Botifarra

Botifarra is a trick-taking game for four players in partnerships. Unlike many trick-taking games, Botifarra includes a number of rules restricting which cards can be played when. As a result, players are able to deduce information about what their opponents may hold.

The game originates from the disputed region of Catalonia (currently a province in the northeast corner of Spain, but which declared its independence in October 2017). The game is popular enough that organized duplicate-style tournaments are played there.

In Catalonia, Botifarra is traditionally played counter-clockwise (all action proceeding to the right). The description below is written to follow the clockwise fashion most card games follow. If you wish to play it the traditional way, just reverse the directions.

Object of Botifarra

The object of Botifarra is to be the first partnership to reach 101 or more points. Points are scored by collecting face cards, aces and 9s in tricks.

Setup

Botifarra is typically played with a 48-card Spanish deck. To make an equivalent deck from the 52-card English deck, like a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, just remove the 10s. You also need something to keep score with, such as paper and pencil.

Determine partnerships by whatever method is convenient, either randomly or by mutual agreement. (Players often choose to play three games per session, so that each player may play one game partnered with each of the other players.) As is typical, players should be seated across from their partner. This ensures that the turn of play alternates between partnerships as it proceeds around the table.

Shuffle and deal twelve cards to each player (dealing out the entire pack).

Card ranking

In Botifarra, the highest card is the 9. All other cards rank in their usual order. The full rank of cards, therefore, is (high) 9, A, K, Q, J, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 (low).

Game play

Determining trumps and doubling

Unlike in most other trick-taking games with trumps, there is no bidding or random trump selection in Botifarra. The dealer simply chooses a trump suit for the hand, or botifarra, which is to select no trumps. The dealer may also elect to pass the right to choose to their partner. (They cannot then pass the decision back to the dealer.)

After a trump suit has been chosen, the dealer’s opponents may choose to double, thereby doubling the points scored by the winner of the hand. If the hand is doubled, the dealer’s partnership may redouble, multiplying the value of the hand by four. The opponents can then reredouble, increasing the multiplier to eight. (This is the highest multiplier possible.) Players get the opportunity to speak in turn order from the last player to make a declaration.

A botifarra bid automatically doubles the value of the game, so

Play of the hand

The player to the dealer’s left leads any card they wish to the first trick. Each player in turn then plays one card to the trick. Once all four players have played a card, the highest trump played, or the highest card of the suit led if no trump was played, wins the trick.

Botifarra has a number of unique restrictions on which card you can play. First, of course, you must always follow suit if you can. Secondly, you must head the trick if you are able. The only exception to this is when the trick is currently being won by your partner. When this is the case, subject to suit-following rules, you may play any card worth points (9s, aces, or face cards). If you wish to play a card worth no points, it must be the lowest card you hold of the suit you’re playing in. (Because of this rule, your opponents are able to determine that any other cards that you hold of that suit must be higher.)

Once a player wins a trick, they place it face-down in a shared won-tricks pile located in front of either them or their partner. Tricks should be kept distinct from one another somehow, such as by putting them at right angles to the previous trick. Whichever player won the trick leads to the next one.

Scoring

Once all twelve tricks have been played, the players count up the value of their tricks captured, as follows:

  • Tricks taken: 1 point each
  • 9s: 5 points each
  • Aces: 4 points each
  • Kings: 3 points each
  • Queens: 2 point each
  • Jacks: 1 point each

The maximum trick score possible on one hand is 72 points. Whichever partnership scores more subtracts 36 from the value of their tricks to arrive at their score for the hand. This score is multiplied as decided before the hand and recorded on the scoresheet. (If the partnerships tie at 36 points each, neither team scores.)

Game play continues until one partnership exceeds 101 points. That partnership 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.

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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Schafkopf

Schafkopf is a trick-taking game for three players. Sometimes called the national game of Bavaria, it has been played throughout southern Germany for at least 200 years. Schafkopf is one of the ancestors of Skat, and the two share quite a lot in common.

