards are face down. For a score of one, the 3 is turned up, with the 4 turned face-down upon it in such a way that only one of the 3’s pips are visible. To denote a score of two, the 4 is turned up with the 3 turned down and obscuring all but two of the 4’s pips. For a score of three or four, the 3 and the 4 respectively are turned face up with the other card tucked behind it.
Shuffle and deal five cards to each player. Place the deck stub in the center of the table. Turn the top card is turned face-up and placed it top of the stub. The suit of this card, the upcard, will be the first proposed trump suit.
In the trump suit, Euchre ranks cards differently than most games. Since the ranking of cards depends on which suit is trump, some cards will have different rankings from hand to hand.
The rank of cards in the trump suit is as follows:
- Right bower. Jack of trumps.
- Left bower. The jack of the suit as the same color as trumps, despite not being of the trump suit, is considered a trump, and is ranked here. (For example, if clubs were trump, the J♣ would be the right bower, and the J♠ would be the left bower.)
- All of the remaining cards, in their usual order, with ace high. (A, K, Q, 10, 9, 8, 7.)
Cards rank in the usual order, ace high, in the non-trump suits (save for the jack serving as the left bower).
Starting from the player to the left of the dealer, the players either pass or agree to accept the suit of the upcard as the trump suit for the hand. The dealer’s partner signifies their agreement to the turned-up suit by declaring “I assist”. The players on the opposing partnership do so by declaring “I order it up.” Should the prior three players pass, the dealer, as the last player in the sequence, must either “take it up” (assent to the turned-up suit as trump) by discarding a card (see below) or “turn it down” (reject the turned-up trump) by placing the turned-up card partially under the deck stub, face up.
Should the dealer turn the turned-up trump down, a second round of trump-naming begins, with the dealer’s opponent to the left beginning again. This time, each player may either pass or name one of the other three suits as trump. (They cannot select the already-rejected suit.) Should all four players be so apathetic toward their hands that they pass, the hand is voided. The player to the left of the dealer shuffles and deals a new hand.
If the upcard’s suit has been established as trumps, the dealer may discard a card, placing it face down on the bottom of the deck stub. In return, the turned-up card is considered part of the dealer’s hand, and may be played at any time just like any other card in their hand. The dealer may decline to do so, although since the turned-up card is by necessity one of only nine trump cards, it would be rare that adding the turned-up card to the dealer’s hand would not improve it.
Prior to beginning play, the player who decided the trump suit may declare “alone.” This means the player opts to play alone, without their partner, for this hand only. Doing so allows the player playing alone to score more points if they score all five tricks, which is called a march. Upon a player declaring “alone”, the player’s partner places their cards face-down on the table and takes no further part in the hand.
Play of the hand
The player to the left of the dealer leads first; if this player is sitting out, the dealer’s partner leads. Each player to the left then plays a card. If able to follow suit, a player must do so. Otherwise, they are free to play any card, including a trump. The trick is won by the highest card of the suit led, unless a trump is present, in which case the highest trump wins the trick.
Collected tricks are not added to the hand. Rather, they’re kept in a discard pile in front of one of the partners. Since it is important to keep track of the number of tricks captured, each trick should be placed onto the pile at right angles, so that the tricks can be easily separated after the hand. The individual player that won the trick leads to the next one.
After all five tricks have been played, the hand is scored as follows:
- Partnership making trump wins 3 or 4 tricks (called winning the odd trick)—1 point.
- Partnership making trump makes a march—2 points.
- Lone hand wins the odd trick—1 point.
- Lone hand makes a march—4 points.
- Partnership or lone hand making trump is euchred—opponents score 2 points.
After the hand is scored, the player to the left of the dealer shuffles and deals the next hand. Game play continues until one partnership reaches 5 points.