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.
Schnapsen is an Austrian two-player game where players score points both by melding and by taking tricks. It’s a cousin of the classic American game Pinochle, having likewise descended from the German game Sixty-Six. Thus, like its parent game, it plays a lot like a pared-down version of Pinochle.
Schnapsen forces players to rely on their memory of cards they’ve won—a player can go out when they have scored 66 points over the course of a hand. However, a player has to keep a mental tally of what they’ve scored to know when they’re able to go out. Schnapsen can be a very exciting game because a player is rarely completely out of the game—big come-from-behind wins are always possible!
Object of Schnapsen
Schnapsen is played with an absolutely tiny deck of cards—only 20 cards are used in a Schnapsen deck! You’ll only need the aces, face cards, and 10s in each of the four suits. To ensure your cards last as long as possible and never become too damaged or dirty to play with, always make sure you start with a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You will also need something to keep score with, such as pencil and paper, or a scorekeeping app.
Shuffle and deal three cards to each player, then deal one card face up. The suit of this card, the upcard, determines the trump suit. Then, deal each player two more cards. Place the stub on top of the upcard at right angles, so its indices can easily be seen. The stub then becomes the stock.
In Schnapsen, 10s are the second-highest ranked card, just below the ace. The rest of the cards rank in their usual. This means the full card ranking is (high) A-10-K-Q-J (low).
The non-dealer goes first by leading a card to the first trick. The dealer then replies by playing any card they wish. There is no requirement to play a card of the same suit, even if the dealer has one. Whoever plays the higher card of the trump suit, or the higher card of the suit led if no trumps are played, wins the trick. That player takes both cards and places them in a won-tricks pile in front of them. The winner of the trick then draws one card from the stock to restore their hand to five cards, after which the other player does as well. The winner of the trick then leads to the next one.
After winning a trick, but before leading to the next one, a player holding the jack of trumps (the lowest trump) may exchange it for the upcard. A player does not necessarily have to do this on the first trick they win after they draw the jack; they may hold it until later, and exchange it upon winning a later trick.
Before leading to a trick, a player may meld a marriage, a king and queen of the same suit. To do so, they reveal the two cards, then lead one of them to the trick. The next time they win a trick, they score 20 points for the marriage, or 40 points for a royal marriage (a marriage in trump). If a player melds a marriage and goes the rest of the hand without capturing another trick, they do not score for the marriage.
Closing the stock
After drawing but before leading to a trick, a player may close the stock. To do so, they take the upcard and turn it face down on top of the stock. For the remainder of the hand, neither player may draw cards; instead, the rest of the hand is played with only the five cards in the players’ hands.
After the stock is closed, special rules apply. The player who does not lead must follow suit if possible. Further, they must play a card that will take the trick (head the trick) if they can. This means if a player has a higher card of the same suit as the lead, they must play it. If they cannot follow suit, they must play a trump. The player who did not close keeps any cards they capture after the close separate from the other cards in their won-tricks pile.
If the stock is exhausted before either player closes it, the same rules apply as if the stock were closed.
Ending the hand
When a player believes they have scored 66 points for the hand in melds and tricks taken, they may declare this immediately after winning a trick, ending the hand immediately. Each player then adds to their scores for the marriages the total of the cards in their won-trick pile, as follows:
- Aces: 11.
- Tens: 10.
- Kings: 4.
- Queens: 3.
- Jacks: 2.
If the player who went out did in fact score 66 or more points, they win the hand. The number of victory points they score depends on the opponent’s hand score. If the opponent…
- …scored 33 or more, the player who went out scores one victory point. (If the opponent also scored more than 66 points, they simply missed the opportunity to go out first.)
- …scored 32 or less, it is a schnieder, and the winning player scores two victory points.
- …didn’t win a single trick, it is a schwarz, and the player scores three victory points.
If the player who went out captured 65 or fewer points, the opponent scores two victory points, or three if the opponent had nothing in their won-cards pile.
In the event the hand ends with neither player having closed and neither player going out, instead simply exhausting their hands, the winner of the last trick scores one victory point.
When the stock has been closed, if the player who closed it successfully went out with 66 or more points, they score the same number of victory points as described above, but counting only the cards the opponent captured before the close. If the closer does not go out, or their opponent goes out before they do, the opponent scores two victory points, or three if they had not captured any tricks. It’s important to note that a player can only go out upon winning a trick. If the closer plays to the last trick without going out, and loses that last trick, they can no longer go out; the opponent wins the hand and scores appropriately!