There are two theories for why the game is named Schafkopf, which translates to “sheep’s head”. One is that originally the score was kept by making tally marks on a sheet of paper in such a way that, when the game was finished, the marks made the outline of a sheep’s head. Another is that the name is really a corruption of Schaffkopf, meaning the top of a barrel. A barrel often made a convenient card table in the early days of the game.

Because Schafkopf has been in play for such a long time, dozens of variations of it have been developed over time. Many of these rival Skat in complexity and capacity for skillful play. We’ve chosen one of the simpler variants to describe here.

Object of Schafkopf

The object of Schafkopf for the declarer is to collect at least 61 points in tricks. For the defenders, the object is to stop the declarer from doing so.

Setup

Schafkopf uses the 32-card deck common to German card games. To make an equivalent deck from the international standard 52-card deck, start with a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards and remove all of the 2s through 6s. What will remain is a deck with aces through 7s in each of the four suits. You’ll also need something to keep score with, like the venerable pencil and paper.

Shuffle and deal out the whole pack according to the following order: a set of three cards to each player, two face down to the center of the table, a set of four cards to each player, then a set of three cards to each player. Each player will have ten cards, with the two-face down cards forming a widow. (This is the same dealing procedure used in Skat, by the way.)

Card ranking

Schafkopf uses a highly unorthodox card ranking. First off, 10s are ranked above the king, just below the ace. Secondly, all queens and jacks are not considered to be part of their own suit, but are considered trumps! Queens and jacks rank in the following order: (high) clubs, spades, hearts, diamonds (low). Lastly, all of the diamonds are considered trumps, too, ranking in order just below the J♦.

Taken altogether, that means that the rank of cards in spades, hearts, and clubs is (high) A, 10, K, 9, 8, 7 (low). The full rank of the trump suit is (high) Q♣, Q♠, Q♥, Q♦, J♣, J♠, J♥, J♦, A♦, 10♦, K♦, 9♦, 8♦, 7♦ (low). Got all that?

Game play

Picking up the widow

The first order of business is determining who will take the widow. The player to the dealer’s left has the first opportunity to do so, or they may pass. If the first player passes, the next player to the left can choose to pick it up. If they, too, refuse, the dealer gets the last chance at picking up the widow. Should the dealer decline to take the widow, the hand is played “least“, as described in “Playing least” below.

If a player does decide to take the widow, they become the declarer, and their two opponents become the defenders. The declarer adds the two cards from the widow to their hand, then discards two cards, face down. This restores their hand to ten cards.

Play of the hand

The player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick. Each player in turn plays a card to the trick, until all three have played. Players follow suit if they are able; otherwise, they may play any card, including a trump. Whichever player played the highest trump, or the highest card of the suit led if no trump was played, wins the trick. They collect the cards from the trick, placing them in a won-tricks pile in front of them. They then lead to the next trick.

It is important to remember that the queens and jacks are trumps and not part of the suit printed on the card. For example, if a spade is led, playing the Q♠ is not following suit, it is trumping!

Scoring

After all ten tricks have been played, the declarer totals up the value of the cards they took in tricks, as follows:

  • Aces: eleven points each
  • 10s: ten points each
  • Kings: four points each
  • Queens: three points each
  • Jacks: two points each

None of the other cards have any value.

If the declarer successfully captured at least 61 points in tricks, they win the hand, and score two victory points. Should the declarer have collected 91 or more points, this is called a schneider, and they score four victory points. If they successfully captured all 120 points available, i.e. they captured every trick, it is called a schwarz, and they score six victory points.

Likewise, if the declarer collects 60 points or less, they lose two victory points. If they are schneidered (capture 30 points or less), they lose four victory points, and if they are schwarzed (capture 0 points), they lose six victory points.

Playing least

If all three players pass on taking the widow, the hand is played least. All three players play alone, with a goal of taking the fewest points possible. Whichever player takes the fewest points scores two victory points. If they captured 0 points, they score four victory points.

If two players tie, whichever one less recently took a trick wins and gets the two points. In a three-way tie, the dealer wins. In the event that one player takes all 120 points (meaning the other two tie at 0), that player loses four victory points and the other players do not score.

Ending the game

The game ends when a pre-specified number of deals take place. (For the sake of fairness, every player should have dealt an equal number of times.) Whoever has the highest score at this 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.

