Envite is a trick-taking game for four to as many as twelve players in teams. Although it includes a round of bidding, the result of this doesn’t affect the trump suit—it merely sets the stakes for the hand. Each team has a captain that is solely responsible for speaking for their teammates. To communicate with the captain, the players must send secret signals, and hope their opponents don’t catch on!
Envite plays like a more elaborate version of the mainland Spanish game of Truc, blending in the practice of secret signals found in Mus. Envite was created in Spain’s Canary Islands. It is still widely played there, with tournaments common during local holidays.
Object of Envite
The object of Envite is to successfully capture two of the three tricks on each hand, thus scoring points (stones). When a team reaches twelve or more points, they win the game. Traditionally, a match of three games is played, with the team winning two out of three winning the match.
Envite is normally played with a Spanish 40-card deck. If all you’ve got on hand is a standard English-style 52-card deck, like a pack of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, you can make an equivalent deck pretty easily. Just remove all the 8s, 9s, and 10s. What’s left over will be a 40-card deck made up of face cards and 2s through 7s in each of the four suits.
You’ll also need something to keep score with. Players in the Canary Islands typically use a “hard score” method. If you wish to do so too, you’ll need 22 chips, stones, or tokens of some kind. You can also use pencil and paper if that works better for you.
Divide up into two teams through whatever means is convenient, like random-card draw or mutual agreement. Each team should also designate a captain that will speak for the team in matters of bidding. (This can also be done randomly, if needed to avoid arguments!) Players should be seated so that as the turn proceeds around the table, players of alternating teams take their turn.
If playing with an odd number of players, one team’s captain will control a “dummy” hand. Establish this spot the same as if a real player were sitting there. It will receive a hand and play in turn just like any other player.
Evite is normally played with a series of signals that players can use to indicate to their captain what is in their hand. The signals used are the same for both teams. A key Evite skill is learning how to pass the signals to the captain without the opponents noticing. Which signals are allowed and what they mean should be agreed upon before the game starts.
Shuffle and deal three cards to each player. After the hands have been dealt, turn up the next card of the deck and place it in the middle of the table. The suit of this card will become the trump suit for the ensuing hand. The remainder of the stub takes no part in play.
In Envite, the trump suit is enlarged as more players are added to the game:
- Four players (two per side): (high) 2-K-Q-J-A-7-6-5-4-3 (low)
- Five or six players (three per side): (high) 3♣-Q♣-J♦-2-K-Q-J-A-7-6-5-4-3 (low)
- Seven or eight players (four per side): (high) 5♦-3♣-Q♣-J♦-2-K-Q-J-A-7-6-5-4-3 (low)
- Nine or ten players (five per side): (high) 2♦-5♦-3♣-Q♣-J♦-2-K-Q-J-A-7-6-5-4-3 (low)
- Eleven or twelve players (six per side): (high) A♦-2♦-5♦-3♣-Q♣-J♦-2-K-Q-J-A-7-6-5-4-3 (low)
In non-trump suits, the cards rank in more or less their usual order, with the ace inserted between the jack and the 7, for a full ranking of (high) K-Q-J-A-7-6-5-4-3-2 (low). Note that if you’re playing with more than four players, the cards that are added to the trump suit do not count as belonging to the suit printed on the card. They are part of whichever suit the trump is for that hand.
The bidding process in Envite is more like a negotiation between the two captains. While it’s going on, the players on each team are furtively signaling their captain as to what they hold, hoping to feed them information that can help them decide how strong their team’s position is.
By default, winning a hand is worth two stones (points). If neither captain acts, the hand simply proceeds at this stake. However, either captain may challenge the other to increase the stake to four stones. If the challenged captain declines, then the challenging team automatically wins the hand at a value of two stones. The captain may also accept playing the hand for four stones, or may raise the stakes further to seven stones.
If the stake is raised to seven stones, the other captain may then, as before, forfeit the hand (with the other team scoring four stones), agree to play at a stake of seven stones, or raise further to nine. The next raise after this is a raise to make the ensuing hand determine the winner of the whole game.
Play of the hand
Game play begins with the player to the dealer’s right, who leads a card to the first trick. Each player in turn, continuing to the right, must play a card of the same suit, if able. If they cannot, they may play any card, including a trump. The highest card of the suit led, or the highest trump if any were played, wins the trick. The player that won the trick then leads to the next one.
Leading with a trump is called trawling. When a player trawls, all players must play a trump if they are able. If any player doesn’t have a trump to play, their team immediately loses the hand. Their opponents score the value of the hand as determined in the bidding, plus a two-stone bonus.
Otherwise, game play continues until one team scores two tricks. Whichever team does so wins the hand, and scores the value of the hand. The deal then passes to the right, and another hand is played.
When a team’s score reaches eleven points, any points in excess of eleven are ignored. (That is, if a team were to have a score of, say, eight stones, and then win a hand valued at four stones, their score would become eleven; the extra point is ignored.) This team is said to be lying down. Special rules apply when a team is lying down, because only one more stone is needed to win the game.
When a team is lying down, the normal bidding procedure doesn’t happen. Instead, the captain of the team that is lying down chooses whether or not to forfeit the hand. If they forfeit, the opponents score one stone. Should the lying-down team play the hand and lose, the opponents score three stones. When a lying-down team wins a hand, they win the game.
If both teams are lying down, the hand is played no matter what, and the winner of the hand wins the game.
Traditionally, Envite is played in best-of-three matches. Whoever wins two out of the three games wins the overall match.