Ending the game
After the hands have been scored, the non-dealer collects the cards and deals the next hand. Game play continues until one player scores seven or more victory points. That player 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.
Chicago (not to be confused with the Low Chicago rule that is sometimes added to Seven-Card Stud games) is a unique game for two to four players. In Chicago, players form the best poker hand they can through a few rounds of Draw Poker-style play. Then, they use these cards to play through a trick-taking game. However, the only trick that matters for scoring purposes is the last one!
Despite bearing the name of an American city, Chicago is a Swedish game. It first gained popularity in Östergötland province in southern Sweden. From there, it spread throughout the country.
Object of Chicago
To play Chicago, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Make sure you never have to worry about beaten-up or dirty cards by always playing with a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You also need something to keep score with, such as pencil and paper, or a smartphone scorekeeping app.
Shuffle and deal five cards to each player. The remainder of the deck becomes the stock.
First draw and showdown
The player to the dealer’s left goes first. They may discard any number of cards, from zero to five. They keep these discards face down, and placing them in a discard pile in the center of the table. The dealer then deals the player the same number of cards they discarded, bringing them back to a five-card hand. The next player to their left then has the chance to discard as well, and so on around the table to the dealer.
After all players have had a chance to draw new cards, the player to the dealer’s left may declare that they hold a poker hand of at least a pair or better. Initially, they name only the type of hand they have, not the rank of the cards. If the player does not have at least a pair, or they do not wish to disclose the content of their hand, they may pass. The next player to the left may then declare a higher poker hand, or likewise pass. This continues on around the table.
If a player holds a poker hand of the same type previously declared by a previous player, the first player must declare the rank of the relevant cards (for example, “two pair, kings high”). The other player may then pass or declare a higher combination. If the combinations remain tied, they continue going back and forth until one of the two passes, or it is established that the combinations are in fact equal.
Note that the showdown is conducted entirely through verbal declarations. At this point, nobody reveals their hand to the other players.
Once it has been established who holds the highest poker hand, that player scores as follows:
- Royal flush: 52 points
- Straight flush: 8 points
- Four of a kind: 7 points
- Full house: 6 points
- Flush: 5 points
- Straight: 4 points
- Three of a kind: 3 points
- Two pair: 2 points
- One pair: 1 point
If two players tie for the highest poker hand, nobody scores for that showdown.
Second draw and showdown, and third draw
After the first showdown has been settled, the players then go through another drawing phase, conducted the same way as before. If the player (or players) holding the highest poker hand in the previous round wishes to discard any of the cards used to form that hand, they must expose all five of their cards to the other players to prove that they indeed held that combination.
After the second drawing round, a second showdown takes place. After that, players draw for a third and final time. No showdown takes place after this draw, however.
If, at any time, the stock is depleted, the discard pile is immediately shuffled to form a new stock.
After the third drawing round, the player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick. Each player in turn plays a card to the trick. A player must follow suit, if possible; if they cannot, they may play any card. The player who plays the highest card of the suit led wins the trick, and leads to the next one.
As tricks are played, rather than collecting them into won-tricks piles, as is common in other games, the cards are left face up on the table in front of the person who played them. This allows the hands to remain easily identifiable for end-of-hand scoring.
The player who captures the fifth and final trick scores five points for doing so. The player holding the highest poker hand at the end of the hand scores for it, as above.
Ending the game
The cards are then collected, and the deal passes to the left for the next hand.
When a player starts a hand with 46 or more points, they are no longer allowed to discard cards and draw replacements. They must play the hand all the way through with the cards they started with. Note that if a player reaches 46 points in the middle of a hand, this restriction does not apply until the start of the next hand.
Game play continues until one or more players reach a score of 52 or more points. The player with the highest score at the end of that hand wins the game.
Should a player declare a poker hand that it cannot be proven they actually held, because it is not present after the trick-taking and they did not reveal it prior to discarding cards, that player forfeits the game.
Polignac is a French trick-taking game for three to six players. In many respects, it is a rather straightforward example of the trick-taking genre. However, much like Hearts, the aim is to avoid taking certain cards, in this case, jacks. Watch out for the Polignac, the J♠. Capturing him is twice as bad as any other jack!
Object of Polignac
The object of Polignac is to avoid taking tricks containing jacks, especially the J♠.