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Reversis

Ace of Diamonds and Jack of HeartsReversis is an old trick-taking game for four players. In most trick-taking games, the goal is to capture as many cards as you can. In Reversis, however, you want to avoid taking the face cards and the aces! None of the other cards matter, although there is a special bonus for not winning a single trick. You can turn it on its head, however, and win every trick, which gets you even more!

Reversis is a very old game, appearing as early as 1601. By the 1870s, it was still being included in card game books, but was all but dead in terms of actively being played. Nevertheless, the game most likely served as the root of an entire family of trick-taking games where the goal was avoidance of certain cards. Today, the most well-known member of this family is Hearts, now considered a classic in its own right. In fact, most authors call the whole group of card-avoidance games the “Hearts family”, despite Reversis’s probable status as grandparent of most of these games.

Object of Reversis

The object of Reversis is to avoid capturing in tricks any aces or face cards. A secondary objective is to avoid taking any tricks, a feat called the espagnolette. Failing that, a player may aim to take all the tricks, which is called the reversis.

Setup

Reversis uses an unusual 48-card pack formed by taking a standard 52-card deck (like Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards) and stripping out all of the 10s. Additionally, you will need chips to keep score with. A traditional Reversis set included chips equal to 468 base units, denominated in 1, 6, and 48 units. You can probably get away with the easier to deal with 1 (white), 5 (red), and 25 (green) of most standard chip sets. Divide the chips up evenly; each player should start with at least 100 credits.

On the first hand, all players ante five credits to the pot, except for the dealer, who antes ten credits. Shuffle and deal eleven cards to each player. Then, deal one extra to your own hand, and one card face down in front of each player (but not part of their hand). This will exhaust the entire deck.

Game play

The exchange

Before play begins, the dealer discards any one card they wish from their hand. This brings them to the same eleven cards that the other players have.

The three other players have the right to discard one card from their hand, then draw the face-down card in front of them. They cannot look at this card before deciding whether to discard. If the player decides not to discard, they may look at the face-down card without putting it in their hand. All four unwanted cards (the dealer’s discard, the discards of any other player, and any cards not drawn by the players) are set aside to form the talon.

Play of the hand

Play proceeds much the same as it does in any other trick-taking game. The player to the dealer’s left goes first, leading any card they wish to the first trick. Each other player must play a card of the same suit if they can. Otherwise, they may play any card. The highest card of the suit led wins the trick.

Once a trick has been won, the player that won it places it face down in front of them in a separate won-tricks pile. The player that wins each trick then leads to the next one.

Special payments

Special payments usually occur whenever an ace or the J♥, which is known as Quinola, is played. These payments occur immediately, irrespective of who eventually wins the hand.

Aces

When able, a player will usually discard their ace when another suit they have no cards in is led, to avoid taking the ace in a trick. When this happens, the player who wins the trick containing the off-suit ace pays the person who played the ace one credit. If the ace in question is the A♦, the payment is increased to two credits.

However, other times person holding an ace will be forced to play it when that ace’s suit is led. In that case, the player who was forced to play the ace pays the person who led to the trick one credit. As before, if the A♦ is forced, the payment doubles to two credits.

It is rare that a player leads an ace, although it sometimes happens (usually because they unexpectedly won the lead for the last trick, and the ace was their last card). In this event, however, no payment is made immediately. When the winner of the hand is decided, that player may collect the appropriate amount (two credits for the A♦, one for any other ace) from the person who played the ace. However, if the winner of the hand does not explicitly request payment before the next hand is dealt, they forfeit their right to collect.

Quinola

When the Quinola (J♥) is played, much larger payments come into play. If the J♥ is played to a trick that was led by another suit, the player that wins the trick pays the person who played the J♥ five credits. The player that played the J♥ then also takes the entire pot! If there are multiple pots, as described below, the player takes only the most recently-formed pot. If there is only one pot and it is won, a new one must be formed. Each non-dealer must again ante five credits to form a new pot, with the dealer contributing ten credits.

