Toepen is a simple and quick trick-taking game for three to eight players, although it is most frequently played with four. In Toepen, only the last trick counts—whoever wins it wins the entire hand! However, it’s possible the game may not even get that far. A player who feels confident can raise the value of the hand in the middle of play, and if everyone else decides to drop out rather than keep playing, they can win the hand that way, too!
Toepen is most frequently played in the Netherlands, where it is often played as a drinking game. Accordingly, the game is set up so that one player loses rather than one player winning—the losing player is the one who buys the next round of drinks!
Object of Toepen
The object of Toepen is to win the last trick of each hand.
To play Toepen, you’ll need a 32-card pack identical to the one used for Piquet. To make such a pack, start with a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards—if you’re drinking, the waterproof plastic will be invaluable in guarding against spills! Remove all of the 2s through 6s. The remaining 32 cards will be the 7s through aces in each of the four suits.
Toepen scoring is easiest using the hard score method. Distribute the same number of tokens (chips, bottle caps, drink stirrers, condiment packets, whatever is on hand) to each player. Ten tokens for each player is the usual number, but you can adjust if you want a longer or shorter game. If there’s nothing handy to use as tokens, they can be represented as points on a score sheet.
One thing making Toepen unusual is the number cards ranking higher than aces and face cards! Other than that, however, cards rank in their usual order. That makes the full rank of cards (high) 10, 9, 8, 7, A, K, Q, J (low).
Discards and declarations
Before game play begins, if any player’s hand consists of only aces and face cards, they may discard it, face down, and draw a new hand of four cards from the stock. Another player may challenge the discard, if they wish. The discarded cards are then exposed. If the challenger was correct, and there were any number cards in the hand, the discarding player loses one token. If the discard was correct (the hand contained no number cards), the challenging player loses a token instead. In either case, the player keeps the new hand they drew from the stock. When the stock is exhausted, no further player may discard their hand.
When any discards have been taken care of, any player holding four 10s must stand up for the rest of the hand. Likewise, a player holding three 10s must whistle or sing (probably badly and obnoxiously, since this is a drinking game). This indicates to the other players the strength of the player’s hand. However, a player holding three or four jacks may, if they wish, take the same action as if they instead had the same number of 10s in order to mislead their opponents.
Play of the hand
The player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick, playing any card they wish. Each player in turn, proceeding to the left, plays one card to the trick. They must follow suit if possible; if they cannot do so, they may play any card. Whoever played the highest card of the suit led wins the trick. They then lead to the next one, with the cards played in the first trick remaining on the table.
Game play continues until the players have played all four of the cards from their hand. The winner of the fourth and final trick wins the hand. The other players lose the number of chips the hand is worth. By default, the hand is worth one chip, but this can be changed over the course of the hand by knocking, described below. Lost chips are put out of play, not given to the winner of the hand.
The deal for the next hand passes to the player that wins it.
Knocking and folding
A player who is happy about how the hand is going may knock at any time. When a player knocks, they propose adding one chip to the value of the hand. For example, the first knock proposes to raise the hand’s value from the default of one chip to two; the second would raise it from two to three, and so on.
If a player does not wish to continue playing at the raised stakes, they may immediately fold by laying their cards face down on the table (or calling out “fold” if they have no cards in their hand). A player who folds must immediately pay the prior hand value. For example, if a knock raises the hand value from three to four chips, a player who folds would pay three chips. A player who folds takes no further part in the hand. If a player does not immediately fold upon hearing the knock, they commit to playing on at the increased hand value.
If all of the players fold except for the knocking player, that player automatically wins the hand and pays nothing. They then deal the next hand, as usual.
A player cannot knock if doing so would cause the hand to be worth more than the number of chips they have. They may, however, choose to stay in if another player knocks, even if this would cause the hand to be worth more than they could cover.
Ending the game
Game play continues until one player runs out of chips. This player loses the game. If you’re playing Toepen as a drinking game, the loser is responsible for buying the everyone the next round of drinks.
If you find it preferable to find a winner rather than a loser, have players drop out as they run out of chips. The last player with any chips wins the game.