To play Polignac, you’ll need a 30- or 32-card deck of cards, depending on how many you’re playing with. Starting from a standard 52-card deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove all of the 2s through 6s. If you’re playing with any number besides four players, also remove the black 7s. You’ll be left with a deck of aces through 8s in each of the four suits, making 28 cards. Then you’ll also have either the two red 7s, making 30 cards, or all four of them, making 32 cards.
You also need something to keep score with. Pencil and paper works well, but tokens will also work. You’ll need at least ten tokens for each player.
Shuffle and deal the entire deck out, as far as it will go. Each player should have the same number of cards.
Polignac uses a somewhat unusual card ranking. The ace ranks below the jack and above the 10. This leads to a full card ranking of (high) K, Q, J, A, 10, 9, 8, 7 (low).
Game play starts with the player to the dealer’s left. They may lead any card they wish to the first trick. Each player in turn plays a card to the trick, following suit if able, and playing any card they wish if they can’t.
After everyone has played, whoever played the highest card of the suit led wins the trick. They take the cards and place them into a won-tricks pile in front of them. Then, they lead to the next trick.
After enough tricks have been played that the players’ hands are exhausted, the hand is over. Players look through their won-trick piles for the four jacks. Capturing the Polignac, the J♠, is worth two points. Each other jack is worth one point.
Game play continues until at least one player has scored ten or more points. Whoever has the lowest score at that point wins.
Lórum is a card game for four players. Lórum is a great example of a compendium game, rolling seven different styles of game play into one game. In Lórum’s case, the first four hands are played as a trick-taking game. Then, it’s followed up with a point-counting game. The two final hands are Stops games. Then, the cycle begins anew, with a new dealer.
Lórum originated in Hungary at the very beginning of the 20th century. It is the oldest member of a group of compendium games that all involve avoiding tricks. Other games likely descended from Lórum are the French game Barbu and the Russian game King.
Object of Lórum
The object of Lórum is to have the most chips after 28 hands. On some hands, players collect chips by avoiding taking certain cards, which vary from hand to hand. On others, the goal is to run out of cards first.
To play Lórum, you’ll need a 32-card deck of cards. You can easily make such a deck out of a sturdy deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards by removing all the 6s through 2s. You’ll be left with a deck that has only aces, face cards, and 10s through 7s in each of the four suits.
Lórum is typically played with hard scoring, so you’ll need a bunch of tokens or chips. An amount of real money may be attached to each chip, if desired. If so, each player purchases however many chips they’d like to start the game with. Otherwise, distribute the same number of chips to each player.
Determine the first dealer randomly. This dealer will deal the first seven hands, then pass to the next dealer, who will deal the next seven, and so on. Shuffle and deal eight cards to each player, exhausting the whole pack.
A game of Lórum cycles through seven different types of hands. Several of these are trick-taking games. The player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick. Each player, proceeding clockwise, plays one card to the trick. They must follow suit if able; otherwise, they can play any card they wish. Whoever played the highest card of the suit led wins the trick; they take the cards and place them in a face-down won-tricks pile in front of them. That player then leads to the next trick.
Cards rank in their usual order, with aces high.
The seven hands
1. No hearts
The first hand is played as a trick-taking game. Hearts cannot be led to the first trick.
After all eight tricks have been played, each player counts up the number of hearts in their won-tricks pile. What happens next depends on how many players captured hearts:
- All players took at least one heart: For each heart captured, a player pays one chip to the pot.
- Three players took hearts, and one didn’t: For each heart captured, a player pays one chip directly to the person who didn’t take any hearts. The player who didn’t take any hearts will collect eight chips from their opponents.
- Two players took hearts, two didn’t: For each heart captured, a player pays one chip. The two players who didn’t take hearts each get four of these chips.
- One player took all eight hearts: Each player who didn’t take hearts has to pay the one who took the hearts eight chips! They’ll end up receiving a total of 24 chips from their opponents.
In this trick-taking hand, players must pay when they capture queens. Capturing the Q♥ costs four points, the Q♦ three, the Q♠ two, and the Q♣ one.
- All players took one queen: Players pay into the pot.
- Three players took queens, and one didn’t: The players who took queens pay the person who didn’t directly. The player who didn’t take any queens will collect ten chips from their opponents.
- Two players took hearts, two didn’t: The two players who captured queens pay, and the ten chips are split between the two players who didn’t take queens.