When an opponent forces the player holding the J♥ to play it to a heart lead, the player holding the J♥ pays that opponent ten credits. Both of the other two opponents must pay the player who led to that trick five credits. Additionally, the person who played the J♥ must make a payment called a remise. The first remise is equal to amount of the first pot, and is added to that pot. The second remise is again the same size as the pot, but goes to form a second pot, which is kept separate from the first. The third remise forms the third pot, which is the same size as the second pot, and so on. When all of the pots have been won, and a new pot is formed by anteing, the remise procedure is restarted from the beginning.

An example of the remise process: the pot (Pot #1) contains 25 credits. A player must pay a 25-credit remise to it, increasing it to 50 credits. The dealer antes five credits to Pot #1 at the start of the next hand. On the next hand, if the pot is not taken, the remise is 55 credits, but this goes to form a new pot, Pot #2. The dealer of the next hand then antes to Pot #2, bringing it to 60 credits. If the pot is not taken on the third hand, the remise will be 60 credits, payable to Pot #3. Remember, when a player successfully dumps the J♥ on an non-heart trick, they always take the most recently formed pot (in this case, Pot #3).

If a player leads with the J♥, the eventual winner of the hand may collect ten credits from that player and five credits from the other two opponents. As with payments when aces are led, the winner must speak up before the next hand is dealt to collect their winnings! (Note that a player leading the J♥ may well be pulling off a reversis, as described below.)

Ending the hand

The hand ends when all eleven tricks have been played. Each player totals the value of the cards they captured. Aces are worth four points, kings are worth three, queens two, and jacks one. All other cards bear no value. The player with the fewest points is said to have won the party. The player with the least is said to have lost the party.

If there is a tie in points, the player with the fewest tricks takes precedence. If there’s still a tie, the dealer takes precedence, followed by the player to their left, and so on around the table. (Note that this procedure applies to both winning and losing the party.)

Once the winner and loser have been determined, the loser pays the winner. The amount of the payment is four chips, plus the point value of all of the cards in the talon. If the winner and loser are sitting across from each other, the required payment doubles.

The deal passes to the next player to the left. The dealer antes five credits to the most recently formed pot. None of the other players ante. Game play continues until some predetermined time or number of hands. Whoever has the most in chips at that point wins the game.

Special bids

There are two special bids that can occur whenever a player has a particularly good or bad hand. These are the reversis, in which a player tries to take all the tricks, and the espagnolette, when they try to lose all the tricks.

The reversis

When a player takes the first nine tricks, they are considered to be undertaking the reversis. This happens whether they want it to or not! At this point, any ace and Quinola payments that have already taken place are refunded. (This includes a player taking the pot.) For the rest of the hand, these payments are not made.

If the reversis player successfully takes all eleven tricks, they collect 32 credits from the player across from them, and 16 credits from the other two opponents. They also take the most recent pot if they played the J♥ during the first nine tricks.

Should one of the reversis player’s opponents take the tenth or eleventh trick, the reversis is said to be broken. The reversis player pays 64 credits to that opponent (if both the tenth and eleventh tricks were taken by opponents, only the winner of the tenth trick is paid off). If the reversis player played the J♥ during the first nine tricks, they must pay a remise. If the reversis was broken by the J♥ winning a trick, the reversis player pays only 54 credits.

The espagnolette

Before a player can even attempt the espagnolette, they must hold all four aces. Holding three aces and the J♥ also qualifies. To undertake the espagnolette, a player simply fails to follow suit when able at least once during the first nine tricks. (If a player takes no tricks but follows suit for the whole hand, it is not considered an espagnolette.) The espagnolette player must follow suit, if able, on the tenth and eleventh tricks.

Other than the ability to disregard the suit led, there is no real reward for successfully completing the espagnolette. The player will simply automatically win the party (even if other players took no tricks) and the typical five credits for successfully discarding their aces. If they held the J♥ and three aces, they will win the party, plus the payments for discarding the three aces, plus the payments and pot for discarding the J♥.

If a player going for the espagnolette takes a trick, they are considered to have automatically lost the party. Additionally, they must pay back double the amount each player paid them for aces and the J♥. If they won a pot, they must return it and pay a misere.