Bura is a trick-taking game for two players. It has the rather unusual feature of allowing a player to lead multiple cards to a single trick. Players can even lead three cards at once to wrest control of the lead from the other player! Another oddity is that the hand ends when a player thinks they have reached a winning point score—and they have no way of knowing they have, other than their memory of the cards they’ve captured!
Bura is a game of Russian origin. It is said to be particularly popular among inmates passing the time, and among ex-convicts who keep on playing it once they get out.
Object of Bura
Bura is played with a 36-card deck of playing cards. To make such a deck, start with a standard 52-card deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. Then, remove all the 5s through 2s. You’ll be left with just the 6s through aces in each of the four suits.
Bura is typically played with hard scoring. You will need some form of token, such as poker chips, matchsticks, or beans. If you’d like, each of these can represent some amount of real money, which you and your opponent should agreed upon. Give each player the appropriate number of tokens according to their buy-in. If not playing for money, simply give an equal number of tokens to each player.
Each player antes one token. Shuffle and deal three cards to each player. Turn up the next card and place it in the center of the table. The suit of this card is the trump suit. Place the remainder of the deck on top of this card, at a right angle to it, forming the stock.
In Bura, the 10 ranks as the second-highest card, just below the ace. The rest of the cards rank in their usual order. Thus, the full rank of cards is (high) A, 10, K, Q, J, 9, 8, 7, 6 (low).
The non-dealer leads first. They may lead any card they wish. Their opponent then plays any card they like to the trick; they need not follow suit. If either player plays a trump, the higher trump wins the trick. If both cards played are of the same suit, the higher card takes the trick. When both cards in the trick are of different non-trump suits, the person leading to the trick wins it.
A player may lead as many as three cards, provided they are all of the same suit. The opponent must then play the same number of cards in response. In order to win the trick, the opponent must play cards that would beat each of the cards led if a trick was composed of only those two cards. For example, if a player led a 7 and a 9 in a non-trump suit, the opponent would have to play an 8 or better of the same suit, or a trump, to beat the 7 and a jack or better, or a trump, to beat the 9. If they cannot beat both cards, they lose the trick.
After the winner of a trick has been determined, that player takes the cards and places them face-down in a won-tricks pile in front of them, then leads to the next trick. Then, each player draws from the stock, starting with the winner of the trick and alternating, until their hand once again contains three cards. If there will not be enough cards left in the stock to replenish the hands, the players do not draw at all, instead simply playing on with their hands as they are.
If a player has one of the following three-card hands, they may lead them to the trick, even if they did not win the previous trick (and thus would not normally be entitled to lead). These special leading combinations are:
- Bura: Three cards of the trump suit.
- Three aces
- Molodka: Three cards of the same non-trump suit.
To play one of these hands, the player holding it announces it prior to the player who won the last trick leading. If both players hold one of these combinations, a player with a bura takes priority, then one with three aces, then one with a molodka. If they announce the same type of combination, the player who won the last trick retains the right to lead.
When a bura is played, the winner of that trick wins the hand and claims the pot. That is, if only one player has a bura, that player will win the hand. If both players hold a bura, the leader’s opponent must have cards outranking all three cards in the leader’s bura.
For all other combinations, the trick is played out as usual, and game play continues.
Ending the hand
Game play continues, with both players mentally keeping track of the cards they have captured in tricks. Cards score as follows:
- Aces: eleven points.
- 10s: ten points.
- Kings: four points.
- Queens: three points.
- Jacks: two points.
- 9s through 6s: no points.
When a player believes they have reached a score of 31 points, they declare this to their opponent. Note that the won-tricks pile must remain face down at all times, and a player cannot look through it to aid in their declaration. Once the declaration is made, the player turns the cards face up and calculates the score. If they did, in fact, capture 31 or more points in tricks, they win the hand and collect the pot. Otherwise, they must pay into the pot an amount equal to whatever it already contains.
If the players run out of cards before either one makes a declaration of collecting 31 points, the hand is a draw. Neither player wins the pot, and both players ante again to start the next hand.