- One player took all four queens: Each player who didn’t take queens has to pay the one who took the queens ten chips! The player who captured all four queens gets a total of 30 chips from their opponents.
3. No tricks
A trick-taking hand where the aim is to avoid taking any tricks at all. Be sure to keep the tricks separate in the won-tricks pile by placing them atop each other at right angles to one another. Payments are made the same as on the no-hearts hand.
4. Hairy Ape
Players do not look at their cards as they’re being dealt. Instead, they pick their cards up and hold them with their backs facing them. This means that they can only see their opponents’ hands and not their own. Players then play a faintly ridiculous trick-taking game. If at least one of the cards played follows suit to the lead, the trick is captured by the highest card of the suit led, as normal. Otherwise, each player captures their own card. Whoever captures the K♥ pays four chips into the pot.
For a more serious game, hold the cards facing toward you and just play a normal trick-taking game, avoiding capturing the K♥.
In any case, once the K♥ has been captured, there’s no point in playing the hand out. The deal can be abandoned at that point.
For this hand, aces count eleven each, kings count four, queens are worth three, jacks two, and 10s one. The remaining ranks (9s, 8s, and 7s) have no value. The player to the dealer’s left plays any card they wish, and call out its value. The next player to the left plays a card, calling out the combined total of their card and the one before it, and so on.
The player who makes the running total greater than or equal to 25 must pay a chip into the pot. The player who brings the count to 50 pays two chips, to 75 three chips, and to 100 four chips.
The player to the dealer’s left plays any card they wish. The player who holds the next higher card of the same suit plays it, regardless of turn order. When an ace is played, it is followed by the 7 of that suit. This continues until either four cards have been played, or play cannot continue because the card continuing the sequence has already been played. When this happens, the cards are turned face down, and the last person to play may play whatever they like, starting a new sequence.
The hand continues until someone runs out of cards. Each of their opponents pays that player one chip for every card they hold.
The player to the dealer’s left begins by playing any card they want. The next player must then play a card of the same suit either one rank below or one rank above the starter, placing it to the left or the right of the starter respectively. They may also play another card of the same rank as the starter, placing it below the starter to begin a new row. Game play continues in this manner, with the players laying the deck onto the table in a grid-like layout. If a player has no valid card to play on their turn, they pass.
When a player runs out of cards, each of their opponents pays one chip into the pot for every card they hold. The winning player then takes the entire pot.
The eighth hand onward
After playing seven hands with the same dealer, the deal passes to the left. The new dealer will then deal the next seven hands, starting with a no-hearts hand, and running through the above cycle. Then they pass the deck off to the next dealer, and so on. The game continues until all four players have dealt seven hands. Whichever player has the most chips at that point wins the game.
Getaway is a unique trick-taking game for three to eight players. In most trick-taking games, players have to follow suit, but if they can’t, they simply can’t win the trick. Also, after the trick is finished, it’s discarded to a won-tricks pile and the cards are out of play. Getaway turns all that on its head—a player being unable to follow suit ends that trick, and the player that was winning the trick takes the cards into their hand!
Getaway is popular in Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh.
Object of Getaway
The object of Getaway is to avoid being the last player with any cards.
To play Getaway, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Treat your players to the best game you can give them by playing with a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.
Shuffle and deal out the entire deck as far as it will go. Some players may receive more cards than others; this is fine.
The player that holds the A♠ leads it to the first trick. Each player then plays a card to the trick, in order proceeding to the left. All players must follow suit if able. After all players have played, the person playing the highest card of the suit led wins the trick. Cards rank in their usual order, with aces high, so the person holding the A♠ will always win the first trick. The cards are placed face down in a discard pile after the trick is played, and the winner of the trick leads to the next trick.
When a player cannot follow suit, they may play any card. Beginning on the second trick, play to a trick stops whenever a player cannot follow suit. Players later on in turn order do not contribute to the trick. The player who, at that point, had played the highest card of the suit led takes the cards from the incomplete trick into their hand. That player then leads to the next trick.
Between tricks, a player may choose to take the entire hand of the player to their left. Since that player is then left with no cards, they instantly get away (see below). Exercising this option is sometimes in a player’s best interest, because the player to the left does not have any cards in the suits the player holds. Thus, the trick will always end prematurely by the player to the left failing to follow suit, and the player will never be able to play their cards. In such a situation, it makes sense to take that player out of the game in hopes of being able to pass control to another player.