Additionally, a player is considered to have lost the espagnolette if another player makes the reversis. In this case, the espagnolette player must pay the full 64-credit sum due to the player making the reversis. No other player is required to pay a thing. Should the player abandon the espagnolette in order to break the reversis, there is no penalty for the failed espagnolette, as the broken reversis preempts all other payments.

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Écarté

Écarté (pronounced \e.kaʁ.te\ or roughly ay-car-tay) is a French trick-taking game for two players. A novel feature of the game is that rather than the traditional bidding round prior to trick-play, the players shape their hands into their final form by discarding and drawing cards. The winner might well be decided before the first card is played!

Écarté was at its height in the 19th century. It was mentioned in several works of fiction of the day, such as The Count of Monte Cristo (where it was noted as being preferred over Whist by the French) and the Sherlock Holmes story The Hound of the Baskervilles. The game gradually lost its popularity, however, and is now relatively obscure.

Object of Écarté

The object of Écarté is to form a hand capable of taking the majority of the five tricks, and then doing so.

Setup

Écarté uses the same deck as Piquet. If you don’t happen to keep a Piquet deck laying around, just grab your trusty deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards and take out all of the 6s through 2s. You’ll be left with a deck having aces through 7s in each of the four suits, for 32 cards in all. You’ll also need something to keep score with. Pencil and paper works, as well as the Card Caddy Connector, or chips or other tokens (you’ll only need nine of them).

Shuffle and deal five cards to each player. Place the stub in the center of the table, forming the stock. Turn the top card of the stock face up and set it aside. The suit of this card, the upcard, determines the trump suit. If the upcard is a king, the dealer scores one point.

Card ranking

The cards rank a little out of their usual order in Écarté. The ace ranks between the face cards and the number cards. This makes the full rank of cards (high) K, Q, J, A, 10, 9, 8, 7 (low).

Game play

The exchange

The non-dealer decides whether or not they wish to play with their hand, as dealt. They can either play with what they’ve got by saying “I play”, or propose an exchange by saying “I propose.” If the non-dealer proposes, the dealer has veto power—if they decline, then the play proceeds without an exchange.

If the exchange is accepted, the non-dealer discards any number of cards they wish, then draws back up to five cards. The dealer then has the opportunity to do the same thing. The non-dealer may then propose again or start the actual play of the hand, and the dealer may refuse the proposal, as before.

Should there be less than ten cards left in the stock and exchanging still going on, the non-dealer always has the first priority in taking the number of cards they want, even if that doesn’t leave enough for the dealer to make their desired exchange. When the stock is depleted, there’s no further exchanging—the hand immediately begins. (Neither player can ever draw the upcard, no matter how bad they might want to.)

After the exchange, if either player ended up with the king of trumps, they can show it to their opponent. Doing so scores one point.

Vulnerability

If either player prevents an exchange at all, whichever one turned it down (the non-dealer if they call “I play”, or the non-dealer if they reject the proposal) is said to be vulnerable. A vulnerable player’s opponent can score extra points if they win the hand, so it’s important not to be too overconfident with your hand.

Note that it is possible to avoid vulnerability by starting an exchange and then discarding no cards. This allows your opponent a chance to improve their hand, however.

After the first exchange has taken place, neither player becomes vulnerable by turning down the opportunity for an exchange.

Play of the hand

The non-dealer leads to the first trick. The dealer then plays a card in response, following suit and heading the trick if possible. That means that if they have a card of the suit led, they must play it, playing a higher card if possible. Otherwise, they must trump, if they can. Only if they cannot do either of those are they free to play any other card.

Whoever played the higher trump, or the higher card of the suit led if neither player played a trump, wins the trick. They take the cards and put them in a won-tricks pile on the table in front of them. (It may be helpful to put each pair of cards crosswise, so the number of tricks taken is easily counted.) That player then leads to the next trick.

Scoring

After all five tricks have been played, the hand is scored. Whichever player takes the majority of the tricks (i.e. three or more) scores one point. If they took all five tricks, they score an additional point. One more point is scored if the opponent was vulnerable on that hand.

Further hands are played until someone reaches a score of five points. That player is the winner. (If the winning point is scored prior to the actual play of the hand due to the king of trumps, the hand is not played out.)

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Fünfzehnern (Fifteens)

Fünfzehnern, also known in English as Fifteens, is a trick-taking game for three or four players. Unlike most other trick-taking games, Fünfzehnern doesn’t allow you to lead just any old card. Instead, you have to keep leading cards of the suit you first won the lead with, as long as you have them!

Fünfzehnern is an old German game. Descriptions of it date back to at least the late 1800s.

Object of Fünfzehnern

The object of Fünfzehnern is to take in tricks as many cards ranked 10 and above as possible. The ultimate goal of this is to achieve a hand score of fifteen points or better.

Setup

Fünfzehnern is played with the same pack used to play Piquet. To make such a pack from a set of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove all the 6s through 2s. You’ll be left with a deck of cards with aces through 7s in each of the four suits, for 32 cards in all. If playing with three players, remove one of the four suits entirely, giving you a 24-card deck. You also need something to keep score with. Pencil and paper works fine, but Fünfzehnern is traditionally managed with a “hard-score” method (chips or counters are paid into and taken from a central pool).

Shuffle and deal eight cards to each player, using the entire deck.

Game play

The player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick. All other players must play a card of the same suit, if possible. Otherwise, they may play any card. Once everyone’s played, the person who played the highest card of the suit led wins the trick. That person takes the cards that made up the trick and stacks them into a face-down won-tricks pile. That player then leads to the second trick.

When a player takes the right to lead from another player, they must continue to lead with cards of the suit they won the lead in. Only when they run out of cards of that suit can they change to a different suit. The only exception is if they have a card of a different suit which they know is unbeatable (i.e. because it is an ace, or because all the cards of that suit that would outrank it have been played).

For example, Riley leads hearts, and Marty wins the trick. Marty may now only play hearts as long as he has them. He holds the A♠, though, so he can also lead this, as he knows it is unbeatable. As soon as he runs out of hearts, he can lead to whatever suit he pleases. At this point, if Riley manages to beat Marty on a trick that he led diamonds to, Riley must continue to lead diamonds until he runs out of them.

Forcing (zwang)

Holding both a king and queen of the same suit is called a force, or zwang. If the ace of that suit has yet to be played, the player may lead the queen and declare “zwang“. The player holding the ace of that suit is then compelled to play it on that trick. This, of course, wins the trick, but the forcing player now knows the king they hold is the highest unplayed card of that suit.

Scoring

When all eight tricks have been played, each player totals up the values of the cards in their won-tricks pile:

  • Aces: five points each.
  • Kings: four points each.
  • Queens: three points each.
  • Jacks: two points each.
  • Tens: one point each.

9s, 8s, and 7s have no point value.

After each player arrives at a point value, they subtract fifteen from it. The resulting number is their score for the hand. (If using the hard-score method, take one chip from the pot for each point taken above fifteen, and pay into the pot one chip for each point taken below fifteen.)

Game play continues until a predetermined time or number of hands.

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Tute

Tute is a trick-taking game most often played with four players in partnerships. Originating in Italy as Tutti (meaning all), it spread to Spain, where it became one of the country’s most popular games. In Tute, only aces, 3s, and face cards matter—none of the lower cards carry any sort of point value!

Object of Tute

The object of Tute is to score the highest number of points in cards taken in tricks. Players may also score points by holding K-Q combinations and by taking the last trick.

Setup

Tute is played with the Spanish 40-card deck. To form such a deck from a standard 52-card deck like Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, simply remove the 8s, 9s, and 10s. You’ll be left with a 40-card deck with aces, face cards, and 7s through 2s in each of the four suits. (In the Spanish deck, the face cards are King, Knight and Knave; these are functionally equivalent to the English deck’s king, queen, and jack.) It may also be helpful for having something to compute scores—a calculator or pencil-and-paper will do.

Determine partnerships by whatever method is preferred—either some way of determining it randomly, or through plain mutual agreement. Players should sit across from their partner, so that as the turn of play proceeds around the table, players alternate in taking turns.