Unlike most trick-taking games, not all players are going to play cards to every trick, and players will be bringing new cards into their hand. Because of this, players will run out of cards at different rates. A player that runs out of cards is said to have gotten away. When a player has gotten away, they are out of the game and are not at risk of losing. If a player who was supposed to lead gets away, the player to their left leads instead.
Ending the hand
The number of players will gradually shrink as more and more players get away. Special rules apply when only two players are left and one of them runs out of cards. If the other player plays a higher card of the suit led, as usual, that player wins the trick, and the player who depleted their hand gets away. The player with cards remaining loses the game. However, if the player with more cards can play a lower card of the suit led, that forces a special situation called a shootout.
The discard pile is shuffled, excluding the two cards from the trick just concluded. The player with no cards randomly draws a card from the deck and exposes it. This card serves as their lead. If the other player can again play a lower card of the suit led, the game continues with the player with no cards drawing a new lead from the shuffled discard pile. If the player with cards is forced to play a card of a higher rank than the card drawn from the deck, the player with no cards gets away and the player with cards remaining loses. Should the player with cards have no cards of the suit drawn, however, the player with cards gets away, and the player with no cards loses.
King is a trick-taking card game for four players. A game of King consists of ten hands. During the first six hands, players lose points if they capture certain tricks or tricks containing certain cards. These conditions change on each hand. During the last four hands, players score points by either capturing tricks or not capturing them, as determined by the dealer.
King is played throughout the world, especially in Europe, Russia, and South America. It’s unclear where it ultimately originated from, though; despite the English name “King”, it is not well known in any English-speaking countries.
Object of King
The object of King is to have the most points after ten hands. For the first six hands, players avoid capturing tricks to avoid negative scores. For the last four hands, players scored points by capturing tricks, or avoiding them, depending on the rules decided by the dealer.
To play King, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. To provide your players with the best game-night experience they’ve ever had, though, you’ll need a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You also need something to keep score with, like pencil and paper or a smartphone app.
Choose the first dealer randomly by shuffling the deck and dealing cards one at a time, face up, until a player receives the king of hearts. That player is the first dealer. Shuffle and deal thirteen cards (face down) to each player, dealing out the entire deck.
On each hand, game play follows much the same formula, though the goal and thus the players’ strategies are different on each hand. The player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick. Each player in turn plays a card to the trick of the same suit, if they have one; otherwise, they may play any card. After all four have played, whoever played the highest card of the trump suit, or the highest card of the suit led if no trumps were played, takes the trick. Cards rank in their usual order, with aces high.
Whoever takes the trick takes the four cards in it and places them in a face-down won-tricks pile in front of them. For some hands, it is necessary to know how many tricks each player has taken; on these hands the tricks should be placed at right angles to each other to keep them separated. The player that captured the last trick then leads to the next one.
After thirteen tricks, the hand is over. The score is then computed according to the rules of the hand.
The negative hands
The first six hands of the game are called the negative hands. The one thing all of these hands have in common is that there is no way to score positive points. Rather, on each hand, one or more players will lose points by taking tricks or tricks containing certain cards. The scoring for each hand, in order, is as follows:
- −20 for each trick captured
- −20 for each heart captured
- −50 for each queen captured
- −30 for each king or jack captured
- −160 for capturing the K♥
- −90 for capturing each of the last two tricks
There are no trumps during the negative hands. After the sixth hand, the four players’ scores should total −1,300.
The positive hands
After the six negative hands are the four positive hands. Players have the opportunity to score positive points on these hands. On some hands, players may score for capturing tricks, while on others, they may be rewarded for avoiding doing so.
The dealer decides whether they would like to designate one of the four suits as the trump suit, play with no trump, or auction the right to choose trumps to the other three players. If they choose to auction, the player to the dealer’s left starts the bidding with some number of tricks. Each player in turn then may either bid higher than the previous high bid, or pass. The dealer is skipped. Once there have been two consecutive passes, the high bidder gets the right to name the trump suit, or declare no trump.
After the trump suit has been determined, the dealer (not the winner of the bidding) chooses whether the game will be played playing up or playing down. If the game is played up, then capturing each trick scores a player 25 points. If the game is played down, each player starts with a hand score of 325 points, and 75 points are deducted for each trick captured. Note that a player can still have a negative hand score if they capture more than four tricks!