Shuffle and deal ten cards to each player, which distributes the entire deck. Reveal the last card dealt (which belongs to the dealer). The suit of this card becomes the trump suit for the hand. (The dealer adds this card to their hand as usual after everyone is aware of the trump suit.)

Card ranking

In Tute, the cards rank in their usual order, with aces high, with one exception. The 3 is elevated to rank just below the ace. That means that the full rank of cards is (high) A, 3, K, Q, J, 7, 6, 5, 4, 2 (low).

All of the face cards, aces, and 3s also carry a point value. Aces are worth eleven points, 3s are worth ten points, kings four, queens three, and jacks two. The number cards other than 3s are worth nothing in terms of points.

Game play

Tute is played counter-clockwise, so the player to the dealer’s right leads to the first trick. Continuing around to the right, each player in turn plays a card to the trick. Players must always follow suit, if possible. Additionally, they must head the trick if they can. That means that if the player can follow suit, they must; if they can’t follow suit and they can trump, they must do so (and overtrump if possible). Only if a player has no cards of the suit led or the trump suit can they play a card from one of the other two suits.

After all four players have contributed a card, the player who played the highest trump, or the highest card of the suit led if no trump was played, wins the trick. That player collects all four cards and places them into a won-tricks pile in front of them called a baza. (Each player shares a baza with their partner.) The individual player that won the first trick then leads to the second one.

Declarations

After a player wins a trick, but before leading to the next one, they may make a declaration for any marriages they hold. The two possible declarations are las cuarenta (the 40) for holding the king and queen of trumps, and las veinte (the 20) for holding the king and queen of any other suit. When making a declaration, the player must reveal the two cards. If a player has multiple such combinations, they may only declare them one at a time (they must declare any additional marriages after winning a later trick).

If a player holds las cuarenta, it must be the first declaration made; once las veinte has been declared, las cuarenta may no longer be declared. Of course, upon declaring las veinte, if the player holds any additional veintes they can still be declared on later tricks.

Holding all four kings is a special combination called a tute. If a player holds a tute, they may declare it as usual after winning a trick. Making such a declaration instantly wins the hand for the player holding the kings.

Scoring

After all ten tricks have been played, each team looks through their baza and totals up the point value of the cards they have collected in tricks. To this they add:

  • 40 points for las cuarenta
  • 20 points for each veinte
  • 10 points for taking the last trick

Whichever partnership has the higher total score wins the hand.

If a longer game is desired, play a pre-determined number of hands. Whichever team wins the majority of the hands wins the overall game.

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Canadian Salad

A saladCanadian Salad (also known as Wisconsin Scramble or any number of other things depending on where it’s being played) is a trick-taking game for three to six players. On each hand, players have a different objective, hoping to avoid certain cards that count against them. On the final hand of the game, all of the cards to avoid from previous hands all count against them at once—meaning the players have quite a lot to dodge!

Object of Canadian Salad

The object of Canadian Salad is to score the fewest points by avoiding the point-scoring cards or tricks in each hand..

Setup

Canadian Salad uses a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. It’s always a good idea to play with Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards if you’ve got ’em (and if you don’t, why not?). Some cards are removed depending on the number of players, to make the deal come out evenly. When playing with three players, remove the 2♣. With five, take out the 2♣ and 2♦. Playing with six, remove 2-3♣-2-3♦. For a four-player game, use the full 52-card deck. In addition to cards, you’ll need something to keep score with, like pencil and paper.

Shuffle and deal the cards out evenly to each player, using the whole deck.

Game play

The player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick. If able to follow suit, a player must do so. If they are unable to, they may play any card. The trick is won by the highest card of the suit led. Cards rank in their usual order, with aces high. Upon winning a trick, the player collects the cards and adds them to a won-trick pile. If knowing the number of tricks won is necessary at the end of the hand (i.e. on the first and sixth hands), each trick may be placed at right angles to the previous one to keep them separated. The player that wins each trick then leads to the next one.

Each hand has a different condition for awarding points. Since everyone’s trying to avoid points, these are the things you want to keep from taking. What gets you points on each hand:

  1. On the first hand, each trick captured scores ten points.
  2. Each heart captured on the second hand scores ten points.
  3. Each queen captured on the third hand scores 25 points.
  4. Capturing the K♠ on the fourth hand scores 100 points.
  5. Whoever takes the fifth hand’s last trick scores 100 points.
  6. On the sixth and final hand, all of the scoring conditions on hands one through five apply.

Each hand is scored after the final trick has been played. After the sixth hand, whoever has the lowest score is the winner.

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Twenty-Five

Twenty-Five is the national card game of Ireland. Games of Twenty-Five can found be throughout the country, in pubs and homes alike. It is best for three to nine players. Since a game only lasts until a player takes five tricks, games of Twenty-Five are fairly quick, often lasting only two or three hands.

Object of Twenty-Five

The object of Twenty-Five is to be the first player or partnership to reach a score of 25 or more. This is done by winning five tricks.

Setup

Twenty-Five is played with a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. If you have any choice in the matter, insist on using Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.You will also need something to keep score with, such as the time-honored pencil and paper, or something more modern, like a smartphone application.

Players divide into teams, depending on the number of people playing and their preferences. With an even number of players, the players may pair up in partnerships. With nine, players may wish to form three teams of three. No matter how many are playing, however, it is always a viable option for each player to play by themselves. If playing with partnerships, partners should sit across from one another, such that as the turn proceeds around the table, no players on the same team take their turns consecutively.

Shuffle and deal five cards to each player. Turn the next card (referred to here as the upcard) face up. This sets the trump suit for the hand. Set the deck stub aside; it will not take any further part in game play.

Card ranking

Twenty-Five uses an extremely unusual card ranking, which changes depending on which suit is elevated to trumps. Ordinarily, the ace is treated as though it is a one. In the red suits, the cards rank in their usual order. In the black suits, however, the order of the number cards is reversed, with the lowest number cards (the ace, 2, et al.) ranking highest! The adage players use to remember this is highest in red, lowest in black.

The order of cards is changed somewhat when a suit becomes trump. The 5 is always the highest trump, followed by the jack. The third highest trump is always the A♥, no matter what the trump suit is. This is followed by the ace of the trump suit (if the trump suit is not hearts), then the rest of the cards in their typical Twenty-Five order.

Got all that? In summary:

  • In trump suits
    • Hearts: (high) 5, J, A, K, Q, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 4, 3, 2 (low).
    • Diamonds: (high) 5, J, A♥, A, K, Q, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 4, 3, 2 (low).
    • Clubs, Spades: (high) 5, J, A♥, A, K, Q, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 (low).
  • In non-trump suits
    • Hearts: (high) K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 (low).
    • Diamonds: (high) K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, A (low).
    • Clubs, Spades: (high) K, Q, J, A, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 (low).

Game play

Robbing the trump

Before actual game play begins, the player holding the ace of trumps (i.e. not the A♥, unless hearts are trump) may rob the upcard that set the trump suit. To do this, they take the upcard and then discard any card from their hand, face down.

Of course, by robbing the trump, they are disclosing to the other players that they hold the ace of trumps. As a result, players may sometimes consider it advantageous to waive their right to rob the trump. Once a player has led to the first trick, nobody may rob the trump.

Play of the hand

Game play begins with the player to the dealer’s left leading to the first trick. Each player in turn, proceeding clockwise, plays one card to the trick. Players must either follow suit or ruff (play a trump). If a player is unable to follow suit, they may play any card. When a trump is led, the other players must play a trump, if possible, unless the only trump they hold is the 5 of trump, jack of trumps, or A♥ (i.e. the three highest trumps). If these are the only trumps a player holds, they may play any card; they are never forced to play one of the top three trumps.

The player that contributed the highest trump to the trick, or the highest card of the suit led, if no trumps were played, wins the trick. That player (or their partnership) immediately scores five points. The player that wins each trick then leads to the next one.

If nobody has scored 25 points by the end of the hand, the player to the left of the dealer shuffles and deals another hand. Game play continues until one player or team has scored 25 points. Game play stops immediately (the hand is not played out), with the player or team reaching a score of 25 being the winner.

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