The hand is then played out. After the thirteen tricks have been played, each player counts the number of tricks they captured. If the dealer auctioned off the right to name trumps, then the high bid is deducted from the bidders’ trick count and added to that of the dealer. The scores are then calculated from these adjusted trick totals.
Ending the game
After the four positive hands, whoever has the most positive points wins the game.
The total hand score for the four positive hands is 325 points per hand, or 1,300 points altogether. This cancels out the −1,300 points scored across the six negative hands. Thus, the scores can be checked by adding all of the players’ scores together at the end of the game and ensuring that they balance (the sum is zero).
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.
Mattis is a Norwegian trick-taking game for three to eight players. A game of Mattis consists of two distinct parts. First, players build their hands by capturing cards during the first trick-taking segment. Then, players try to rid their hand of cards in the second half. The last player to have cards in their hand is called the mattis, Norwegian for fool.
Mattis is part of a family of Scandinavian games with this two-part structure. Like the Swedish game Skitgubbe and the Finnish game Koira, it likely derives from the game Myllymatti, which originated in what is now western Finland in the early nineteenth century. As these games spread west into Norway, they evolved into what is now called Mattis.
Object of Mattis
The object of Mattis is to capture high-ranking cards through the first round of trick-taking. Then, the players take part in a second round of trick-taking, using the cards they won in the first round. The ultimate goal of the game is to avoid being the last player holding cards in the second round.
In order to play Mattis, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Of course, you’ll probably want to treat your guests to your Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.
Shuffle and deal three cards to each player. Place the remaining cards in the center of the table, where everyone can easily reach it, forming the stock.
Building the hands
The player to the dealer’s left leads any card they wish to the first trick. Each player in turn then plays whatever card they wish. There is no requirement to follow suit. Whichever player contributes the highest card (according to the standard ranking, with aces high, and irrespective of suit) to the trick wins it. They collect the cards played to the trick, placing them face-down in a won-cards pile in front of them. Each player then draws back up to three cards, and the player that won the trick leads to the next one.
In the event that two or more cards tie for highest, all of the cards in the trick remain on the table. Each player involved in the tie then plays another card to break the tie. If there is another tie, the tied players play again, and so on until the tie is resolved. The ultimate winner takes all of the cards on the table (both the original trick and all the tiebreak cards) into their won-trick pile.
When there are cards left in the stock, a player can choose to play blind by turning up the top card of the stock. When they do this, they are committed to play whatever card comes up; they cannot change their mind and play a card from their hand.
Ending the first half
When the last card of the stock is drawn, the player who draws it shows it to the other players. Then, they put it directly into their won-cards pile. The suit of this card will become the trump suit in the game’s second phase. With the stock now depleted, play continues on, but players simply do not draw new cards.
The first phase ends when a player runs completely out of cards. Each player puts any remaining cards in their hand into their won-cards piles. Any player that did not capture any cards during the first phase are called blåmattis (blue fool), but they remain in the game for the second phase.
Playing the hands out
Each player’s won-tricks pile forms their hand for the second half of the game. Players who are blåmattis will, of course, start the hand with no cards. Game play begins with the player who took the last card of the stock (the trump maker) in the first phase. This player leads any card they wish to the first trick. Each player in turn then plays a card that beats all previous cards played to the trick. A card is considered higher than another card if it is of a higher rank and of the same suit, or if it is a trump.
Rather than playing a single card, a player may also play a sequence. A sequence is two or more consecutive cards of the same suit. This helps a player get cards out of their hand more quickly. The length of a sequence doesn’t matter, only the rank of the cards comprising it. A sequence can start a trick, or it can be played to beat a lower single card or sequence. Higher single cards can beat lower sequences.
If a player is unable to play (either because they are blåmattis or because they have no cards that can beat the last card played), they pick up the lowest card on the table, and the trick continues with the next player to the left. When the lowest card on the table is part of a sequence, someone who cannot play to a trick must pick up that entire sequence.
A trick is considered complete whenever there are the same number of plays (either single cards or sequences) in it as there were players at the start of the trick. For example, if a trick started with four players, there would need to be four plays in it before the trick was considered finished. When a trick is finished, the cards in it are discarded, and the last person to play (and thus who played highest) leads to the next trick.
Ending the game
As players run out of cards, they drop out of the game. The last player with cards loses and becomes the mattis. Traditionally, during the next game, the mattis of the previous game is required to wear the mattishaetta (fool hat), a particularly ugly hat procured for the purpose.